"I never once said, 'I hate homosexuals,'" embattled state Rep. Sally Kern told UTW last week.
Her comments were part of her response to the international firestorm of criticism that's befallen her since the Washington, D.C.-based Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund posted a portion of her now infamous monologue on YouTube earlier this month.
Kern also said she "won't apologize or back down" from the statements she made in her speech, but added that there are a few comments she'll likely refrain from making again.
In early January, she addressed a few dozen local Republicans in her Oklahoma City district, elaborating on how "the homosexual agenda is destroying this nation," which was one of many similar public presentations she frequently makes across her district and the state.
Unbeknownst to her at the time, the speech was recorded by an audience member, who then delivered the recording to the Victory Fund, which describes itself on its website as "the nation's largest LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trangender/Transexual) political action committee and the only national organization dedicated to increasing the number of openly LGBT elected officials at all levels of government."
Chuck Wolfe, the group's president, told UTW that the person who recorded the speech is not a member of his organization, and that they did not target Kern or specifically ask for any footage or information related to her efforts.
"We didn't know any of this was going on until after the fact," he said.
The group posted a two-minute, 45-second portion of her speech on YouTube earlier this month, sparking international media attention and outrage from the gay community and others.
In the posted portion of her address, Kern explained that "not everybody's lifestyle is equal, just like not all religions are created equal."
She first cited "God's word" to establish that it's "not the right kind of lifestyle" before elaborating, "It has deadly consequences for those people involved in it. They have more suicides. They're more discouraged. There's more illness. Their lifespans are shorter. It's not a lifestyle that is good for this nation. As a matter of fact, studies show, no society that has totally embraced homosexuality has lasted more than, you know, a few decades. So, it's the death knell of this country."
To drive the point home, Kern added, "I honestly think it's the biggest threat our nation has, even more so than terrorism or Islam, which I think is a big threat, OK?"
The rest of her presentation had to do with what she calls "the homosexual agenda," the goals of which, she explained, range from indoctrinating children into acceptance of the homosexual lifestyle to installing gays in public office.
"Do you know why they're trying to get early childhood education?" she rhetorically asked.
"They want to get our young children into the government schools so they can indoctrinate them. I taught school for close to 20 years, and we're not teaching facts and knowledge anymore folks, they're teaching indoctrination," she said.
Regarding their political aspirations, Kern said, "You know, gays are infiltrating city councils . . . Have you heard that the city council of Eureka Springs is now controlled by gays? OK, there are some others--Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; Kensington, Maryland; Vermont; Oregon; West Palm Beach, Florida, in a lot of other places in Florida.
What's happening? And they are winning elections."
Finally she spoke of her attempts in the state Legislature to resist the encroaching "homosexual agenda" in the form of a bill that would require parents be notified by schools of any clubs or extracurricular groups with which their children get involved, such as the Gay-Straight Alliance.
"One of my colleagues said, 'You know, we don't have a gay problem in my community, so that's why I voted against that bill.' Well, you know what? To me that is so dumb--if you've got cancer or something in your toe, do you say, 'Well you know, I'm just going to forget about it because the rest of me is fine.' It spreads. OK? And this stuff is deadly and it's spreading and it will destroy our young people, it will destroy this nation," Kern also said, which was the last of the posted portion of her address.
After the Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund posted the recording on YouTube, Kern's comments quickly attracted international attention, the vast majority of which wasn't positive, to put it mildly.
At the time of this writing, nearly a million people had logged onto YouTube to watch the video, and many more are talking about it, both in private discussion and in widely broadcast media forums (see related article in this week's paper for more details).
Victory Fund also posted the video on its own website, along with comments calling her address "hate speech."
"She thought only 50 people were listening when she went on this anti-gay tirade. This is what they say when they think we're not listening," the site reads.
The audio-side of the Victory Fund video contains Kern's words as recorded from her speech, as they are in the original YouTube posting, while the visual-side contains images of people holding signs reading "We're listening," "Words matter," "You don't represent me," "Speak for yourself," "Shame on you!" and other one-liners with similar messages of disapproval.
Last Monday, March 10--a few days after the video was posted, Kern issued a written statement in response to the avalanche of criticism she received.
"To put this simply, as a Christian I believe homosexuality is not moral. Obviously, you have the right as an American to choose that lifestyle, but I also have the right to express my views and my fellow Oklahomans have the right to debate these issues," she said.
Kern rejected criticism that her comments amounted to "hate speech," arguing that she merely exercised her right to free speech.
"The fact that many gay rights activists claim anyone opposing their agenda is engaging in 'hate speech' says more about them than me," she said.
About the "aggressive promotion" of their agenda by homosexual activists, she pointed to coverage in various national publications such as Time, The Atlantic and USA Today about the trend of gay activists providing "substantial financing to candidates who agree with their views."
"That is their right, just as it is my right to voice opposition to their agenda, which I have been asked to do at several public forums in recent months," Kern said.
"That's what democracy is all about. It appears some homosexual activists believe only one group is allowed a voice in this debate. I disagree," she added.
Her formal statement prompted another from the Victory Fund president the next day in which he said, "I saw the statement you released yesterday in which you said your 'hate speech' is merely 'free speech.' That's kind of gross, but it's also beside the point."
"The point," Wolfe went on to explain, is that Kern's words "give aid and comfort to those who would hurt, maim and even kill people who are different from you," citing the murder of Matthew Shepherd and others at the hands of "people who think like you (Kern)."
"Your speech can lead to the murders of more young people. You have outraged hundreds of thousands, but you may have inspired a few people, too. That's not just sad, it's evil," he told her.
The controversy set in motion by the posting of the YouTube video has already inspired a few people.
In the immediate aftermath of the YouTube posting, Kern's voicemail box at the state Capitol was filled to capacity and 22,000-and-counting e-mails have flooded her inbox (again, see related article in this issue).
The Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation is currently running those e-mails through a threat assessment search to see which, if any, warrant prosecution as death threats, OSBI spokesperson Jessica Brown told UTW.
Kern said she didn't contact OSBI or ask them to do the search through the e-mails, but said, "The majority, by far, are hateful, vile, profane and vulgar," and call her such things as "disgusting, narrow-minded and bigoted."
"I've learned some new words," the lawmaker quipped about the level of obscenity of some of the messages.
Some of the e-mails also border on threatening.
"I don't know how serious these are," Kern said.
One that made her particularly uneasy, she said, had a subject line reading "I hope you sleep well tonight," and content that read "We are listening to you and we are watching your family."
Brown said the search program is screening for such words as "kill," as in, "I'm going to kill you," as opposed to "I hope you die," to "make sure it rises to the level of 'threat'" in a legal, prosecutable sense.
"But, to the representative, they're all threatening, because she feels threatened," the OSBI spokesperson said.
Wolfe disputed that any of the messages would rise to the level of actual death threats, but if they do, he said neither he nor Victory Fund are responsible.
While Kern's speech, in his view, could potentially fuel violence against homosexuals, he said any violence threatened against Kern is her own fault.
"It's not my words that are inciting the violence, it's hers. If somebody is saying something bad to her, it's because of her words. It's her words that are responsible for the action," he said, emphasizing that Victory Fund does not condone violence or threats of violence against anyone.
To those who would blame him for the potential death threats against Kern, he said, "Give me one example of my speech that would do that. If you can point to one that is hatred, or equates her to being worse than a terrorist, then I would say, 'Yep--we overstepped.'"
You did call her "evil," Mr. Wolfe.
"Yes--her words are evil," he answered.
When asked to point to a portion of her speech in which she deliberately incites people to violence, after a few seconds' pause, he answered, "I would say that words that she has used in the context of the state of our country where people are worried about terrorist attacks, who might believe her words that gays and lesbians are worse than terrorists, definitely could be filling the wrong kind of people's heads with inappropriate actions."
Do you think those words were designed to do that?
"I don't know. If they're not, it would be the perfect time to back away from that . . . they certainly should be condemned by the leadership of her party," Wolfe answered.
While Kern told UTW she wouldn't "back down," she did somewhat back away from the "terrorist" comments.
"I was using a metaphor, but I won't use the 'terrorist' metaphor again," she said.
What did you mean, exactly, when you said "the homosexual agenda is a greater threat than terrorism or Islam"?
Kern answered that, by "Islam," she meant "radical Islam," such as that espoused by Osama bin Laden, not the "Islam" practiced by peaceful Muslims.
As for the terrorism metaphor, she explained that terrorism destroys physical structures and individual lives, while "the homosexual agenda is out to destroy traditional marriage and the family," thereby destroying the fabric of society as a whole, she said.
Kern added that if one were to Google the phrase "bigger threat than terrorism," the subject of obesity would figure prominently in the results, along with homosexuality.
"If somebody talks about the harmful effects of obesity in those terms, no one would call it 'hate speech' against obese people, would they?" she said.
Also, she said the cancer metaphor was not directed at individuals who are gay, nor even at the gay community, but at the gay political movement.
"I was just illustrating the fact that this is a problem in our society, and that the health issues related to it will get worse and the gender identity issues will get worse, if it's ignored," she defended.
Wolfe said her statements about homosexuality and the homosexual political agenda are "downright falsehood," but Kern said, if her comments had not been taken out of context, listeners on YouTube would have known that she could back all of her comments with facts.
While many of her critics have cast her in the mold of the stodgy, myopic and self-righteous "church lady"-stereotype for her references to Christianity and to "God's word" and for the fact that she's the wife of a Baptist preacher, Kern said, "I really try to talk about this issue more from a secular viewpoint."
She said her statements about the comparatively shorter lifespans and deadlier health issues experienced by homosexuals were based, not on the Bible, but on a study by Robert E. Hogg--"Modeling the Impact of HIV and Disease on Gay and Bisexual Men"--published in a 1997 issue of the International Journal of Epidemiology.
"I did misspeak once," Kern volunteered.
When she commented that "no society that has totally embraced homosexuality has lasted more than a few decades," she meant to say "more than a few generations."
Kern said she was directly quoting a 1920s secular sociologist when she said that, but said she couldn't recall his name at the time of the interview with UTW.
She did, however, reference comments attributed to the famed historian Will Durant.
"He's written lots of books about societies and civilization, and he was once asked, 'What are the characteristics of a society in decay?'" Kern said.
One of those characteristics (not the characteristic, it bears pointing out) was "embracing homosexuality," in reference to the fall of Rome and of Greece before it, she said.
The first "downright falsehood" underscored by Wolfe, though, was her warning that "the homosexual agenda is destroying this nation."
"Let's start with that falsehood: the 'homosexual agenda.' Have you ever read it? It doesn't exist," he said, stifling wry laughter.
Naturally, he was questioned about his own organization's role within that "agenda," with its stated mission of providing "strategic, technical and financial support to openly LGBT candidates and their campaigns" (see www.victoryfund.org for more details).
He answered, "I think you should be really careful with that--we try to help gay and lesbian Americans get past the stigma that they shouldn't be a part of government. We do not lobby them once they get in office."
Wolfe added, "It's an important distinction--if you're talking about an 'agenda,' you're talking about something somebody lobbies for. We don't lobby."
Kern, though, disagreed.
"You don't have to be lobbying for anything to have an agenda. Everybody has an agenda," she said.
Wolfe acknowledged, though, that there is a gay political movement, if not an "agenda," that is actively seeking change for the nation, which many people, such as Kern, equate to "destroying this nation."
"There is definitely a political movement that is trying to eliminate bigotry and hatred in American government. That's correct," he said.
"I understand that the people who say 'as long as you agree with me, you're Ok, but if you don't, you are destroying the country.' I do understand that there are people who say that," Wolfe continued.
"Which, by the way, isn't us--we don't say 'If you don't agree with us, you are destroying the country.' But she does," he added.
Kern, though, insisted that a persistent strategy of the "homosexual agenda" is to attempt to silence critics such as her by vilifying anyone who disagrees with them, casting any unfavorable discussion about homosexuality as "hate speech."
That "agenda," she said, goes back at least as far as 1973, when gay political activists "bullied and intimidated" the American Psychiatric Association into removing homosexuality from its diagnostic manual of mental illnesses, and persists today through "wealthy and aggressive homosexual activists" who put their money behind political and publicity campaigns to "create an environment of fear and respect" to suppress opposition as they indoctrinate the public into viewing homosexuality as a normal and healthy lifestyle.
Regarding the "indoctrination of children," among other purported gay activist campaigns, Kern pointed to the "diversity education" included in early childhood education programs, which she said include exposure to "alternative lifestyles."
Also, she said children's books like "King and King" and "Heather has Two Mommies," which were written for children aged 4-8, are attempts by gay activists to portray homosexuality as positive and healthy.
She said older students are also being "indoctrinated."
"We're having students read literature like 'Angels in America'--which is a vile play about homosexuality--rather than the classics. What's the point of that, if not to indoctrinate young people?" Kern explained.
She said her understanding of the "homosexual agenda" was informed largely by a book entitled "The Agenda: The Homosexual Plan to Change America," by Louis P. Sheldon.
Finally, Kern was asked if she believes homosexuals choose their sexual orientation, if they're born with it, or if they acquire it in early childhood.
"I believe it's a choice," she answered.
Tags: Sally Kern
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