No Religion Has a Monopoly on Extremism

Politicians and activists on the right — including here in Texas — want people to ignore the fact that the Orlando shooter targeted a nightclub specifically for LGBT people in the June 12 massacre. “It doesn’t matter why this man picked this particular target,” said state Rep. Matt Krause, for example.

Rep. Krause has already said that in 2017 he will sponsor a measure that would enshrine in the Texas Constitution the right to use religion to discriminate against LGBT people. So it’s no wonder that politicians like him don’t want to acknowledge that the Orlando attack was motivated, in large part, by hatred of LGBT people.

But there are plenty of reminders of that hatred — and not just among murderers who claim to carry out their attacks on behalf of their twisted version of Islam. Here’s what Christian pastor Roger Jimenez in Sacramento, California, told his congregants after the massacre:

“There’s no tragedy. I wish the government would round them all up, put them up against a firing wall, put a firing squad in front of them, and blow their brains out.”

Here’s what Christian pastor Steven Anderson in Arizona said about the the victims:

“The good news is there are 50 less pedophiles in this world. Because these homosexuals are a bunch of disgusting perverts and pedophiles. That’s who was [sic] the victim here — a bunch of just disgusting homosexuals at a gay bar.”

Fort Worth Pastor Donnie Romero says “the earth is a little bit better place now” because of the Orlando massacre:

“Just like if there was a building that had a bunch of rapists or a bunch of evil murderous people, and the building collapsed on them, or something happened where they were all killed, I don’t think that’s something we should mourn over, because they’re evil people.”

Just last November, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal and former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee — who were all seeking the Republican presidential nomination — attended an event at which Christian pastor and Colorado broadcaster Kevin Swanson proclaimed that gay and lesbian people “should be put to death.” None of those three Republican candidates denounced Swanson or his rhetoric at the time. Weeks later, Cruz’s campaign finally admitted that it was a mistake for the senator to attend the event. That realization came a bit late.

It would be a vicious lie to suggest that all Christians or all followers of any religion hate LGBT people or want them killed. In fact, many religious leaders, Christian and non-Christian, have condemned the Orlando massacre. Muslim religious leaders have been among those voices — something else that right-wing politicians seem reluctant to acknowledge.

The sad reality is that no religion has a monopoly on extremism and hate. The non-religious are also not immune. By trying to ignore the reality of the lives snuffed out by such extremism, politicians are making that problem only worse.