In yet another example of what the Religious Right’s recent focus on “religious liberty” is really about, five Republican presidential candidates are scheduled to speak this weekend at a “religious freedom” event hosted by a conservative pastor who has repeatedly declared that AIDS is God’s punishment for gay people’s “immoral act” and has called for a “class action lawsuit” against homosexuality.
Jeb Bush, Ben Carson, Ted Cruz, Carly Fiorina and Mike Huckabee are scheduled to join a “Free to Believe Broadcast” on Saturday, hosted by the Family Research Council’s Tony Perkins and Vision America’s Rick Scarborough, two of the most outspoken anti-gay activists in the country.
Both, even while attempting to curtail the rights of LGBT people, have claimed that it is their rights that are being violated by the LGBT movement: Perkins has said that the supposed persecution of anti-gay Christians in America is inspiring ISIS, and Scarborough has declared that he is ready to burn to death in the fight against gay marriage.
But neither Scarborough nor Perkins has ever been particularly interested in a “live and let live” truce with LGBT people.
Scarborough has declared that AIDS, “a homosexual disease,” is God’s “judgment as a result of an immoral act.” Just last year, he repeated his belief that AIDS is “God’s judgment on a sinful generation, adding that “God would probably give us the cure for AIDS today” if the U.S. stopped supporting gay rights:
He also said last year that marriage equality is part of Satan’s effort to “destroy this country,” warning that gay parents will lead their children “into an early grave called hell”:
Scarborough is so concerned about gay people that back in 2013 he brought up the idea of issuing a “class action lawsuit” against homosexuality, much like actions taken against the tobacco industry:
In 2014, Scarborough agreed with Islamic fundamentalists who call America the “Great Satan,” saying that God would be perfectly justified in sending a nuclear bomb to destroy the country because of such sins as President Obama’s appointments of a handful of gay ambassadors:
And that’s just Scarborough. Perkins has a vile anti-gay record of his own, which Brian summarized last month.
Also appearing at the event will be Liberty Counsel’s Mat Staver, who has warned that gay people seek to “groom” and “entrap” children, and David and Jason Benham, brothers who became Religious Right martyrs when they lost a TV show they were set to star in after their anti-gay activism came to light.
Cruz might not mind appearing with an activist who has said that God is punishing gay people with AIDS — after all, he has praised Scarborough before and has David Barton, an activist who has said similar things, leading a super PAC in support of his candidacy. Cruz and Huckabee similarly showed their willingness to cozy up to the most radical people in the anti-gay movement when they appeared last year at a conference hosted by Kevin Swanson, who spent much of the event expounding on what he interprets as the Bible’s call for the death penalty for gay people.
But if any of the other candidates have an ounce more shame, they might want to think twice about appearing at Saturday’s event.