Baha'i News -- The moral opposition
The moral opposition
Most Americans believe gay sex is wrong. Yet a majority believe gays and lesbians should be able to
live their lives free of government interference or discrimination on the job.
By CODY LOWE
The Roanoke Times
In one sense, the questions are not tough at all for Blacksburg resident John LeDoux.
Is homosexuality a sin? Yes, he believes the Bible clearly teaches that. Does he love his homosexual
son? Yes, indeed. No doubt about that, either.
For most of the past 25 years -- until just recently, LeDoux said -- his family has been able to closet
whatever misgivings they have about homosexual behavior in order to embrace the one member who is
Their gay son has the same right to their love as their seven other children, LeDoux and his wife
believe. And that son has the same right to work and the same right to privacy as everyone else.
LeDoux's opinions on the subject reflect the national mood, recent polls say. Significant majorities
object to homosexual sex, a slim majority of them on the basis of the Bible's injunctions against it.
But an even larger number believe that homosexual relations should be a private -- and legal -- matter
between two consenting adults.
LeDoux just doesn't want anyone -- his son included -- to tell him that he has to accept homosexuality
as an equally good alternative to heterosexuality.
In that, LeDoux, a former Virginia Tech engineering professor and a political activist, shares a
position with any number of conservative Christian churches and organizations.
But LeDoux also understands the issue on an intimately personal level.
A retired U.S. Navy commander, the 76-year-old LeDoux and his wife of 52 years have eight children --
four boys and four girls. The couple raised the family Roman Catholic -- the religion of LeDoux's family
for more than four centuries. But after extensive study and a religious conversion experience in a
charismatic worship group, they left that church. LeDoux is now an elder in Tried Stone Christian Center in
Blacksburg, a conservative Pentecostal congregation.
The church's statement of faith begins with a proclamation that "The Bible is the only inspired,
infallible and authoritative Word of God."
LeDoux says now that he never saw any indication that one of his sons, Duffy, was gay while he was
growing up at home. As a high school student, the artistic Duffy dated girls and seemed pretty serious
about at least one, his father said. After graduating, he went to art school in Ohio.
There he met a man with whom he began a homosexual relationship. The family found out about it not long
afterward and, LeDoux says, quickly adjusted to the news.
Over the next 25 years, Duffy and his partner continued to participate in family gatherings, although
the physical distance involved -- they eventually moved to California -- made visits rare. "We never
condemned them," LeDoux contends, and "never had any problems" although it was no secret
that he and his wife believed homosexual behavior was wrong and destructive.
"We still loved him," LeDoux says, and he and his wife were impressed that his son and his
partner were able to maintain their relationship so long. Although he wishes his son were not gay, LeDoux
is quick to praise him -- his talent on the piano, his sense of humor. "He's a great guy."
Then two years ago, there was an argument after a family gathering at which Duffy's partner was accused
by another family member of inappropriate behavior. After a lengthy exchange of letters, in which LeDoux
says he continued to express his love for his son, contact was cut off.
LeDoux's eyes turn sad when he explains that he doesn't even know where his son is now; the last letters
were returned unopened. He believes his son had been diagnosed with a life-threatening liver disease before
his last visit home. Now he wonders whether he is dead or alive.
"Even if you forget what the Bible says," LeDoux says, his anxieties about his son's behavior
are driven by what he understands are a host of medical problems associated with homosexual behavior, among
them AIDS, hepatitis, and "gay bowel syndrome."
Underneath it all, however, there is the Bible. "It says it is an abomination," LeDoux says
But, he quickly points out, the Bible also says "all have sinned and fall short of the glory of
God," eliminating the justification for picking out any individuals for special condemnation.
In fact, there are only a handful of biblical references to homosexuality.
One story stands out above the others:
A long time ago, two angels approached a man who was sitting at a city gate. The man invited the angels
to his dwelling. After dinner, the men of the city came pounding on the host's door. "Send out the two
strangers who are with you that we may know them." The men of the city didn't have after-dinner
conversation on their minds, but sex.
"Please don't do this," the host said. "I have two virgin daughters, take them
Fortunately for the daughters, the angels -- presumed to be male -- instead struck the attackers blind
and pulled the father back inside. Next morning, the angels forced the man, his wife and the daughters out
of the city. "Flee, and do not look back," they said.
When the family left, the angels called on God to rain fire and brimstone on the city of Sodom, utterly
destroying it and its inhabitants. Their host's wife could not contain her curiosity and was turned to a
pillar of salt when she gazed on the destruction.
It is a story so commonly known that the act of homosexual sex has come to be known as sodomy.
Dating back 4,000 years, the biblical story of Sodom and Gomorrah has been used throughout the Jewish,
Christian and Muslim worlds as evidence of God's displeasure with homosexual behavior.
Today, some see the Sodom story as a condemnation of rape and inhospitality rather than of all
homosexual conduct. Certain theologians also have reinterpreted other biblical passages on the subject in
recent years. They argue that some passages -- literally read -- condemn homosexual prostitution or
homosexual behavior by heterosexuals, but not all homosexual behavior.
For the majority of Christians, however, the biblical record seems clearly to ban homosexual
Indeed, when Moses is recorded as having written down some specifics about God's laws, the ban on
homosexual acts is codified. Leviticus 20:13 says, "If a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of
them have committed an abomination; they shall be put to death; their blood is upon them."
The penalties have changed, but homosexual behavior continues to be a crime in more than a dozen states,
including Virginia, where it is a felony punishable by jail terms and fines.
Legally, Virginia defines sodomy as oral or anal sexual relations between people of the same or opposite
sexes, but its origins are in opposition to homosexual behavior. A recent challenge to the Virginia sodomy
law resulted in its being upheld in the state court of appeals. Additional legal challenges are likely.
While Virginia's law was written under the influence of the Christian faith of most of the state's
residents, opposition to homosexual behavior transcends religious boundaries and is widespread in the
A 1998 poll conducted for the Washington Post, the Henry J. Kaiser Foundation and Harvard University
found that 72 percent of Americans believe sexual relations between two people of the same sex are
unacceptable. Some 76 percent said marriages between people of the same sex are unacceptable.
Despite that disapproval, nearly three-fourths of the sample said it did not bother them to live and
work around homosexuals, and they said that government had no business trying to either discourage or
encourage acceptance of homosexuality.
More than half -- 55 percent -- said private homosexual relations between consenting adults should be
legal. A large majority, 87 percent, believe homosexuals should have equal job opportunities with
Among those who object to homosexual relationships, 22 percent said that was because they were "not
natural." But more than half -- 52 percent -- said they objected because homosexuality is a sin
forbidden by God.
That slim majority may reflect the decades-long debate in many religious denominations over just what
God's will is. A sometimes rancorous dialogue has led to some changes in the way many churches -- and
synagogues -- construe those holy texts.
Primary among them is the now widespread -- though not universal -- acceptance of homosexual orientation
as distinct from homosexual practice. The predominant understanding now is that romantic or sexual
attraction to people of the same sex is not sinful. Only actions resulting from that attraction --
specifically, genital sexual contact -- are considered a violation of religious law.
The Roman Catholic Church has taken that position for some time, and United States bishops recently
issued a call for the parents of homosexual children to love them, even though the church officially
condemns homosexual behavior as "intrinsically disordered." Gays and lesbians can participate
fully in the life of the church, but "are called to chastity."
Because all Roman Catholic priests vow to be celibate, homosexual orientation is not intrinsically a bar
Among Protestant churches, positions can vary widely.
The nation's largest Protestant body, the Southern Baptist Convention, a decade ago amended its bylaws
to include a provision excluding from membership "churches which act to affirm, approve or endorse
homosexual behavior." Several churches have been expelled from the denomination over the issue, and
some others left it voluntarily.
Last summer, the SBC reworded a doctrinal statement, the Baptist Faith and Message, asserting that
Christians should oppose "all forms of sexual immorality, including adultery, homosexuality, and
pornography." While the statement is not binding on congregations or individual members, it appears to
reflect a majority view in the denomination.
Other churches -- notably the United Methodist, Presbyterian Church (USA) and Evangelical Lutheran
Church in America -- have struggled with refining church law. The result has been to welcome homosexuals to
membership but to avoid official sanction of homosexual behavior, the ordination of non-celibate gays and
lesbians, or the endorsement of a formal wedding rite for homosexuals.
Some Episcopal Church bishops have ordained non-celibate gays and lesbians in the United States. The
denomination is currently studying the creation of a rite for homosexual unions.
The American church's position has brought it into conflict with the apparent majority of the
international Anglican Communion, whose bishops in 1998 called "homosexual practice . . .
incompatible with the Scripture" and counseled against union ceremonies.
Some other denominations refuse to admit homosexuals into membership.
Numerous World Wide Web sites run by individuals and organizations condemn homosexuality on religious
grounds, sometimes in terms of hatred and disgust. The most notorious is www.godhatesfags.com, run by
Kansas Baptist Fred Phelps. He protests at the funerals of gays and lesbians who die of violence or of AIDS
and other diseases associated with homosexual behavior. By pointing out his view that God hates homosexuals
and their behavior, he says, he hopes to get other gays and lesbians to change their ways.
Condemnation of homosexual behavior also is common in other faiths, some of which also are debating the
issue. Among Jews, responses range from the traditional Orthodox Jewish opposition to homosexual relations
to Reform Judaism's approval of same-sex union ceremonies.
The Koran's only direct mention of homosexuality appears to be in condemnations of the people of Sodom.
But many Muslims also revere the Hadith, a collection of the sayings of Muhammad, which specifies the death
penalty for homosexual behavior between men. It also condemns lesbian sexual activity.
Like most large religions, Buddhism is practiced in many forms. Many Buddhist monasteries prohibit
homosexual activity, while other practitioners find no problem with homosexual behavior. The Buddha's
discourses apparently do not touch on the subject. The Dalai Lama, revered by millions of Buddhists, said
in a 1997 interview that homosexual relations are "generally considered sexual misconduct."
Homosexuality is not improper in itself, he has written, but Buddhism prohibits all oral, anal and manual
sex as "an improper use of organs that previously have been defined as inappropriate for sexual
Other religions -- including some forms of Hinduism, the Baha'i faith and Scientology -- also proscribe
While depictions of homosexuals and homosexual behavior have gained increasing acceptance in the popular
entertainment media, and the performances of openly homosexual artists are common, gays are still targets
for slurs and condemnation, especially in some forms of rap or hip-hop music.
Companies that provide benefits for gays -- or that are perceived as gay-friendly -- have been
criticized and sometimes boycotted by religious groups that oppose the normalization of homosexual
And many people believe that acceptance of homosexuality threatens public health, families and society
by legitimizing behavior they see as inherently destructive and dangerous.
John LeDoux believes most people are like him. They understand that "gay people do good
things," and that sex constitutes "only about 3 percent of who anybody is."
And he says he thinks most people, like him, don't care what a person's private sexual activities are as
long as they don't try to compel him to join them or approve of them.
"I don't think I've ever hated anybody," he said. "People are people."
©Copyright 2002, The Roanoke Times
Page last updated/revised 033002
Return to the Bahá'í Association's Main Web Page