03/10/2013 11:37 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

When Did the Southern Baptists Become Libertarian?

In a rather typical fit of hyperbole, Rev. Richard Land of the Southern Baptist Convention took some new swipes at the LGBT community -- one of his favorite targets.

Land claimed that LGBT "do not believe in a live and let live philosophy." Surely, this is an odd accusation for a theocratically-inclined fundamentalist to throw at others. It isn't as if Land has ever shown libertarian tendencies himself. Land is an opponent of allowing gay people the right to enter into marriage contracts. When it comes to Southern Baptist morality, there is no "live and let live philosophy" in operation.

Consider the Lawrence v. Texasv case, which decriminalized sodomy. As Prof. Randy Barnett noted, the ruling, written by Justice Kennedy, required "the government to justify its restriction on liberty, instead of requiring the citizen to establish that the liberty being exercised is somehow 'fundamental.'" This sounds like a legal version of how the Collins Dictionary defines live and let live -- "to refrain from interfering in others' lives."

If "live and let live" means anything, it means granting other people freedom to control their own lives. Sadly, in spite of Rev. Land's rhetoric, "live and let live" has never been a value the Southern Baptists have held. Consider a Southern Baptist resolution about the Lawrence decision itself: "We specifically oppose the recent United States Supreme Court decision failing to uphold Texas law prohibiting homosexual activity..."

This resolution does not merely condemn sodomy as "sinful," but calls for it to be a criminal offense. It is the total opposite of "live and let live."

In his attack, Rev. Land claims "the homosexual activists have gone after the icons... they've gone after Disney, the family-friendly, supposedly, network and family-friendly entertainment venture." Perhaps Rev. Land forgot this little news story from 1997:

Leaders of the Southern Baptists, the nations largest Protestant denomination, voted Wednesday to boycott Walt Disney Co. and its subsidiaries for what it called the company's anti-Christian and anti-family direction.

The boycott includes the company's films and theme parks and its television network, ABC.

In comparison, how did the LGBT community "go after" Disney? They have an annual "Gay Days" at the park, for members of the community and their families. "Gay Days is now one of the largest gay-pride events in the world. According to Watermark, a Florida-based gay newspaper that has been covering Gay Days since it started, about 150,000 people attended this June's six-day gathering." In other words, the LGBT community spent millions at Disneyland, while the Southern Baptists were boycotting the company. Yet, Land says it is the gays who are "going after" Disney. With this kind of "going after" you might understand why Disney World appointed a gay man as president, instead of a Southern Baptist.

Land claims gays are "going after the Boy Scouts." That is not just a bad figure of speech, it is also him equating homosexuality with child molesting. "If you put men in mentoring positions of trust and authority in camp-out situations with young teens to whom they are sexually attracted, either heterosexually or homosexually, human tragedies will follow."

Land ignores that most the uproar about the Scouts is because gay young people are being thrown out. He prefers to concentrate on the idea that gay men are infiltrating the Scouts so they can have their way with young boys.

"It would be the equivalent of allowing heterosexual men to be Scoutmasters for Girl Scout troops," says Land. In response, allow me to quote the policy of the Girl Scouts in Land's home state of Texas: "Male adults may be part of the leadership team for a Girl Scout Troop/group of girls, including being designated as the "01" for the Girl Scout Troop/group. Male Girl Scout Leaders are expected to fulfill the same requirements as female Girl Scout Leaders."

Who exactly is "going after" the Boy Scouts? Three organizations control the bulk of Boy Scout troops in the U.S.: the Mormons, the Catholic Church and the Southern Baptists. The Southern Baptists have targeted Boy Scouts for decades. None of these three very patriarchal religions have seen Girl Scouts as being of equal importance -- after all, they are just girls. The Southern Baptists have also made it quite clear to the Scouts that they will cease funding troops unless they continue to throw out scouts who are gay.

As part of their "live and let live" policies, Southern Baptists passed
another resolution about the Scouts, claiming that failure to ban gay young people would "place the Boy Scouts organization at odds with a consistent biblical worldview on matters of human sexuality, making it an organization that would no longer complement, but rather contradict, our belief in God and His moral precepts that serve as the basis for our Christian faith."

There is another side to "live and let live." It doesn't just mean you leave others alone, but also you leave them to live their own life just as you expect to be free to live yours. In this sense, it is quite similar to the Golden Rule: "Do unto others, as you would have them do unto you."

Southern Baptists, such as Rev. Land, should never invoke "live and let live" or the Golden Rule. If Land got back what he's been handing out for decades he would have precious few freedoms left. They have never let the LGBT community "live" their own lives and what they have "done unto" others, is rampant interference, threats of legal sanctions, and the force of law. Is that what Rev. Land wants for himself and his fellow fundamentalists?