Ultra-Right, Ultra Religious Explain Earthquake, Irene: ’Blame the Gays’

by Kilian Melloy

EDGE Staff Reporter

Friday August 26, 2011

EDGE Media Network may have gotten punk'd by a fake news story that televangelist Pat Robertson had declared "gay-like" behavior to the culprit for the Aug. 23 tremor that damaged the Washington Monument and was felt up and down the Eastern seaboard. But that, is it turned out, didn't mean that Robertson and other leaders from the religious conservative fringe weren't actually making just such claims.

A number of online blogs and news sites took as genuine a satirical Aug. 24 posting at The Borowitz Report that said Robertson had claimed the earthquake -- which registered at 5.8 on the Richter scale and had its epicenter in Virginia, not far from where Robertson broadcasts his "700 Club" program -- was due to American men acting in such effeminate ways as worrying about thread counts.

But humorist Andy Borowitz, it turned out, had made a genuine point, and his fake news story was prescient. Indeed, the televangelist didn't need long to demonstrate that life sometimes does imitate art.

Just after the earthquake, Robertson said, "I can't claim any kind of particular revelation," according to an Aug. 24 International Business Times article.

But he also suggested that the earthquake might be part of Biblical prophecy, specifically a sign of the "end times" before Christ returns to Earth, claiming on his Aug. 24 broadcast that the quake "means that we're closer to the coming of the Lord," the Washington Post reported on Aug. 25.

Robertson then followed up on Aug. 25 with intimations that God had targeted Washington, D.C., as a means of warning America that its worldly power was tied to its Judeo-Christian mores.

"It seems to me the Washington Monument is a symbol of America's power," Robertson said, remarking on cracks that the 127-year-old, 555-foot tall structure sustained. "It has been the symbol of our great nation. We look at the symbol and we say, 'This is one nation under God.' Now there's a crack in it... Is that sign from the Lord?"

Robertson has made similar claims in the past, notably when he and Jerry Falwell discussed the terrorist attacks of 9/11. Shortly after the attacks, Falwell and Robertson suggested on "The 700 Club" that God was responding to gays and feminists, among other "immoral" human beings, by "lifting the veil" of his protection and allowing terrorists to strike on American soil.

"The ACLU's got to take a lot of blame for this," Falwell said during the Sept. 13, 2001, broadcast of "The 700 Club." Falwell went on to say, "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 ACLU, 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.' "

Responded Robertson, "Well, I totally concur, and the problem is we have adopted that agenda at the highest levels of our government. And so we're responsible as a free society for what the top people do. And, the top people, of course, are the court system."

Religious voices belonging to the fringe anti-gay Christian right were not the only ones seeking to blame gays for the earthquake. Rabbi Yehuda Levin quickly posted a YouTube Video in the quake's aftermath to claim that the trembler was the work of gays, and that the event was only the latest in a string of natural disasters that were, in actuality, punishments from God. Levin, as Robertson has done, also cited the earthquake in Haiti, along with the tsunamis in Thailand and Japan, as proof of God's displeasure with human conduct.

"An email went out in my community just a few hours ago," Levin said. " 'How long will it take Rabbi Yehuda Levin to tie this earthquake in with homosexual marriage?' I'd like to answer that tonight: Not very long at all."

Levin's video was taken down "as a violation of YouTube's policy prohibiting hate speech," a placard at the video's former Internet address said.

Religious leaders claiming that God will punish human beings for being gay, among other things, is not uncommon, and warnings of earthquakes are a favorite theme, especially in geologically active areas such as Israel, where a member of Parliament, Shlomo Benizri, once denounced gays as presenting an invitation for earth-shattering disaster.

"A cost-effective way of averting earthquake damage," Benizri told fellow lawmakers in 2008, "would be to stop passing legislation on how to encourage homosexual activity in the State of Israel," Israelity reported at the time.

But other natural disasters are also opportunities for religious foes of gays to make pronouncements of divine wrath. Hurricane Irene, which is expected to make landfall on the east coast over the weekend, and which may (or may not) prove to be a powerful and destructive storm, has already been pegged by anti-gay doomsayers as God's response to New York having recently become the eighth state to legalize marriage equality. (Gay and lesbian families can only marry in six states, however, because voters in two states -- California and Maine -- rescinded marriage equality rights at the ballot box. In both cases, a major religious organization, the National Organization for Marriage (NOM) provided substantial sums of money to secure defeat of marriage parity.)

An Aug. 25 posting at Christwire ("Conservative Values for an Unsaved World") posited, in a jeremiad marked by coarse language, that the hurricane would wreak devastation on New York because of the new law.

"You little sparkly lawmakers of New York have been warned to take it all back," the posting read. "You were warned that gay marriage [sic] is anti-America. Only days ago, God gave you a 5.9 shake to get your atttention [sic]. Instead of realizing it was a sign from your God, you laugh and continue to revel in sin, making light of that display of God's power.

"Well now, we see God has swirled his finger and the steam from his nose has brewed a new tropical storm!" the posting continued. "The streets of your homo-friendly state will be cleansed with the breath of the Almight! [sic] Gays will flail all around, their improper skirts blown skyward and revealing their musty, disease ridden parts.

"Have you betrayed your nation's Constitution just so they can rub all that flabby diseased flesh all on each other? Is that really worth it, New York," the posting continued, before going on to add, "One direct hit from God is enough to knock Earth out of orbit and definitely enough to wipe the fecal eating grins of the face of all you homofriendlys out there. Hurricane Irene is coming for you, New York!"

The posting ended with a simple, direct question:

"Are you ready to repent and denounce gays?"

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Assistant Arts Editor. He also reviews theater for WBUR. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.

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