Evangelist Pat Robertson never seems to run out of questions to answer on The 700 Club, and today he took on the topic of anti-gay bullying. Surprisingly, he criticized Christians for bullying LGBT students and suggested that “schools shouldn’t permit that,” but mentioned that he still supports calling “homosexual practices” an “abomination”:
ROBERTSON: Well I think that’s terrible and Christians shouldn’t do that. I mean, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, blah, blah, blah. You know, Christians shouldn’t do that. They ought to act in love. You might disagree, you may think that these practices are an abomination, you can think all sorts of things, but you need to love. And you need to reach out to these kids in love.
Robertson’s response is arguably positive — at least relative to his usual anti-gay positions — and if he supports anti-bullying policies that specifically enumerate protections based on sexual orientation and gender identity, then he should clarify that. But his caveat that holding anti-gay beliefs is still okay and his subtle suggestion that they should be shared (“in love”) is still problematic.
Conservatives often claim to oppose bullying, but insist that there still be room for condemning homosexuality as a matter of free speech and freedom of religion. Often, that stigma can be delivered in ways that don’t constitute the kind of violence, intimidation, or harassment that many qualify as “bullying,” but that still have severe consequences in terms of a student’s self-worth and overall mental health. If children’s safety and well-being is the primary concern, it’s impossible to truly protect them from the impact of bullying while still sentencing them to eternity in Hell.