CNN hosted Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, to comment on the upcoming vote by the Boy Scouts of America to drop its ban on gay scouts and leaders. CNN's decision to give Land a platform comes in spite of Land's history of anti-gay rhetoric.
During an interview Tuesday on CNN's Starting Point, Land pushed the widely debunked myth that allowing gay men to participate in the Boy Scouts would raise the risk of child sexual abuse. Land said that he was "not accusing homosexuals of being pedophiles," but added: "I'm accusing homosexuals of being what they say they are -- attracted to males. How many people that are listening to me would allow their teenage girls to go on campouts and engage in camping activities with heterosexual males?"
Land went on to say:
LAND: Heterosexual males would not be allowed to be girl scout masters. Why? Because they're attracted to girls, to young women -- in the same way homosexual males -- I'm not talking about pedophiles. Now, I'm talking about -- homosexual means attracted to the same sex.
Do parents really want to allow their teenage boys to go on campouts with men who are attracted to the same sex. They wouldn't let their girls go on campouts with men who are attracted to women. This is -- this is -- this verges on being beyond the realm of the rational.
Land continued: "It's gonna lead to human tragedy, and the human tragedy's gonna be, sadly, boys and men who are going to end up in relationships that are going to be tragic."
During the segment, CNN's Brooke Baldwin noted that "studies show that homosexuals are no more pedophiles than heterosexuals."
While hosts Baldwin and John Berman pushed back against Land's outrageous comments, CNN must have been aware of Land's history of anti-gay rhetoric. Land has claimed that gay people are working to usher in the "full-blown paganization" of America and are "recruiting" children, saying this is "really child abuse." Land has also claimed that being gay is "one sin that I know about that I find totally incomprehensible."
Perhaps the most devastating argument against conservatives who advocate blocking the attempt to use a building in lower Manhattan as a mosque and an Islamic cultural center in lower Manhattan is that they are advocating for a violation of First Amendment religious liberty rights. So, in the last few days Rush Limbaugh and the Southern Baptist Convention's Richard Land have both attempted to argue that the Constitution is not implicated because no one has the right to build a religious institution wherever they want; rather people must abide by zoning laws and the like. In fact, the Supreme Court has held that the religious discrimination that Limbaugh and Land are advocating is unconstitutional.
Land stated on Public Radio International's To the Point that people "do have the right to have these mosques. Now, they don't have the right to have them any particular place they want them. You know, the Supreme Court in the [City of] Boerne [v. Flores] decision said that a Catholic church couldn't expand because of the objections of the historical district that it would bother the historical nature of the town square in Boerne." Similarly, on his radio show, Limbaugh cited zoning laws and said "If you're going to bring the First Amendment into it, that's where your argument's going to fall apart. There are 23 mosques in New York. The government -- the Constitution does not guarantee you can put your church anywhere you want it. It just says you cannot be denied the practice of worship."
Limbaugh's and Land's argument is riddled with holes. The most obvious flaw -- but by no reason the only one -- is that the New York City Landmarks Commission has said that New York land use laws do not prevent the use of the building in question as a mosque and Islamic community center.
But equally important, conservatives are arguing for religious discrimination, which is unconstitutional and illegal under federal law. Let's not kid ourselves into thinking that these people would fight against other uses of the building. The conservative objections would disappear if, instead of a mosque, the building were turned into a church, a synagogue, or even a shopping mall. And the Supreme Court has made clear that while states and localities don't need to make exceptions to their land use laws to accommodate religious institutions, they can't actively discriminate on the basis of religion either.