Homosexual Lawyer Who Prevailed in Boston in 1989, Admits What He Did Not Want to Admit on Live Radio
John C. Rankin
[excerpted and adapted from First the Gospel, Then Politics …, 1999, Vol. 2, not published]
After Massachusetts passed a “gay rights” bill in 1989, first in the nation, I was asked to substitute host for my friend Jeanine Graf on her live call-in show on a Christian radio station in Boston, September, 1990. My guest was the attorney for a state-wide homosexual-rights organization which had successfully lobbied for passage of the bill.
When he arrived at the station, he seemed apprehensive, and as the show began, I simply interviewed him. I asked about his background and involvement with the passage of the “gay-rights” bill. I let him talk, and as he did, he began to relax as he saw I was genuinely interested in him as a person. He knew I was a Christian who did not believe in homosexuality, but he also saw that I treated him straightforwardly and with respect, and was genuinely committed to his opportunity to explain himself fully to a Christian audience. He saw I had no manipulation in mind.
In the course of the discussion, he revealed how his greatest obstacle to the passage of the bill had been with legislators who were Roman Catholic (Massachusetts was about 85 percent baptized Catholic at the time, and Roman Catholics also dominated the legislature). In order to get them to vote for the bill, his organization proposed an exemption for churches and other religious organizations, so that they would not be forced by law to hire homosexual priests, pastors or teachers.
On this basis I questioned him with a specific scenario. Namely, I understood that this law would not force my alma mater, Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, to hire homosexual professors. So I asked him, “But what about a janitor?” He answered by saying that the “gay-rights” law should apply to non-teaching positions – that no such discrimination is allowed in refusing to hire an avowed homosexual applicant.
So then I asked: “But if the mission statement of the seminary requires all employees to agree to a statement of faith, since their work is in service to the teaching work of the school, does not the seminary have the freedom to require this?” (I did not know if Gordon-Conwell in particular does this with its employees – I just used it as a “what if” hypothesis). He said no – the law should only give them exemption for teaching positions.[Also, in Christ, we are free to hire people, regardless of their avowed sexual identity, so long as a) they are qualified, b) they know the Christian mission of the organization and c) they do not seek in any way to undermine it. Their choice to apply for such as job may also portend an openness to the Christian love that should be found there.]
So here we were, in the middle of an engaging conversation about the applicability of the law. He was relaxed and in a good frame of mind. He of course was in a secure position, in that the law had already been passed, and here I was, simply asking him to explain to us certain of its details ex post facto. I am sure he felt in control of the situation. But honest conversation also has a way of unearthing the deepest element of a debate.
With his response to my hypothetical question, I explained why I felt this law discriminated against religious liberty. Namely, if a church or religious institution defines its mission in a certain way, but the State forces it to redefine it for the sake of a “gay-rights” law, then the religious freedom of that religious institution has been trampled by the religion of a state-imposed homosexuality.
He jumped in at this point and argued, with passion, that I was wrong – that civil rights for homosexuals, as he defined it, was superior to religious liberty if that liberty were “bigoted.” Then he volunteered that the reason the exemption clause had been made for religious institutions was simply a pragmatic strategy necessary to overcome objections from Catholic legislators.
So, in natural follow-through, I asked: “Then, if you had it your way, there would have been no such exemption clause? You would have required churches to hire ‘qualified’ homosexual priests or pastors, and you would have required seminaries to hire ‘qualified’ homosexual professors?”
He said, “Yes.”
And a split second later, the (spiritual) room temperature changed dramatically, and he became visibly upset. His anger began to seethe under the surface, but he was holding it back because we were on live radio.
Apparently (as I reflected on it later), he had conducted an entire political campaign to pass the “gay-rights” law, while never explicitly revealing his deepest intentions. He had kept the discussion within the framework of the exemption clause, and dodged any language where his bigotry against religious liberty, where his desire to force acceptance of homosexuality upon the church, would be perceived. Those who opposed the “gay-rights” bill would have assumed this to be the case, but still he did not want to clearly admit it, especially as he lobbied wavering Catholic legislators.
But here on live radio he had admitted it because of the genuinely disarming nature of the conversation. Which to me was fine, and it did not change the respect by which I treated him as a person. It was an honest contest of ideas. But he was maintaining a power to live in the darkness, and was angry when it was exposed.