Alex Blaze

Gay man sues Bible publishers

Filed By Alex Blaze | July 10, 2008 12:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Fundie Watch, Living
Tags: Bible, Bradley Fowler, Cannabis ministry, Christian beliefs, fundamentalism, Hawaii, lawsuit, Michigan

Here's an interesting item. Bradley Fowler, a gay man, is suing two Bible publishers for mistranslating the Bible and causing him "demoralization, chaos and bewilderment."

The lawsuits also blames the publishers for causing "me or anyone who is a homosexual to endure verbal abuse, discrimination, episodes of hate, and physical violence... including murder."

It's interesting that one would think of using the law this way. It's not too hard to make a connection between the way the Bible's been translated/interpreted and violence against LGBT people.

I'm going to guess that this case will be dismissed pretty soon considering everything (Fowler has no lawyer, he's suing Bible publishers for specific damages, etc.), but I hope that he doesn't get dismissed as a kook, as would be first impulse. Bradley Fowler has been working for a long time in AIDS and gay advocacy, and there is definitely a point to what he's arguing: the Bible has been misused to hurt LGBT people, physically, mentally, and spiritually.

From his site (link via JMG):

In 1964, the scripture found in 1 Corinthians Six, verse Nine read as followed:

Know ye not that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminates, nor abusers of themselves with mankind...

In 1982, the same scripture read like this:

Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexuals...

In 1987, the same scripture read as followed:

Do you not know that the unrightoues and the wrong doers will not inherit or have any share in the kingdom of God? Do not be decieved(misled): neither the impure and immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor those who participate in homosexual behavior...

But the 1994 editioin reads like this:

Know ye not that he unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulteres, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind...

Which one of these is truth? Which one is not?

He later remarks that the problem for him is the oscillation between "effeminate" and "homosexual." I don't agree that one is particularly worse than the other, but it does show the emptiness of textual fundamentalism.

The Religious Right is already on this one saying that it'll hurt freedom of religion to have to translate the Bible a certain way, but, frankly, I'm having a hard time seeing their argument here. It's probably because, as a radical homosexual, I've always had a problem with the concept of freedom of religion overriding other rights, especially since it gets used as a tool by the state to designate which religions are real and which ones aren't.

Take, for example, the story of the Indian boy who was told to cut off his braids to attend school. When his mother said that he can't because of his religion, the school wanted written proof that it was part of his religious beliefs, even though their tradition was oral.

On the other hand, there was the man who was charged with possession of marijuana who was a card-carrying member of the Hawaii Cannabis Ministry. The Hawaii Supreme Court found that freedom of religion did not allow him to smoke pot. So I guess written on paper isn't enough.

Fundies have used the idea of freedom of religion so cynically, at one moment arguing that their freedom of religion is being violated because they can proselytize in schools and the next arguing that Muslims shouldn't be allowed to express their religious beliefs, and legal entities have defined it around various corners so much that it makes me wonder if anyone outside of fundamentalist Christianity is entitled to freedom of religion as a trump card to avoid even being sued for the obvious results of their actions.

They can argue all they want that they can misinterpret the Bible to hurt others and it's protected by the First Amendment, and they'll probably win, but consider this winning argument from the prosecution in the Hawaii Cannabis Ministry case:

"The law prohibiting possession of marijuana ... applies to everyone," similar to traffic laws, said prosecuting attorney Janet Garcia. "Otherwise, you could have someone who says, 'My religious belief is that I shouldn't have to stop at a stop sign."'

Or we can have someone who says, "My religious belief is that I need to preach and disseminate the idea that gays needs to be stoned, are evil, and are hated by God."

That sort of Bible interpretation has results, and whether a religion is worth respecting or not is something that the government shouldn't be involved in. And when Janet Garcia can credibly argue that freedom of religion doesn't let anyone off the hook unless there's a statutorily created exemption, it seems like that's the distinction the courts have to make.

Oh, well. This case was at least an interesting thought.


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I am a Christian, so take this for what it is worth. I watched a great documentary on equal marriage, which I fully support, and they made a great statement that I think is fundamental in how Christians (or most people who do not want gay marriage to happen) think about homosexuals. One of the people said something to the effect that people just can't get past the homosexual sex. It has taken me quite a few movies about LGBT issues to get there myself. I was raised very conservatively, so I was indoctrinated into the idea that anything that was not hetero was evil. I had to repeatedly read about and listen to people involved in these issues to really realize that love has no physical preference. I was raised to be hung up on the sex aspect of LGBT relationships. I think this is true for most people in the church.

The NET Bible is a pretty good good scholarly version and it's free on the net. I wouldn't recommend the Living Bible at all. Its author is best described as "some guy" and when you try a cross-version search, you'll find some glaring discrepancies.

I earnestly recommend googling "zondervan lawsuit". I especially recommend rightpundits.com and godandculture.wordpress.com .

It's some of the funniest stuff from the religious right I've ever seen. Some of the articles are straight out of The Onion, but the real fun is in the comments. On a couple of the sites there seem to be some mainstream Christians and nonbelievers tossing cats among the chickens.

Wrt the passage in 1Cor 6:9, the footnotes in scholarly versions such as the Jerusalem Bible and the NET bible imho explain pretty convincingly what Paul said. Personally, I don't like it very much, but I'm convinced that's what Paul said.

I should declare an interest: I'm a humanist and not much of a fan of argument from authority, but I have great respect for people of faith who approach scripture in a scholarly fashion. My own (wholly amateur) "faith in search of understanding" led me through Barth and Bultmann to Unitarianism and right out the door. It would be foolish to say that other destinations and other paths aren't equally respectable. Though fundies are sometimes figures of fun (or horror) today, I believe fundamentalism is a valid answer to a very serious problem in hermeneutics, one which my own mainstream Methodist upbringing didn't have a very good answer for. And I'm an unabahed fan of the NET bible: who wouldn't love a book with 16,000 footnotes?

Robert Ganshorn Robert Ganshorn | July 11, 2008 12:38 AM

That a thinking Western civilization would place the footing of it's laws and customs on a fairy tale book is the only abomination. A series of documents that was in the exclusive control of the RC Church for sixteen centuries? Was neither codified or inerrantly copied until the church was finally faced with "heretics" they could denounce during the Inquisition.

Written in Greek, translated to Latin which became a dead language to the supposed faithful.

It was largely ghost written long after the deaths of the apostles in the new testament.

And yet, used as a manner of controlling and oppressing others.

It is the ultimate political manifesto of the world.

Fascinating. But I have to admit the Bible I carry in my computer bag is The Living Bible. It's written in plain English even though some of the translation is a little rough. It's all subjective anyways, so what's it matter? All the version give different bits and pieces.