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Evangelical Campaign Says Gays are Made in the Image of God and Therefore Deserve Respect

Imago Dei, a new campaign from Focus on the Family and other evangelical groups claims to push respect for gays even though several leaders who have signed on lead organizations who have fought tirelessly in the courts to demean gay people and seek to exclude them from marriage.

TIME reports:

DalyThe leader behind the movement, Rev. Samuel Rodriguez Jr., president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Coalition, says the goal is to change the narrative of evangelical engagement in the public square, especially when it comes to traditional culture war issues. Other heavy hitters have joined him. President of Focus on the Family Jim Daly (pictured), televangelist James Robison, producer of The Bible Series Roma Downey and her husband, Survivor producer Mark Burnett, and vice president of the Liberty University Mat Staver have all signed on. The launch of the website was pegged to Martin Luther King Day as a reminder that the Biblical message and justice go hand in hand.

The Imago Dei signers are not making a political statement about hot-button issues like gay marriage. But the Imago Dei campaign does mark the first time, Daly says, that Focus on the Family—a group that opposes gay marriage—has publically stated that gays are created in God’s image alongside straight individuals. “People have said love the sinner, hate the sin,” Daly explains. “So often I think that has fallen woefully short, and it certainly appears like we are hating the sinner as well as the sin. And that is the difference—you’ve got to recalibrate and say I know you are made in God’s image, and therefore you deserve my respect.”

Says the campaign on its website: "For the image of God exists in all human beings: black and white; rich and poor; straight and gay; conservative and liberal; victim and perpetrator; citizen and undocumented; believer and unbeliever."

Good As You's Jeremy Hooper notes, in the comment thread on the article:

Under the marriage section of its site, Focus on the Family continues to run the claim that homosexuality is a "particularly evil lie of Satan," in a piece penned by its senior researcher. 

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Comments

  1. Putting a pig in a dress...doesn't make it any less a pig.

    Posted by: Taylor | Jan 21, 2014 7:44:16 PM


  2. They are slowly positioning themselves for the inevitable: legal same-sex marriage everywhere. Racist parishes did the same thing when the downfall of the Jim Crow laws became apparent so they would not be caught on the wrong side of history.

    Posted by: Jeff Atwood | Jan 21, 2014 7:52:14 PM


  3. Has anyone noticed the new talking point by anti gay ilk is "freedom of speech"...basically, anyone can be as homophobic as they wish and hide behind the freedom of speech banner. I actually think it's become a bit dangerous as we literally can't respond to any form of homophobia with being accused of stifling someone's freedom of speech. The bachelor said we're perverted, and before he even retracted or apologized, thousands of hetero commentators said "he has a right to his free speech"....who exactly was trying to TAKE away his free speech? Does homophobic speech mean we can't even respond to it now?

    Posted by: Junior | Jan 21, 2014 7:54:40 PM


  4. @ Junior I've been witnessing an unbelievable level of casual homophobia online. Somehow the new adopted meme by heterosexuals is they indeed are entitled to homophobia and have made homophobia an acceptable form of thinking. Through calculating reverse psychology, they again made themselves the victims if we even so much as defend ourselves against their claims.

    I think socially, homophobia has INCREASED in the past year or two. Where as homophobes kept it to themselves or were indifferent, now due to the freedom of speech mantra, they all feel the need to tell everyone how much they hate gays. And they do.

    Posted by: Kevin J. | Jan 21, 2014 7:57:20 PM


  5. Not only that, Andy, Rev. Samuel Rodriguez has actively opposed marriage equality over the years and during the immigration reform push a couple of years back he went on a right wing evangelical television show to say his religious coalition would pull out support if the immigration bill included language letting a U.S. citizen sponsor a same-sex partner for immigration purposes: http://youtu.be/zl0woBcjXEo

    Posted by: Andres Duque | Jan 21, 2014 7:58:45 PM


  6. This is the new rebranded homophobia. In your face blatant homophobia is not AS acceptable so they just reframed their message. I see it within my social media by coworkers and acquintances. "I don't hate you, I just don't agree with your lifestyle"

    I swear, the word lifestyle in terms of LGBT was retired for a while there (since it's overwhelming use in the 80s) and now all I hear is lifestyle, lifestyle, lifestyle in terms of being gay. And them thinking they are not at all anti gay for saying "I just hate your sin"

    Posted by: Lynex505 | Jan 21, 2014 7:59:27 PM


  7. I don't believe them for a second.

    Posted by: Will G. | Jan 21, 2014 7:59:40 PM


  8. These people are con artists. No different than Sherri Shepherd. I don't hate you...I love you. God loves you...but you're still a deviant.

    We're seeing these religious groups/sects move towards this position now. It's really just noise. It's not even tolerance. No-one buys it.

    Posted by: Francis | Jan 21, 2014 8:00:11 PM


  9. @ Jeff Atwood,
    But same sex marriage does not equate to acceptance of gays. I felt we gays were more accepted 10 years ago when many people weren't even forced to have an opinion on the topic. Same sex marriage is vital and needs to happen. But it's such a shame that with our legislative wins, these bigots feel threatened and are now more vocal about their homophobia than ever before. It's as though they think gay marriage passing will take away from their rights, so they have made it a point to be more prominent with their homophobia, and rally around each other.

    Posted by: Lipstick Chick | Jan 21, 2014 8:02:20 PM


  10. The "I'm not a bigot if I think gays shouldn't be allowed to marry, are sinners, and are going to burn in hell" garbage has really picked up in the last year.

    Posted by: homer | Jan 21, 2014 8:07:27 PM


  11. Ok. Massive cognitive dissonance there, but I welcome news of this development as a pre-cursor to actual acceptance.

    Posted by: Mike B. | Jan 21, 2014 8:09:24 PM


  12. Some great dialogue occurring here today. My take away is that while same sex marriage wins are fantastic, societal homophobia is not that altered and in some cases has been heightened. Heck, ten years ago "Will & Grace" was so in your face gay (with gay kissing, constant references to gay sex, and gay relationships) and it was a HUGE, HUGE hit with very little backlash. I remember even online back then, the comments about it and Queer as folk, and Queer eye for the straight guy were all positive. The Queer eye for the straight guy show were on the cover of Time magazine, with incredible ratings and chosen as the most fascinating people of the year.

    Now in 2014, you can't even put a gay themed show on television without massive campaigns against it. The Fosters, a show about a lesbian couple, is the most tame LGBT show I've ever seen and there's thousands online demanding it's boycott. At the rose bowl parade, a straight couple has been married during the parade for years via raffle drawing and this yea the raffle winners were a gay couple, and here in Los Angeles people were losing their minds. Every facebook page of our local news was flooded with thousands of comments from locals demanding they not air the gay wedding, with vile, ugly, horrible and homophobic remarks.

    I agree with something someone said above. Our LGBT legislation wins a has forced some people who didn't even put much thought on our community to pick a side, and while many are for gay marriage, many more are for casual, down low homophobia. Or saying they are okay with gay marriage "but please don't showcase your relationships to the children"

    I wish our community was as engaged in eliminating societal homophobia as we are with winning gay marriage rights. What good is gay marriage when so many in society want us to hide our relationships and want to shield their young from a same sex couple so much as holding hands?

    Posted by: Ricardo Valdez | Jan 21, 2014 8:11:29 PM


  13. Take your god and shove it where the sun doesn't shine.

    Posted by: Pancho Lopez | Jan 21, 2014 8:12:57 PM


  14. In other words - LGBT people are made in the image of God, but are pawns of Satan. Sure, that sounds nice and pleasant and loving......

    Posted by: john patrick | Jan 21, 2014 8:14:17 PM


  15. I wish towleroad comments were always as riveting as this thread. Loving and agreeing with so much of the thought provoking things being expressed. (and no trolls.....yet)

    Posted by: Towleroad Lurker | Jan 21, 2014 8:17:17 PM


  16. I've run into this several times over the course of my life. A Christian saying "I respect you" which is their way of getting around thinking of themselves as bigots. "How can I be a bigot if I respect you?" They don't respect my homosexuality, but they don't consider that to be a part of me, so they can say they respect me and delude themselves into actually believing it.

    Posted by: art | Jan 21, 2014 8:19:03 PM


  17. @Ricardo: The homophobes are growing louder, in some cases, but there are a lot fewer of them. The desperate dig in their heels and scream, or, in the case of this campaign, they rebrand because they know overt homophobia isn't as acceptable as it used to be.

    The marriage equality movement has done a great deal to alter societal views, and studies make clear that greater LGBT legal protections increase tolerance, not the reverse. You don't see protests of Modern Family, and it has an engaged gay couple with a child.

    Posted by: Ernie | Jan 21, 2014 8:24:38 PM


  18. I actually have a fascinating personal story to share on this topic. We were at a family function last weekend where during dinner, I stepped outside to answer a phone call. When I returned, my cousin asked who it was that was so important, and I simply said it was my partner. He had a really rough day at work and needed to hear my voice. Everyone in my family knows I'm gay and I THOUGHT they were supportive. Me simply bringing up my partner made my uncle respond with "can we stop having you shove your gayness in our face? we're trying to eat here. enough."

    I was mortified. I was shocked. Expecting my family, and sisters to come to my defense as they've never displayed any anti gay sentiments. When I told my uncle I resent his homophobia, much to my dismay, my cousin and sisters said that my uncle wasn't homophobic and "so what if he is? that's his opinion" they said.

    Instead of making me their brother feel uplifted for being unexpectedly attacked, they were more worried about this ridiculous paranoia of defending the "freedom of speech" of my unhinged uncle.

    "Freedom of speech" has become the new face of homophobia, and after that incident, I realized just because a friend or family tolerates us being gay does not mean they actual SUPPORT us. I also am not getting the memo about how the tides have totally turned and society is overwhelmingly gay friendly. I live in Philly. I witness and hear homophobic thoughts often, even in my own family. I still think we have a longggg way to go.

    Posted by: Eagles Fanatic | Jan 21, 2014 8:42:34 PM


  19. If they believe that their confused message will somehow confuse us too, well they're wrong as they have been all along.

    Posted by: Rafael | Jan 21, 2014 8:48:26 PM


  20. @Ricardo, Ernie is correct. Looking at sheer numbers -- the annual Gallup polls on whether or not homosexuality is an "acceptable alternative lifestyle" -- we should take massive heart. Virtually no other social hot-button issue has seen such a rapid shift in public opinion since major polling began. We certainly can't say the same for abortion.

    It's very, very clear that the huge gains in same sex marriage in 'purple states' -- Iowa, Minnesota, California, -- not to mention Utah, are freaking people out. They're realizing that 'those gays' won't stay confined to the coasts, the big cities, and the safe confines of their televisions. They're realizing and seeing for the first time just how many LGBT people live and work right alongside them. And it's scaring the petunias out of 'em.

    Now is the time when we're transitioning our visibility from virtual -- in TV and film -- to actual. We're literally at their courthouses asking to get married. We're hosting gay pride celebrations in more cities than ever before. It's this visibility that's brought about new calls for 'compassion' from the Focus on the Family orgs and their ilk, and although this is undeniably smoke and mirrors -- just like the Pope's recent comments -- these smokescreens are going up because the organizations are realizing if they don't say such things, their donor base will dwindle and die.

    Focus on the Family laid off a ton of workers in the last decade. Their staff is now less than HALF of what it was in 2002.

    Posted by: GMB | Jan 21, 2014 8:49:34 PM


  21. I obviously wasn't paying attention, but I had no idea Mark Burnett was a Christian. It makes me regret watching Survivor back in the day.

    Posted by: Merv | Jan 21, 2014 8:53:22 PM


  22. Baby steps. Daly explains. “So often I think that has fallen woefully short, and it certainly appears like we are hating the sinner as well as the sin…" Hopefully from there he and others like him will understand "love the sinner, hate the sin" is a crock, homosexuality is not a sin and never was. But this probably is just empty rhetoric. I think many bigots believe that if they couch their bigotry in "polite" language that'll make their bile more palatable. It is an attempt to make their overt hate more covert. Could it be aimed at younger evangelicals who are repulsed by the overt bigotry espoused by older members of their denominations and are leaving along with their money? Even among conservative evangelical denominations younger people support equality overall.

    Posted by: ian | Jan 21, 2014 9:08:08 PM


  23. @Eagles
    Your uncle's response is typical. 'Shoving it down our throats' is the dog whistle and a dead giveaway about true feelings of whoever uses it. Your uncle is still a phoebe. Your brothers & sisters will come around if they truly love you.

    Outside of evangelicals society is way more accepting. They happen to be the same group that is also the base of the GOP and are very vocal and dogmatic. I don't waste time arguing with them because I've accepted that you just can't change everyone. Some will die with homo hate in their hearts. We wish better for them but sometimes we just have to accept it. We're on the cusp of overturning 2000 years of systemic dehumanizing oppression since Stonewall. Stay strong and cherish the love you have.

    This move by FOTF is strictly an attempt at damage control. They're trying to mitigate the mistakes of the past when they openly showed their true hatred. But it's too late. It's forever on record and they can never run away from it. Windsor cited it. Oklahoma cited it. Black in Ohio cited it. Today's 9th ruling by Reinhardt cites it. That's all this is about.

    Evangelicals & Christian Churches are facing an internal schism too. There's a new reformation movement afoot that will have a huge impact in a few years. The lie that the church and Bible doesn't change is acceptable only to the group that benefits from saying that. It always changes. It always will. If it doesn't it dies.

    Posted by: SERIOUSLY | Jan 21, 2014 9:10:43 PM


  24. Love the sinner.
    Hate the sin.
    Kick the gayboy after some neo-nazi has punched his lights out.

    Love, Tony Perkins

    Posted by: bkmn | Jan 21, 2014 9:32:20 PM


  25. Never.

    Trust.

    ANY.

    Religion.

    Posted by: Sean in Dallas | Jan 21, 2014 9:52:51 PM


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