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Molly Butler / Media Matters

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Right-wing media attack LGBTQ-affirming Christians and churches

As Christian nationalist rhetoric increasingly proliferates among pundits, they are also hedging the definition of what it means to be Christian

Right-wing talking heads and televangelists alike have long brandished their personal interpretations of Christianity as a weapon against the LGBTQ community — often making participation in the church contentious for LGBTQ people, despite others’ efforts to bridge that gap and welcome the community into their congregation. These inclusive efforts have come under attack from right-wing pundits amid a surge of far-right support for Christian nationalism, branding pro-LGBTQ religious outreach as “heretical” and “sacrilegious” and turning on the people and institutions extending even the flimsiest olive branches to LGBTQ people.

  • Right-wing media attacked a Christian Super Bowl ad for inclusive posturing despite it being funded by anti-LGBTQ organizations

  • A 2024 Super Bowl ad from the “He Gets Us” campaign promoted a progressive image of Christianity to Americans (as it had the year before). One of this year’s pair of ads featured Jesus washing the feet of his disciples, and included imagery of both a priest washing the feet of a gay man and a young woman having her feet washed in front of a family planning clinic. 

    Right-wing media hated it:

    • The Federalist called the message “weak gospel” and claimed progressive churches that embrace gay marriage and abortion “have continued to be hurt the most by the de-churching of America.” The outlet then promoted a pastor’s response video that featured people who “abandoned their old, evil ways of thinking and living to follow Christ,” including a “former drag queen,” “former transgender” person, and “former lesbian activist” alongside a “former gang leader” and “former KKK member."
    • The National Review was marginally more generous to the ad, calling it a “tough sell” and “an attempt at ‘Entry Level’ Christianity,” concluding, “The ‘He Gets Us’ ad wasn’t sophisticated or beautiful, and it certainly pandered to its target audience.”
    • Daily Wire pundit Matt Walsh denounced the ad as “heretical bullshit” and claimed the people getting their feet washed were “narcissistic, prideful, unrepentant sinners,” while his colleague Michael Knowles was criticized by right-wing audiences for being open to the campaign’s approach.
    • Blaze Media pundit and Christian influencer Allie Beth Stuckey, who criticized last year’s commercials for “present[ing] a false, worldly Jesus,” reiterated her complaints and called the 2024 ad “ambiguous mumbo jumbo.”
    • The Post Millennial called the ad “cringe” and said it “appears to celebrate wokeness.”
  • Despite its message of inclusion, the ad was previously bankrolled by an organization that donated nearly $66 million to extreme anti-LGBTQ organization the Alliance Defending Freedom from 2018-2021 and helped fund other anti-LGBTQ institutions. As of this year, the campaign is now operated by an organization led and funded by the family behind Hobby Lobby, which has a lengthy anti-LGBTQ record.

  • A conservative preacher was rebuked by right-wing media and subsequently fired from his radio network for advising someone to attend an LGBTQ wedding

  • In late January, pastor and host Alistair Begg was ousted from American Family Radio, owned by SPLC-designated anti-LGBTQ hate group the American Family Association, for advice he recounted offering in a September episode of his show. Begg, who once called gay marriage “an expression of rebellion against God,” advised a grandmother to go to her grandson’s wedding to a trans person to show her love for him, but also make it clear she did not affirm the couple’s relationship.

    Despite Begg’s past anti-LGBTQ statements and his lukewarm stance on the matter, right-wing media disapproved of his advice:

    • While announcing Begg’s departure, the president of AFA compared Begg’s advice to a father enabling his alcoholic son by not driving him to the bar but condoning him going on his own.
    • The Federalist claimed Begg was endorsing attendance at a “sacrilegious parody of a true wedding” and said that being gay or trans is “the closest analogue” to incest, but “worse.”
    • Blaze Media host Steve Deace called Begg’s advice “dangerous” and accused the pastor of “idolatry.” Deace also compared attending the wedding to endorsing a serial murderer.
    • Even a “compassionate response” to Begg’s advice in The Washington Times claimed it defies God’s design of gender and marriage, and said a “Christian who attends an LGBT wedding is risking their witness before God and man.”
  • Libs of TikTok targeted an LGBTQ-inclusive Ash Wednesday service hosted at a university, and right-wing media followed suit

  • In February, right-wing media were up in arms over an LGBTQ-inclusive Ash Wednesday service at a Kansas university. Fort Hays State University held a ceremony where attendees could opt to have a mixture of ash and glitter for the cross on their forehead, a practice initiated by a faith-based LGBTQ group in 2017.

    • Anti-LGBTQ account Libs of TikTok attacked the event on X (formerly Twitter), saying, “Yes this is real,” and posted an alleged student’s reaction that said in part: “The devil is not hiding anymore. He is right in front of us. He’s in your children’s schools.”
    • The Daily Signal called the event “the opposite of inclusive,” claiming that LGBTQ identity is “sinful” and “a rejection of God’s creation,” and that the glitter waters down the meaning of Ash Wednesday. The outlet’s managing editor echoed the sentiment on X.
    • Leadership Institute-owned conservative outlet Campus Reform called the event a combination of “religion and LGBT ideology.”
    • American Greatness claimed that the event’s hosts “appear to lack a basic understanding of what the day is all about.”
  • A report from GLAAD found more than 60 attacks on religious institutions with clear anti-LGBTQ motives within a year and a half

  • In late February, GLAAD published a report that found more than 60 instances of anti-LGBTQ hate crime attacks against religious institutions, including but not limited to Christian churches, from June 2022 to January 2024. GLAAD’s announcement of its findings highlighted the following instances:

    • A white supremacist received an 18-year sentence for a March 2023 attempt to firebomb an Ohio church; he was reportedly upset over the church hosting upcoming drag shows and echoed the anti-LGBTQ “save the children” rhetoric.
    • In June 2023, a Washington church had its LGBTQ pride flags stolen and its lawn vandalized with diesel fuel in the name of a Bible verse that specifies the death penalty for homosexual acts, and a Massachusetts church was branded with graffiti that said LGBTQ people “should die.”
    • In October 2023, several white supremacist groups waved swastika flags and held signs with racist and anti-LGBTQ slogans, including one saying “Sodom and Gomorrah were your warning,” in front of a Texas church; the Dallas Voice noted that their target is “known as the largest church in the world with a primarily LGBTQ membership.”
    • That same month, someone drove their car through an LGBTQ pride exhibit at a Washington church.
  • In another instance not explicitly pointed out by GLAAD, a different Texas church was attacked in July 2023 just weeks after a right-wing YouTuber called it “pagan and satanic” for supporting and affirming the LGBTQ community.