A two-page advertisement condemning homosexuality and announcing a rally supporting the right of Christian and conservative businesses to refuse to employ gays and lesbians ran Thursday in the Asheville Citizen-Times. Many members of the community called to denounce the newspaper for publishing the advertisement.
We strongly support the right of all citizens to publicly present their opinions, whether or not we agree with them, and it was that paramount value that caused us to accept the advertisement for publication.
In doing so, we failed, however, to live up to another value that is equally central to our ability to function with integrity. For that, we would like to express our remorse and offer an apology.
In allowing the use of the word “sodomites,” we allowed an entire group of people to be referred to with disrespect and contempt.
We would have permitted the use of other words expressing bigotry only in the rarest circumstances, such as when essential to understanding an important news story. We would not have allowed them in an advertisement of this type, nor should we have allowed this word to be published in this context.
For having done so, we are truly sorry.
While we regret the use of inflammatory and disrespectful language, we believe we made the right decision in allowing the individuals, businesses and churches who sponsored the advertisement to speak their minds, even though the publisher and editorial board of this newspaper fervently disagree with their position and have and continue to support the rights of all citizens, including those who are gay.
The correspondence we have received regarding the publication of the advertisement clearly demonstrates that many others, including many Christians, also disagree with the advertisement’s arguments that gay men and lesbians should be denied equal rights in the workplace and denied the right to marry.
As we have noted before, a strong body of evidence suggests that homosexuality is a natural variation of human sexuality, an intrinsic part of a person’s nature caused by genetic or environmental circumstances beyond the individual’s control.
The evidence suggests that like left- or right-handedness, homosexuality is a natural characteristic that cannot be fundamentally changed, though, like handedness, it may be manifested with stronger or lesser degrees of preference from one person to another.
Beyond any scientific evidence, there is the testimony of gay men and lesbians themselves, who share stories of experiencing same-gender attractions from adolescence.
Many tell of having tried for years, without success, to change their gender preference.
If this scientific and anecdotal evidence is valid and gender preference is not a choice, and if you believe that God created humanity in his own image, it seems disrespectful of God and his creation to take the position that homosexuality is sinful.
But even if you don’t give credence to either the evidence or the witness of gay men and lesbians, for Christians to condemn them and to advocate that they be harmed by being discriminated against seems to fly in the face of everything Jesus Christ preached and practiced. There are very few references to homosexuality in the Bible and none attributed to Christ.
But in Matthew, Chapter 7, verses 1-3 (King James version), Christ says, “Judge not, that ye be not judged. For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged; and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again. And why beholdest thou the mote in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?”
And in Mark, Chapter 12, verses 29-31, he is quoted thus: “The first of all the commandments is, Hear, O Israel; The Lord our God is one Lord: And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment. And the second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love they neighbor as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these.”
There are no exceptions in that commandment for neighbors of whose gender preference one disapproves. It would seem that these unequivocal words from the mouth of Christ himself would outweigh all else.
We respect the right of those who believe that homosexuality is sinful to hold that view. But we do not believe their religious beliefs, with which many others — gay and straight — disagree, should be allowed to prevent gay men and lesbians from having equal rights before the law.
More to the point, in the instance at hand, we believe in a free and open debate, in a free and open society, and the right of people on both sides of the issue to try to persuade others to their point of view.
We believe those arguments are more persuasive when they stand on their own merit without resorting to name-calling and labeling in an attempt to discredit those whose viewpoint is different.