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February 24, 2007

I'm Willing to Bet The Reporter Was Snickering His Head Off as He Wrote This Lede

This is the lede in question:

The lawyer for a former Baptist church leader who had spoken out against homosexuality said Thursday the minister has a constitutional right to solicit sex from an undercover policeman.

Well, and so he does, for what little good it does him at this point.

Not to be too snarky about this, but at what point should a reasonable person simply assume that any minster all het up about the gays is just a step away from being a Bathhouse Billy? Because I have to tell you, at this point it's getting to be my default setting.

Posted by john at February 24, 2007 03:23 PM

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Kate | February 24, 2007 03:35 PM

The poor homophobe. I don't think dropping the lewdness charges at this point is going to make a big difference in the credibility department.

*engages in group snickering*

As far as the whole 'Do as I say, not as do' department, especially in the church, it is really getting on my nerves. Nothing like trust being thrust out a stained glass window yet again.

Ray | February 24, 2007 03:45 PM

And this is why I think a lot of people these days are bypassing Churches and having a 1 to 1 relationship with God? Christ? Satan? Cows? Or whatever...

Steve Buchheit | February 24, 2007 04:08 PM

Kate, I don't think that's where the thrust was going, you know.

Steve Buchheit | February 24, 2007 04:13 PM

And the ACLU filed an brief supporting the minister. Oh, *that's* gonna leave a mark. So many opportunities for the ACLU to help ministers in the past couple of years. Pretty soon, they're going to be begging to keep the ALCU in business.

David Klecha | February 24, 2007 04:18 PM

I'm sure slacktivist could get into this all better, but... this is the problem with the evangelicals' choice to promote their message with the morality first. They're most notable for saying "X is a sin!" when most people don't have the same frame of reference. It's like trying to fine my friends on LiveJournal for swearing because it's a fining offense in my house (it's not really, just a handy example). It makes no sense to them, doesn't make them want to visit my house, and gives them something to point and laugh at when I slip up and swear.

The point to being Christian is not to achieve a sinless life immediately, but to embark on a journey of sinlessness, the goal of which may be almost impossible to reach. Personally, I think it's one of the reasons that some of the most reviled people in the Gospels are hypocrites. It's an acknowledgment that one cannot be perfect, and so to cast those stones is, literally, ridiculous.

But then, more and more I'm of the impression that the evangelicals who spout off on homosexuality and whatnot, especially those of a political bent, are not at all interested in saving souls or even shielding their innocent flocks from all those evil evil homosexuals. They're only interested in cultural hegemony, and power. Back when it was my immigrant Catholic ancestors at the beginning of the 20th century, it was much easier--they just had to label us papists, and none of them were likely to be caught praying a rosary or dipping their fingers in holy water. Now... more complicated.

TransDutch | February 24, 2007 04:39 PM

Thank you for providing the one new thing I learned today.

Since you have journalistic experience, and appear literate, I knew you couldn't possibly be 'wrong' with the spelling, and you do it twice, so it likely wasn't a typo, but I had never seen it spelled that way. Which led me to look it up. Fascinating.

Dan | February 24, 2007 04:49 PM

We still have Constitutional rights?

mythago | February 24, 2007 04:50 PM

Funny how quickly these types are happy to get help from the ACLU when the shoe is on the other foot.

PixelFish | February 24, 2007 05:07 PM

I think it's good that the ACLU was involved. Every time my family points out the ACLU's involvement in something, I just point out all the cases where the ACLU helps defend the civil liberties of conservative folk as well. Eventually I hope the Civil Liberties part will get drummed into their skull.

Chang who is also Chuckles | February 24, 2007 05:18 PM

When will these bigots learn that if you love the peener, don't tell people to hate the peener.

This message brought to you by Peener.

Chang who is also Chuckles | February 24, 2007 05:20 PM

I think the next time someone tells me they go to a Baptist church, I may just actually say, "Oh, and is your pastor gay?" Should make the conversation interesting.

Peener. Recommended by Baptist ministers since 2007.

Nathan | February 24, 2007 05:29 PM


It doesn't matter how many Coke Zero's you drink. If you don't lay off the Schadenfreude Pie, it's gonna ruin your girlish figure.

John H | February 24, 2007 06:11 PM

The most obvious explanation for his behavior is that he is a homosexual and was looking for some action. A less obvious explanation might be that he was looking to get the man alone to convince him to reject his "sinful, destructive lifestyle".

Whatever the explanation, what right did the police have to arrest him? Would they have arrested him had the undercover officer been a woman? I think not.

John Scalzi | February 24, 2007 06:15 PM

John H, the fellow resigned from his Church, which suggests the former rather than latter interpretation.

Not knowing too much of the details of the arrest other than what's in the story, I would agree that I find the arrest fishy. But the ACLU's on the case now, so that's all to the good.

David "The Longtime Lurker" | February 24, 2007 06:56 PM

Hey John, I would suggest that *anybody* who rampantly and loudly decries *anything* probably has something to do with that something. This is a rule, I thought... He who smelt it... etc... Anyway, my wife pointed that out to me when I read the entry to her, and it makes good sense for all of us... not just ministers. (Which makes me wonder... are you a closet baptist minister???) : )

John Scalzi | February 24, 2007 07:01 PM

Well, David, now that you mention it, I am ordained.

Harry | February 24, 2007 07:40 PM

> Would they have arrested him had the undercover
> officer been a woman? I think not.

Except that police arrest people for soliciting undercover female officers all the time.

Kate | February 24, 2007 07:46 PM

Now that I've read the story again, don't states make their own laws regarding these types of infractions? While it may have been overturned in Texas, and they could use that court ruling in reviewing whether or not to charge him, it's an Oklahoma matter.

I mean according to an odd law website, the following are outlawed in Oklahoma.

One may not promote a "horse tripping event".

It is illegal for the owner of a bar to allow anyone inside to pretend to have sex with a buffalo.

Females are forbidden from doing their own hair without being licensed by the state.

and this last one:

Oral sex is a misdemeanor and is punisable by one year in jail and a $2,500 fine.

Bingo! Remind me never to move to Oklahoma.

mythago | February 24, 2007 09:50 PM

I mean according to an odd law website

I really would not rely on "odd law websites" for your legal information.

I think it's good that the ACLU was involved.

I do too. It just never fails to amuse me how quick these losers are to pull an Ed Meese.

Steve Buchheit | February 24, 2007 10:19 PM

David "The Longtime Lurker" , "a closet baptist minister"

And *that*, sir, is why you shouldn't just lurk. Thanks for the great laugh (just for that phrase, not in asking John about it). Baptist Ministers in closets, indeed!

Steve Buchheit | February 24, 2007 10:29 PM

Yep, David Klecha, I seem to remember a song we sang at church camp. Something about, "They'll know we are Christians by our," something or other. I wish some of these more outspoken "christian leaders" would get back to their day jobs instead of politics. I think there was also a Bible Quote we learned about that as well. Something about rendering this or that and where something wasn't. Oh, well. It's been many years since then. I'm sure I'm remembering it all wrong.

Kate | February 24, 2007 10:38 PM


Don't I get any credit for trying to be sarcastically funny? Hence the whole mention of 'having relations with a buffalo' in a bar law.

Humor is how I deal with rather uncomfortable subjects in which I've lost all my faith. This particular case being a majority of church leaders of late who never practice what they preach.

Furthermore, I learned long ago never to take anything on the web at face value.

Pete | February 24, 2007 10:45 PM

John, just what exactly are you ordained in? Is it the church of the evolved lamb?

John Scalzi | February 24, 2007 10:48 PM

Heh. No. Universal Life. Useful for officiating weddings.

Joyce Reynolds-Ward | February 24, 2007 11:12 PM

One of the things I've been shaking my head about (as a Catholic convert) is that I know full well that the problems in Catholicism with sexual abuse were not limited to Catholic priests, and that ministers of other denominations were just as likely to have problems.

Heck, anyone who's seen a serious Holy Roller revival in action knows about *that.*

Then again, I did spend some time in undergrad theological training, where I saw all this stuff in its full glory, back in the 70s. There's some serious control issues over sexuality and sexual roles that have always made me look askance when some religious figure starts going off on that topic exclusively, instead of the meat of the Gospels (love your neighbor as yourself, etc...).

The best-adjusted potential ministers I knew back in school didn't worry about the sexual lives of those around them. They were more concerned about peace, justice, and taking care of the poor and needy rather than just how sexually moral the folks around them were.

Tapetum | February 25, 2007 02:03 AM

Heh - the Episcopal priest of the first church I attended was a closet Southern Baptist minister. About a third of his sermons were railing against the excesses of the evangelicals, while another large percentage...sounded remarkably like Baptist-style preaching. By the end of our first year there I was waiting for the day he would break down and do an altar call in church.

A.R.Yngve | February 25, 2007 05:35 AM

Maybe George Takei could be petitioned to do a speaking tour of American church congregations.

Annalee Flower Horne | February 25, 2007 08:45 AM

I'm really glad the ACLU is on it, because that arrest really is complete BS.

But wow. Just wow.

This is reason #112 why it's better to be comfortable with your sexuality: it makes you far less likely to wind up being a punchline when you get arrested for something you shouldn't have been arrested for in the first place.

fishbane | February 25, 2007 10:06 AM

There's so much wrong with this that it is just silly.

It is true that hating teh gay is profitable, which is why so many fags go in to the business. But they really should not be surprised when they're busted. (Come on - we all like sex, and are going to get it.)

There is the larger issue, of the near complete implosion of the religious-military industry, except for the fact that it is still profitable.

John H | February 25, 2007 10:27 AM

Kate: Oral sex is a misdemeanor and is punishable by one year in jail and a $2,500 fine.

Except the Supreme Court already ruled that sodomy laws (and yes, oral sex is considered sodomy too) are unconstitutional.

In an 18-page opinion, the Court held that the Texas law violates the fundamental right to privacy protected by the U.S. Constitution. The decision means that similar laws against sexual intimacy in the 12 other states that have them are also invalid. These include laws in Kansas, Missouri and Oklahoma that apply only to gay people as well as laws in Alabama, Florida, Idaho, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia and Utah, which make "sodomy" a crime for all people.


Kate | February 25, 2007 11:36 AM

John H: I didn't realize how far the Supreme Court ruling had gone. I'm glad people may fornicate in whatever manner they can can possibly conceive. (pun intended)

Yet, I'm torn. While I agree completely with the ruling, part of my inner self is shouting against the Supreme Court's ability to throw out smaller state government laws. Yes, there should be a system of 'checks and balances.' However, there should be no blanket ruling on overturning state laws. They should be evaluated on a case by case basis. Our state's ability to make their legislation can certainly be called into question, but to overturn 12 states at once on a single case, seems to be a big government power play based in laziness. Next thing you know, they'll be choosing our next president....

OH. Whoops.

I smell an appeal from the Oklahoma prosecutors should they continue to pursue the charges.

fishbane | February 25, 2007 12:20 PM

This is a late comment. Sorry.

Kate: While I agree completely with the ruling, part of my inner self is shouting against the Supreme Court's ability to throw out smaller state government laws. Yes, there should be a system of 'checks and balances.' However, there should be no blanket ruling on overturning state laws

Too late. It doesn't especially matter which flavor of federalism you like - the one that allows experimentation, or the one that allows legislating what goes on in bedrooms.

Lawrence federalized butt sex. Roe federalized women's agency. Raisch federalized medicine, and the production of certain weeds.

Two out of three isn't bad, I guess. But the point is that states rights is basically dead. Look at the SCOTUS: the only one of them that will support states rights when it differs from his policy goals is Rehnquist, and then only sometimes. If he's your only pal, well, it is time to make new friends.

John Scalzi | February 25, 2007 12:33 PM

Especially since he's dead and not on the Court anymore.

Steve Buchheit | February 25, 2007 03:00 PM

Being dead means you can't sit on the court? Hmm, learn something new every day. :)

Kyle Maxwell | February 25, 2007 07:50 PM

Yes, anyone whose only pal is dead (e.g. Rehnquist) needs new friends...

Max | February 25, 2007 09:14 PM

Why? There's nothing wrong with a little necrophilia, so long as you aren't the one making the deaders dead.

Metal Fatigue | February 26, 2007 01:17 AM

Harry: You're thinking about busts for soliciting prostitution. According to the linked story, there was no offer of money in this case. That's why the arrest is illegitimate.

Max: You can get some really bad infections that way.

ern | February 26, 2007 07:42 AM

John, I hate to say this, but your comment itself reeks of a bit of bigotry. You say "what point should a reasonable person simply assume that any minster all het up about the gays is just a step away from being a Bathhouse Billy?" The answer is: never.

When someone makes broad statements or assumptions about a group of people based on the actions of a few, that's called bigotry or prejudice.

This guy's attitude toward gay people is disgusting, and he certainly doesn't deserve our sympathy. But your comment about having a "default setting" in these cases is a bit troubling.

You wouldn't countenance a similar comment about gays or blacks or muslims, for instance, but you can about a certain breed of fundamentalist. I don't think that's right. Condemn the individual, certainly, but shy away from taking the next step.

For instance, there are a lot of stories about child molestation and gay people. But you would never say that this has happened enough that you have a "default position" in these cases that you now assume all gay people to be child molesters. And you would be right to reject statements that argue otherwise. How is this case different? Is it just because it is more culturally acceptable to offer such criticism of fundamentalists?

John Scalzi | February 26, 2007 09:09 AM


"John, I hate to say this, but your comment itself reeks of a bit of bigotry."

Why? I don't there would be anything wrong with these fellows being gay (or even being a "bathhouse Billy"), even if they do, so I'm not bigoted in that direction; indeed I'm less bigoted about it than they are. I don't think there's anything wrong with being a minister. I think it's less fine that these folks are actively working in a hateful, discriminatory way against gays and lesbians, but I would feel that way regardless of these fellows being ministers. The operative condition is not that they're ministers, but that they're homophobic. Which bring us to your next comment:

"You wouldn't countenance a similar comment about gays or blacks or muslims, for instance, but you can about a certain breed of fundamentalist."

Well, aside from the fact I didn't use the word "fundamentalist," actually, I'd be perfectly happy to say the following:

at what point should a reasonable person simply assume that any person all het up about the gays is just a step away from being a Bathhouse Billy?

Blacks and Muslims and gays being a sub-set of "any person," you can swap them in and out there as you please, although in this particular case substituting in gays doesn't make a whole lot of sense.

Because, after all, I think it's a reasonable question. I personally suspect any person who is going out of their way to actively deny other people the rights they should have as Americans on the basis of their sexuality may have denial issues going on. Other people of all walks of life, after all, are able to integrate the idea of gays and lesbians having the same rights as everyone else, including a not trivial number of fundamentalists and/or ministers. That being the case, what's different about these folks? Could it be denial?

It could be. We do know that at least some homophobes are repressing, per this famous paper (pdf link) whose results so far as I know have not been refuted:

The authors investigated the role of homosexual arousal in exclusively heterosexual men who admitted negative affect toward homosexual individuals. Participants consisted of a group of homophobic men (n = 35) and a group of nonhomophobic men (n = 29); they were assigned to groups on the basis of their scores on the Index of Homophobia (W. W. Hudson & W. A. Ricketts, 1980). The men were exposed to sexually explicit erotic stimuli consisting of heterosexual, male homosexual, and lesbian videotapes, and changes in penile circumference were monitored. They also completed an Aggression Questionnaire (A. H. Buss & M. Perry, 1992 ). Both groups exhibited increases in penile circumference to the heterosexual and female homosexual videos. Only the homophobic men showed an increase in penile erection to male homosexual stimuli. The groups did not differ in aggression. Homophobia is apparently associated with homosexual arousal that the homophobic individual is either unaware of or denies.

If there's clinical evidence which suggests that homophobia is related to suppressed homosexual desire, it's not unreasonable -- and not bigoted -- to ask whether those who exhibit homophobic behaviors, such as actively campaigning to deny gays and lesbians the rights the rest of us have, have got some denial issues going on. It's not the same thing as assuming all gay people are child molesters, incidentally, as there is no credible evidence of that sort of associative behavior.

So, in short: No, I don't think that my comment reeks of bigotry.

ern | February 26, 2007 10:25 AM

Your comment suggested that when you see a minister "het up about gays" that your "default position" is to think that they're gay themselves.

I don't think you're a bigot, and your followup, "We do know that at least some homophobes are repressing" confirms that. But it's one thing to say that your "default position" is to think that they are gay and to say that "at least some" might be gay. The first sounds bigoted, the second sounds reasonable.

It's not about them being gay, or being ministers. It's the fact that you seem less than tolerant of those who disagree about homosexuality. You think they have denial issues. I don't think that's fair to them. And to brand them all the way you did, based on the actions of a few, seems the very definition of prejudice. Not against ministers, not against gays, but against those who disagree with you on this point. You don't argue against their point, you just imply that they're all repressed homosexuals.

Rather than take them seriously at their word that they have reasons for their position, you are instead suggesting that their opinion is based in some sort of psychological dysfunction.

Look, I'm not really trying to pick a fight over this, because for the most part I agree with you about how disgusting people like this minister are (for his preaching). I just think that there is enough incivility right now that we owe every individual their due, and refrain from suggesting that their beliefs are based in psychological dysfunction. That was the implication of your statement. Not "some" but that it was your "default position." That reasonable people should assume it, perhaps.

Let's change it. Say, there are a lot of news stories about gay people and promiscuity. So, I read a few stories about overly promiscuous gay men. Of course, you and I would both object to someone who asked, "When should a reasonable person assume that all gay men are promiscuous?"

We err when we make blanket judgments about a class of people based on a few individuals.

Liz B | February 26, 2007 10:45 AM

I'm less than tolerant of hypocrites, so when people who're all het up about teh gays end up being Bathhouse Billies, it's hilarious. And I don't think bigoted at all.

John Scalzi | February 26, 2007 11:04 AM


"We err when we make blanket judgments about a class of people based on a few individuals."

What class of people do you suggest I am making blanket judgments about? I don't recall making a blanket statement about religious people, or Christians, or fundamentalists, or for that matter, about all ministers. I noted something very narrowly tailored. If you want to assume that I mean a larger class of people than I described, your assumption is incorrect.

"It's the fact that you seem less than tolerant of those who disagree about homosexuality."

No, I'm less than tolerant of people actively campaigning to discriminate against a group of people based on their sexuality. If someone believes homosexuality is morally wrong, I have no problem with that, as long as they don't make the leap that therefore they are obliged to curtail the rights of gays and lesbians. when they do that, I have a problem.

"We err when we make blanket judgments about a class of people based on a few individuals."

We also err when we make assumptions that this is happening when in fact nothing of the sort has occurred.

Jon Marcus | February 26, 2007 06:15 PM


Your comments seem to be based on an assumption that homosexuality (or promiscuity) is a bad thing. Thus you presume that Scalzi's suggestion that some people might be gay is bigotry.

You wouldn't have a problem if I asked if I asked "At what point should we assume that any person who keeps bumping his head is tall" would you? I'd still be making a blanket assumption, possibly an erroneous one. But that'd wouldn't be bigotry, because I'm not suggesting anything bad.

Neither is Scalzi's suggestion that these guys might be gay.

Simon | February 27, 2007 01:49 AM

Eh. There's a huge difference between judging people by a category they might belong to (blacks, gays, etc.) and judging them by their behavior.

Martin Luther King said he looked forward to the day when people would be judged not by the color of their skin but by the content of their character. Scalzi is judging homophobic ministers by the content of their character.

Tom Scudder | March 1, 2007 06:02 AM

If you see the world as a place in which people are constantly beset by sins and occasions for sin at all times, and the purpose of life being battling those temptations, it's natural that the sins you would come out most strongly against would be those you are tempted towards in the first place.

CS Lewis said something about that in metacommentary about the Screwtape Letters (the introduction, maybe?) - he didn't include anything about gambling in the Letters because he found it completely uninteresting and not something he was tempted towards himself.

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