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. 


  1. Jeff Atwood says

    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.

  2. Junior says

    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?

  3. Kevin J. says

    @ 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.

  4. Andres Duque says

    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

  5. Lynex505 says

    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”

  6. Francis says

    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.

  7. Lipstick Chick says

    @ 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.

  8. Ricardo Valdez says

    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?

  9. Towleroad Lurker says

    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)

  10. art says

    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.

  11. says

    @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.

  12. Eagles Fanatic says

    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.

  13. says

    @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.

  14. ian says

    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.

  15. says

    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.

  16. andrew says

    What exactly do people mean when they state that humans are created in God’s image? Do they believe that we look like God? It seems to me it is an example of human arrogance. If this billion galaxy universe that is billions of years old actually has a conscious creator; we see every day in diseases, tsunamis, earthquakes, floods etc, that it cares nothing about us humans who live on this little third rock from our star, in one of the billion galaxies. We are clearly as inconsequential to that creator, if in fact it exists, as an ameba in the local pond is to me.

  17. says

    The thing about backlash. Everyone is a vocal activist on LGBT equality one side or the other, whether we want them to be or not, because society is in the instant information age. Kids that don’t have a clue about what LGBT oppression is really about are one day pro and the next day con because their favorite boy bander might be. We can’t control it. We have to keep working to open their eyes until it sinks in.

  18. jamal49 says

    Utter, unmitigated bullsh*t. Anybody who falls for this latest deceit by those evangelical reprobates deserves to have their @$$ kicked clear into next year.

  19. Tom in Lazybrook says

    Its kind of hard to argue that you support dignity for Gay persons if you support, as Liberty Counsel apparently does, through the public statements of Matt Barber, the Nigerian law that mandates harsh prison sentences for the crime of existing. Someone should ask Mat Staver about that.

  20. john patrick says

    @Eagles. Sorry to hear about the unfortunate family incident. Glad you have a partner you are close to. It is good to have a support system to buffer to some extent the rudeness we have to put up with.

  21. antisaint says

    @Andrew – According to the Bible, God made man in his image, so that is what Christians mean when they say that.

    I smell a rat. This isn’t about what they’re saying, it’s about what they’re not saying. They’re not saying gays aren’t hellbound sinners because of their choice to continue ‘practicing’ homosexuality.

    They’re just acknowledging that we’re people who have a right to be wrong.

    If they’re not willing to go full-on NALT than there is nothing to see here that we haven’t already seen. At best, they just want to remove the ‘hatred’ context in the hopes of opening some dialogue for proselytization. At worst, they’re literally trying to embody to the song “Smiling Faces.” No thanks.

  22. Randy says

    They know that they are losing the hearts and minds of the younger generation by their arrogance and antigay stances. They hold focus groups and know that being so stridently antigay is a huge turnoff, and even a deal breaker for people under 30.

    This is aimed at them. They are trying tone down the rhetoric. Of course, their base will remain homophobic and always will. By saying innocuous but nice sounding things, it doesn’t piss off the base, since they understand what needs to be done. But there is no real change on policy.

    They will bow to the inevitable. Eventually they will even stop opposing marriage equality when it becomes national. They will respect us, but they will then say that since we now respect gays, the. Gays should respect us too and allow us to practice our religion in peace. Who can be against that?

    And that will be the wedge used to isolate us. They will still demand to be able to fire us from jobs under the guise of the first amendment right to free association. They will say that they have the right to shun us as part of their religion, but would never do so rudely, so that makes it better.

    No, they will not change. They will hate gays. But they will just claim that their hate is cloaked in warm smiles and in the guise of helping us turn away from sin, and after all, aren’t we ALL sinners?

    Meanwhile, they will always keep their knives sharpened. Watch for it.

  23. Bill says

    @Eagles Fanatic : the “freedom of speech” ploy is being used in other contexts as well, usually by right-wingers. If you disagree with them, they will accuse you of violating their freedom of speech even if you do nothing whatsoever to stop them from speaking beyond pointing out the absurdity of what they are saying.

    Thomas Jefferson did not think that freedom of speech meant that brain-dead ideas should be free of criticism.

  24. Duration & Convexity says

    I think people ARE louder about their homophobia these days. While a majority don’t care one way or another, and had a gun been pulled to their head, they would probably be supportive of voting for gay marriage, they aren’t compelled enough to actually stand up for gay people the way they would against someone hurling a racist comment at me for having brown skin. Most of society is more passive in reacting to casual or even blatant homophobia. Part of the problem is that being anti gay is now seen as a perfectly reasonable difference of opinion (as though we’re discussing alternative car fuels and not people). The anti gay crowd, realizing they were losing grip with this issue, reframed the whole thing to make themselves martyrs if anyone even responds to their homophobia. It’s very very calculating on their end.

    What the LGBT community needs to do is stop allowing LGBT rights to be framed as a political issue. Being gay is NOT a political issue. It’s a HUMAN FUNCTION. Debating people being gay is like debating someone being left handed.

  25. Duration & Convexity says

    I think people ARE louder about their homophobia these days. While a majority don’t care one way or another, and had a gun been pulled to their head, they would probably be supportive of voting for gay marriage, they aren’t compelled enough to actually stand up for gay people the way they would against someone hurling a racist comment at me for having brown skin. Most of society is more passive in reacting to casual or even blatant homophobia. Part of the problem is that being anti gay is now seen as a perfectly reasonable difference of opinion (as though we’re discussing alternative car fuels and not people). The anti gay crowd, realizing they were losing grip with this issue, reframed the whole thing to make themselves martyrs if anyone even responds to their homophobia. It’s very very calculating on their end.

    What the LGBT community needs to do is stop allowing LGBT rights to be framed as a political issue. Being gay is NOT a political issue. It’s a HUMAN FUNCTION. Debating people being gay is like debating someone being left handed.

  26. BibleNeitherChangeNorDie says

    Sorry to everyone talking about the “Inevitable” and “Sides of History”- I am a Millennial and I will oppose homosexual conduct until the day I *DIE*. The Bible does NOT have to change or die, if you look beyond the majority of society to Fundamentalist churches, Christian Reconstructionists, Quiverfull and Amish/ Old Order Mennonite you can find exceptions to any stupid example you might use to say we ‘must’ change on any point (views on slavery, stonings, women, divorce, head coverings, etc.)

    I do not care what the rest of society do or how “History” judges me- every single copy of any Satan-inspired “History Book” or court ruling which compares my views to that of Jim Crow racists will burn up with planet Earth at the Last Day, while I spend eternity in Heaven.

    So compare me to Jim Crow and racists all you like, you just store up more wrath from Almighty God at the Judgment.

  27. Gus says

    The gravitas of the Latin name must mean they are serious.

    And isn’t that cute for Teavangelicals when they don’t have to learn Latin or Greek, or Hebrew for that matter, to get a degree from the non-accredited colleges to go soul winning or start your own megachurch.

    Maybe those Baptists and the multi-variations of Calvinism really, really are Orthodox now.


  28. Gus says

    The Constitution of the United States does not care what your particular interpretation of the Bible may or may not be. It does not even acknowledge the existence of the Bible.

  29. jmartindale says

    I don’t care about the respect of religious people. When they say they “respect” us, that is simply their way of declaring their moral superiority. In other words, they have put themselves in a position of being our betters. My response is, I don’t respect you if you judge my life (style–as you would call it) as a sin. I don’t think you or your opinions aere worthwhile to my life. I think bigoted people are inferior human beings who call down judgment on themselves because of their prejudices. Their attitude of superiority is simply a response, much of the time to inferiority complexes, which is why you see cringeworthy redneck attitudes like those of Duck Dynasty getting such great support among the high school droupouts. What I really resent, though, is after making their high-faluting expressions of tolerance, the bigots then work to undermine my civil right. True BS.

  30. 1♥ says

    Thank you for once again for proving that all the Christians have is hate, and without hate they have no religion. That is to be expected when your religion is based on your deceitful bible.

    The time is coming for people to choose to have faith in a loving God or to follow the lies of the false god of the bible. You cannot believe in a loving God and be a Christian.

  31. says

    Saying that the Church & the Bible hasn’t changed serves to point out your willful ignorance.

    Which of the 76 English versions of the book do you claim is God’s word? Did all those printers have God’s permission to change what she said?
    The Church still supporting flat earth and persecuting those that know better? Or that the Earth is the center of the Universe? That left handed people are children of Satan? Or that women are chattel? Slavery is fine as are concubines? What about the Mormons? Or Protestants that don’t accept a virgin birth? Where did purgatory go?

    How old is the Earth?

  32. Bernie says

    their so called “respect” campaign is no more than a smoke screen and my prediction will be the next so called big “campaign” will be to pity/feel sorry for gay people… and they need “healing”

  33. Joel says

    “homosexuality is a “particularly evil lie of Satan,” in a piece penned by its senior researcher.”

    Research? Total nonsense. Do not try to dignify bigotry by calling it “research”.

  34. says

    It’s akin to those “and I’m a Mormon!” ads that popped up everywhere after Prop 8; image repair/damage control. All actually using selective language to avoid being REAL.

    “I’m a mother, and a painter! I love to surf and spend time outdoors…and…I’m a Mormon!” Uh…..who cares? You Mormons don’t have a “we don’t surf” image problem, but an anti-gay one. #truth

    Same deal here. You have to be a complete dunce to think this means they’ve changed their tune. It’s merely a gentler approach to the same old hate.

  35. JT says

    This sounds like double speak. Everyone is created in God’s image, love everyone but still hate the sin that HOMOSEXUALS are doing. Basically what they are saying is; “we are going to TRY to respect you, even though we know you are living a perverted lifestyle and that God will judge you…but we love you.” Sorry, not buying their koolaid.

  36. Howard B says

    @Eagles. You don’t say how old your siblings or uncle are but so long as they live long enough they are bound to come around to your side eventually. My family is as conservative and judgmental as they come. When I first came out I had siblings who didn’t talk to me for almost 20 YEARS! Eventually we began to talk and they gradually began to invite me and my partner to family functions, and over the course of the last 15 years they have gotten more and more comfortable with the idea of my being gay and in a same sex relationship. When we got married last year everyone attended and celebrated our wedding with us. It takes a LONG time for this evolution to happen (maybe even more than 35 years), but given enough time I’m sure your family will come around to your side. Just make sure to live your life openly and honestly, and do what is best for you.

  37. BibleNeitherChangeNorDie says

    @whoever was dumb enough to push the US Constitution at me-

    The Holy Bible does not recognize the US Constitution, so that’s mutual. But because it’s God’s Word, it rules the whole Earth and trumps all manmade law including the Constitution, Iranian sharia, Saudi sharia, Swedish hate speech laws, etc. Christians will always be rewarded by God for obeying Him over men, no matter how badly they get punished by wicked human authorities.

    God damn the Constitution. I’ll be anti-American before I’ll be anti-Christ, as ‘America’ has no authority to send me to an eternal Hell (and don’t bother bringing up ‘prison’, the worst prison in the world let alone the US is like a gnat bite compared to the Kaposi’s Sarcoma of God’s wrath.)

  38. BibleNeitherChangeNorDie says

    The New Testament does not teach women are chattel. Purgatory is an extra-Biblical Romanist invention as is science denial (funny that Catholics are now more pro-science than most evangelical Bible believers)

  39. BibleNeitherChangeNorDie says

    Left-handed people aren’t mentioned as satanic either- another extraBiblical invention. The KJV is closest but the perfect Word of God is in the Hebrew and Greek. The earth is about 4.5 billion years old- Genesis is an allegory, not intended to be literal fact. That’s a matter of man’s understanding of science changing, not the Bible itself changing- whereas on sodomy it’s a moral issue.

    Mormons are a cult and not Christian because they deny salvation by grace through faith. Their ‘book of mormon’ is just as spurious a ‘holy’ text as the koran, bhagavad gita, vedas, talmud, and so on. As for slavery- some Christian Reconstructionists and southern Presbyterian neo-confederates are for it. (I’m not.)

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