Loathe Thy Enemy
Photo by Keith May"Civil magistrates are to put people to death who practice [homosexuality]."
—Costa Mesa-based Christian radio talk-show host Rich Agozino, Aug. 29, 1997
Less than a half-dozen reporters and an OCN cameraman stood alone in the parking lot outside Assemblyman Lou Correa's Santa Ana office on May 26, waiting for the Reverend Lou Sheldon to talk about his favorite subject: homosexuality. The head of the Anaheim-based Traditional Values Coalition was 10 minutes late for a scheduled 1 p.m. speech attacking efforts in the state Legislature to prohibit discrimination against gays. No crowd of angry, sign-toting protesters had gathered, and Correa—who has tried to find the nonexistent middle ground in the debate—was safely away in Sacramento. But Sheldon's spirits were upbeat. While his pleasant wife, Beverly, handed out petitions to "legalize the Ten Commandments," the natty reverend shared smiles and private laughs with four huddled cops, whose dispositions changed when they occasionally glanced over their shoulders at the press corps. One of Sheldon's followers—a short, heavyset, middle-aged woman wearing a bright-purple dress and clashing sweater—confronted Chris Leo, Correa's chief of staff.
Williams: Bored of Education
Photo by Keith MayChris Leo:You're going to be under God's eternal curse if you promote it.I understand, ma'am.It's an abomination, I'm telling you.I understand, ma'am.If homosexuals get their way, there would be no need for any more schools.I understand, ma'am.Homosexuals don't have children.I understand, ma'am.They're sick.Visibly annoyed, Leo finally turned away from the woman. She sighed, watched as I finished scribbling notes of her sideshow, and smiled victoriously.When the press conference ended, Sheldon—whose homophobia is so pronounced that he has established a national task force for the "preservation" of heterosexuals—and nine other speakers had stated their abhorrence of proposed state laws that would discourage violence against gay students and help ensure the rights of gay citizens. Strengthening anti-discrimination laws to include gays (such as Santa Monica Democrat Sheila Kuehl's Dignity for All Students Act) would "smash" the rights of Christians, according to Sheldon. That a majority of the speakers who enthusiastically uttered anti-gay rhetoric were high-ranking county education officials seemed only to underscore the hostile environment gay students face every day.Alexandria Coronado of the Anaheim Union High School District read a statement saying she was "appalled and disgusted" by gays and "their agenda." Rancho Santiago Community College District trustee Phil Yarbourgh mentioned the children about 10 times in his 90-second spiel, the moral shallowness of which was illustrated by his demand for a "vote for morals and decency and a vote for the children." With his wife and infant son in tow, a somber Jeff Patterson—who was identified merely as a "parent"—stepped to the microphone and said, "It's just not right." Martin Jacobson, an official with the Orange Unified School District, said he feared that ending discrimination against gays would mean that "children must accept a lifestyle that we oppose." Santa Ana Unified School District's Rosemarie Avila said the legislation will make it a hassle to deal with gays in the future. Jay Henry, Calvary Chapel High School principal, ignored the issue of continual anti-gay violence at schools and said his biggest concern was whether the proposed legislation would interfere with "playing sports." With a grinning Sheldon—who makes a living off his nationwide direct-mail campaign against the "gay threat"—at his side, Orange County Board of Education trustee Ken Williams said, "It is not with joy that we are here today." He then rightly complained that proposed anti-discrimination laws would hinder Republican conservatives' war against gays. The press conference was my second recent encounter with Williams, a longtime Sheldon associate. In mid-May, I wrote an article with Weekly contributor/teacher Tim Meltreger about the county Board of Education's April 22 resolution slamming state legislation that considered homosexuality anything other than a curable disease. Williams reacted bitterly to the story, claiming we published inaccurate information that "certainly did not come from any of my public or private statements." (See this week's Letters section.) I wrote back via the Internet, politely asking him to cite examples where his views had been twisted. He responded by calling my heart "hard" and saying: "I do not agree with your article when you said that I am following a right-wing anti-gay strategy linking homosexuality to criminal behavior. This statement is absurd. Where did you get this? . . . These parts in your article are outright lies you use to make me look like I hate gays and lesbians. Why do you choose to lie? . . . OC Weekly is the source of hypocrisy and hate." Williams had, in fact, linked homosexuality to criminal behavior in a May 4 written response to the Weekly's questions about how schools should treat students who are or might be gay. He wrote, "At this current time, there are people in the medical and psychiatric societies that say pedophilia should be normalized and accepted in society. Do we give special protections to other human or sexual behaviors such as prostitution, bigamy and cross-dressing?"My e-mail follow-up was brief. "Pedophilia? Prostitution? Bigamy?" Iasked. "How could you honestly ask why we reported that people such as yourself (preposterously) link homosexuality to criminal behavior?" Williams has repeatedly refused to answer further questions, claiming he can't spend any more time on the issue because he has a "real job."Meanwhile, Scott Lively—another leader in Orange County's hyperactive anti-gay campaign—appeared on May 24 on KBRT-AM Christian radio with afternoon host Rich Agozino. Like Williams, Lively—who is co-author of The Pink Swastika, a book that says gays created Nazism and carried out the Holocaust—and Agozino have a knack for posing as pious while spewing bigotry. "The homosexuals are at war with the family," said Lively, who claims gays are secretly working to take over not just the United States but also the world. He worked with the fanatically homophobic Oregon Citizens Alliance in the early 1990s. Nowadays, Lively heads Orange County Families Against Homosexuality. "Our young people are being targeted by pro-gay propaganda . . . and the infiltration of schools." Not to be outdone, Agozino bizarrely observed that if Christians can't discriminate against homosexuals, then "the H word [will become] like the N word and blacks." He has espoused the death penalty for homosexuals and said on the May 24 show, "Their lifestyle is a death style." After claiming gays manipulate public opinion through despicable fear tactics, a Bible-quoting Agozino told his listeners to stay tuned for the next segment, "Recruit-proof Your Children." Such hype works in certain circles. One KBRT caller bemoaned that "so many people are blind" and then said gays are pushing AIDS on heterosexuals and "indoctrinating our children." He concluded by urging Christians to "take the gloves off." Despite the unremittingly inflammatory rhetoric of the fundamentalist crowd, Williams insisted at Sheldon's press conference, "We don't harbor any hate or any anger against our opponents." He hasn't explained why his loving-hearted Republican brethren recently sent a flier to Latino households, urging them to "proteja a los nios del asaltohomosexual!" (protect the children from the homosexual assault). Nevertheless, Williams, Lively, Agozino, Sheldon and other county education officials say it is the Christians who are victims of discrimination. The hate, they say, comes solely from the gays and lesbians. Judge Judy's 1996 no-nonsense autobiography comes to mind: Don't Pee on My Leg and Tell Me It's Raining. I understand, ma'am. This gay agenda is the most ridiculous, satanic thing I've ever heard.
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