Updated April 14 at 12:08 p.m. EST with a correction to a quote that was previously misattributed.
Updated at 11:00 p.m. EST with a video clip of Ryan Sorba explaining his views on the word "gay."
The first step for Christian conservatives to win the war against the gay movement is to rebrand the terms, said a few panelists at this weekend's The Awakening conference at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Va.
“‘Gay’ is a left-wing socio-political construct designed to create grounds for fundamental rights [based on] whimsical capricious desires,” said Ryan Sorba, chairman of the Young Conservatives of California. “Gay identity does not exist."
Sorba proposed alternatives to the word "gay," which received approval by a unanimous show of hands by the 40-some audience members:
Later in the discussion, it was suggested that gays should also be referred to as "anti-Christian."
The one self-described ex-gay on the panel, Greg Quinlan -- who founded the Pro Family Network in 1996 and is now the president of Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays & Gays (PFOX) but spent his gay years lobbying for the LGBT-rights group Human Rights Campaign -- explained that his foray into homosexuality was caused by abuse from his father and looking at Playboy magazine as a young boy.
"Feelings change, and they don't define you," Quinlan said, noting that through counseling he was able to re-orient his sexual attraction, which led to a heterosexual marriage (he's now divorced).
"If you had all the facts, you wouldn't choose to be gay," Quinlan, 52, said. "When you live a lie, you tell a lie. Truth is not a philosophy. Truth is a person, and his name is Jesus Christ. Tell the truth in love, but it isn't love until you tell the truth."
As a board member of PFOX, he proposed a resolution to PepsiCo Inc. shareholders (PDF) in 2010, asking the corporation to rescind their funding to the Parents and Families, Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG), because he claimed they promote intolerance to the ex-gay community and protest against religious conferences featuring ex-gay speakers. He has also spoken before the Disney Board of Directors, pushing a resolution to include ex-gays in the company’s mandatory sexual orientation diversity training for employees.
Quinlan works with the New Jersey Family Policy Council to protect “natural marriage,” defined as the “union of one man and one woman” and has defended this idea of marriage in 20 states, according to his biography (PDF). Most recently, he spoke before the Maryland House of Delegates at a public hearing on gay marriage, leading up to the defeat of a same-sex marriage bill in the state that, despite passage in the Senate and expected passage in the House, was suddenly returned to the judiciary committee on March 11.
The gay war
Sorba blamed the Republicans for losing what he calls a “war” promulgated by the homosexual lobby.
"Our movement decided to abandon the real issue of homosexual behavior … with our major focus around protecting the word marriage,” Sorba said.
For the panelists, the biggest "gay threat" is not just over Christian ideology but over national security.
Matt Barber, the panel's moderator and a dean at Liberty University, said he served in the military for 12 years. Barber made a case that promoting gays in the military presents a national threat because most gay military men will be more focused on their attraction to other men than on their military duties, saying it comes down to the soldier who "has your back or the one who wants to rub it."
He also brought up the argument that the high rate of HIV and AIDS in the gay community presents a health risk when it comes to battlefield transfusions.
"Homosexuality is the greatest threat to the criminalization of Christianity," said Robert Knight, executive director for the American Civil Rights Union and a former editor of the Los Angeles Times.
Knight said the idea of sexual orientation gives "baggage" to the issue by promoting the notion that people are born a certain way. "Everyone saying otherwise is therefore defined as a bigot,” he said but noted that sexual identity is not akin to race or ethnicity.
In a recent Washington Times column, Knight presented a hypothetical scenario of a child witnessing two male Marines kissing in a shopping mall:
Boy: “Look, mom, those Marines are, uh, making out right there in the food court! I’m not sure I want to be a Marine after all.”
Liberal mom: “Well, that’s a relief. I didn’t want you to be in the military anyway. All those guns give me the creeps. But why do you find this odd? Are you some kind of religious bigot? Honestly, we’re going to have to call your school and ask them to step up the tolerance training. You won’t even wear that nice polka-dot dress and the pumps I bought you.”
Despite efforts from Knight's Center for Military Readiness and other groups to fight the repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" that bans openly gay Americans from serving in the military -- the repeal will go into effect 60 days after President Obama, the secretary of defense and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff certify that the gay-ban reversal will not be harmful to military operations -- top officers told Congress Thursday that training for the repeal "has been less painful than expected."
And then there are the state and federal anti-bullying initiatives.
Calling it a "massive wedge issue," Quinlan said he testified against the anti-bullying initiative in New Jersey.
"The homosexual lobby is shamelessly hijacking this bullying issue," he said. "[They're inserting] a sexual anarchist agenda into public schools under the guise of bullying. ... Here's what bully is, folks: negative malicious behavior, repeated over a period of time, in which there is an imbalance of power between the bully and the victim. What are the other distinguishing characteristics? ... I was bullied, not because I was gay or a sissy, but because I was super-skinny."
Same-sex orientation: ‘hedonism repackaged’
All the panelists’ arguments over why there’s a war with gays and why Christians must win it goes back to sin.
"A civil right that conflicts with natural right is no right at all," Sorba said. ""The [homosexual] behavior is immoral. It divides you from truth and what's the meaning of life. If you don't have truth, you have nothing but fake."
Barber called same-sex orientation “hedonism repackaged.”
Referring to the "T" in LGBT, which stands for "transgender," Barber quipped: "It's the emperor wears no clothes meets George Orwell. … Why stop at transgender identity? Why not species identity -- someone wants to get in touch with their inner horse."
"What are going to be the rights of we homophobes?" asked an audience member, explaining her use of the word "homophobe" was sarcastic.
The response from the panel was that they just have to wait for the homosexuals to "self-destruct."
Cynthia Dunbar, assistant law professor at Liberty University, said conservative Christians need to embrace homosexuals.
“We have to reach out to those trapped in lifestyle that ultimately leads to death,” she said, ignoring the fact that all lifestyles ultimately lead to death. “Liberty is not the ability to do whatever hedonistic ideas you have. Whoever's defining the terms is going to win the argument.”
But Christians also need to fight the homosexual agenda, she said.
“There are a lot of gay staffers in Congress,” Knight* said. “They work all hours and they tend not to have family lives, but they have veto power.”
*Previously TAI attributed this quote to Cynthia Dunbar. We regret the error.
Read The American Independent's full coverage of The Awakening 2011 conference.