In a very powerful essay, William Barber and Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove, who have been leaders in North Carolina's "Moral Monday" movement, note how sexual baiting has long been used in the U.S. by established power brokers to deflect challenges to the powerful, when they sense that these challenges are having an effect. Barbar and Wilson-Hartgrove point out that, following the passing of the 14th amendment removing African Americans from the category of three-fifths of a person, the white power structure of the South, led by white preachers, stirred a backlash centered on the idea that black men would become unrestrained beasts raping white women if they were not put back into "their place."
During the Civil Rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s, the white power structure of the South spread rumors about the sexual licentiousness of those working on behalf of civil rights for African Americans. The Alabama legislature went so far as to pass a resolution condemning the Selma march, which stated that "there is much evidence of fornication" among civil rights activists, and that young unmarried women who came to take part in the march from other parts of the country were heading home pregnant.
Barbar and Wilson-Hartgrove write,
The pattern is clear: Whenever established power brokers have felt threatened in America's history, they have responded by stirring up sexual fears.
We who know this history can see that public expressions of concern about the "gay lifestyle" are not about religious freedom. They are about dividing an increasingly diverse electorate that has twice elected a black president. Fear of gay rights has proved to be the most effective strategy for extremists determined to take over America’s statehouses.
As Southern preachers, we say to our fellow ministers: Religious freedom laws are an immoral ploy to stir up old fears. As people of faith, we must oppose them.
They're absolutely right about this. Having lived through a bit of this history in the 20th century, many of us who paid careful attention to what we were living through understand in our bones who's promoting the bogus "religious freedom" legislation that demonizes LGBT people now, and why they're promoting this legislation. We've been there. We've done that.
And we had hoped long since to have left this ugly period of history behind, along with the blind "liberal" media gurus who always find every reason in the world to excuse abuses of power, when their own self-interest is at stake as power elites are being challenged.
The photo: Dr. Ralph Abernathy, Mrs. Juanita Abernathy, and their children marching in Selma with Dr. Martin Luther King and Mrs. Coretta Scott King, from the Abernathy family photos, which are in the public domain. This photo is available for sharing through Wikimedia Commons.