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Clifton Spires is the father of a gay son who walked out of the family home in 1996 after a family row and they've never seen or spoken to each other since. A journalist living in Ohio with his wife and other son he now campaigns vigorously for gay rights and each week on OutUK he reflects on how this affects his life and family. Though it's written in America, we believe the issues he deals with affect the worldwide gay community. Previous columns are archived in OutBack.

Did The Devil Make Falwell Say It?

The late comedian Flip Wilson had a hilarious routine called "The Devil Made Me Buy This Dress," in which a sassy preacher's wife blamed The Devil for every impulsive mistake she made, whether it was wrecking her husband's car or signing his name to a check at a dress store. When the preacher asked her, "How come The Devil doesn't do anything for me?" the lady replied, "You know, I asked him about that and said if it wasn't for him, you wouldn't even have a job."

I'd like to suggest that if the so-called "reverend" Jerry Falwell didn't have gays and lesbians and a few other people to demonize, he wouldn't have a job, either. Without these and other scapegoats, he and others like him --- including the host of The 700 Club shown in the UK on a number of Sky Digital channels, former right-wing presidential candidate Pat Robertson, who has to be considered a co-collaborator giving aid and support to Falwell's bigotry --- would be run-of-the-mill evangelicals. As Falwell proved this past week during a time of national mourning and attempts to stand united against a common enemy, his religious-stemmed hatred is not much better than that of the conspiring murderers who caused this terrorist-triggered tragedy.

This is what Jerry Falwell said on The 700 Club, so everyone knows of what I am speaking:

"I really believe that the pagans, and the abortionists, and the feminists, and the gays and the lesbians who are actively trying to make that an alternative lifestyle, the American Civil Liberties Union, People for the American Way - all of them who have tried to secularize America - I point the finger in their face and say, 'You helped this happen.'"

Excuse me, Mr. Falwell?

Could you repeat that for the family and friends of Ronald Gamboa and his partner of 13 years, Dan Brandhorst, who were traveling with their 3-year-old adopted son, David, on United Airlines Flight 175 which crashed into the second tower of New York's World Trade Center? They might be interested in hearing that your God will punish children for what you believe are the sins of their loving fathers.

How about for those loved ones of David Charlebois, the co-pilot of American Airlines Flight 77, which crashed into the Pentagon? Charlebois was a member of a gay pilots association and lived in Washington.

Yeah, Mr. Falwell, Mark Bingham ---, a 31-year-old gay public relations executive and one of the murdered passengers on United Airlines Flight 93 that crashed near Pittsburgh --- the God you believe in was really out to get him, especially while he was trying to help overpower the hijackers, thus preventing the plane from possibly crashing into a Washington landmark.

Shall I tell you about the lady who is dealing with the grief of losing a beloved husband --- still unaccounted for --- even though he recently came out to her as gay? She's written to e-mail sites for bisexual married men, at first expressing grief and anger and now accepting comfort from men going through the same identity struggle as the man she lost.

How about the many homosexual men and women who are working double and triple shifts trying to dig through the debris in the hope that there may be live people of any sexual orientation, of any religion --- even one that preaches hatred against them --- underneath the tons of rubble.

All of these people are grieving for loved ones and strangers who are lost in the attacks. As the father of a gay son who remains a missing person --- because of circumstances unrelated to this past week's national tragedy --- I identify with the fathers and mothers, brothers and sisters, grandparents, aunts and uncles, sons and daughters, cousins, friends and co-workers whose lives are suddenly empty of one smiling face and beloved voice. How dare you, Jerry Falwell --- and how dare you, Pat Robertson and The 700 Club --- express and broadcast these insensitive words of verbal violence?

I understand Jerry Falwell has since apologized for his remarks. On Thursday, he called CNN to apologize, saying, "I would never blame any human being except the terrorists, and if I left that impression with gays or lesbians or anyone else, I apologize."

If Falwell thinks any thinking person believes in this insulting attempt to pretend he didn't say what he said, then he has indeed become mentally unbalanced by his obsessed homophobia, as some observers have suggested ever since he launched a campaign against the purple Teletubbie, because Falwell suggested its "magic bag" was actually a drag queen's purse.

That campaign was laughable. This ill-timed attack of hatred by Falwell caused agony to gay and gay-supportive people who are sharing in the national time of mourning. His un-American remarks reek of the stench of opportunism --- he has used a victimized nation's grief as an opportunistic attempt to promote his own political agenda.

The repulsiveness of Falwell's remarks did not go without note in political and journalistic circles that are beyond the gay-lesbian-bisexual-transgendered community.

A White House official told The Washington Post that Falwell's comments were "inappropriate" and said, "The president does not share those views."

In Saturday's edition of The Des Moines Register, an editorial stated, "It's disheartening and distressing to see such opportunism and misguided comments from a supposed spiritual leader" and then went on to ask, "Just what god is Jerry Falwell worshipping?"

Falwell's remarks are tantamount to those of a spokesman for the Iraqi government which defended the suspected mastermind behind the attacks, Arab extremist Osama bin Laden, by saying that the attacks could only have come from Zionists.

If Jerry Falwell wants to do some good for America, he will tape his mouth shut, take off his shiny black preacher's suit, put on some jeans and a t-shirt, grab a shovel and start helping the recovery crews --- just like many Americans, straight and gay, religious and non-religious are doing.


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