Andrew Belonsky

In Anti-Gay Letter to Karger, a Test for the GOP

Filed By Andrew Belonsky | June 03, 2010 6:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Marriage Equality, Politics
Tags: Fred Karger, homophobic behavior, Iowa, Michael Steele, News, politics, Republicans, RNC, Steve Scheffler

There's no doubt our nation's changing its collective mind on the gays. A recent Gallup poll showed that 52% of Americans believe same-sex love is "morally acceptable." Sure, it's not an astounding number, but it's still the highest in history, thanks to huge leaps from Democrats and Independents, nine and eleven, respectively. Sixty-one percent of both parties answered in the affirmative. Only 35% of Republicans said the same.

Now, that's not surprising: the Republican Party doesn't have the best gay-related track record. But the Republican National Committee also doesn't appear interested in changing its tune. Not if an Iowa RNC official named Steve Scheffler's any indication: he's playing a little gay of homophobic political intimidation.

Scheffler, the RNC Committeeman in Iowa and also leader of the anti-gay group Iowa Christian Alliance, recently wrote a particularly nasty email to the recently out Fred Karger, a long-time GOP consultant who has worked on both the Reagan and Bush Sr. campaigns and has taken on gay marriage foes with his group Californians Against Hate. Now Karger wants to run for the White House. That does not sit well with anti-gay Scheffler. And that's putting it lightly.

"You and the radical homosexual community want to harass supporters of REAL marriage," raged Scheffler in his letter to Karger, after the presidential hopeful blasted the National Organization for Marriage. "I am the Republican National Committeeman for Iowa. As a private citizen and knowing literally thousands of caucus goers, I will work overtime to help ensure that your political aspirations are aborted right here in Iowa." I'm sure Scheffler's use of "A-word" raised some right-wing eyebrows, especially in such a message so saturated in blind ideology.

Karger, bless him, is not taking this harassment lying down, and penned his own letter. It's appropriately tart. "Perhaps if I ran for office in 2004 before I was "out," you would have no problem with my possible candidacy for President," writes Karger. "All other Republican Party officials whom I have met, including Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steel [sic], have been extremely gracious and completely open to my participation in the next national election." Scheffler is, in essence, behind even Steele, a man not known to be entirely "with it." But even if Steele and company have embraced Karger, who has worked with the GOP for over 40 years, the Republican Party should publicly lambast Scheffler. So far neither the RNC or Iowa officials seem inclined to get involved. That may bite them in the proverbial butt.

If the Gallup trends are to be believed - and I would say they are - then more and more Americans will "go gay" when it comes to social acceptance. The Republican party, which has been undergoing growing pains of late, has a choice: ride the swelling wave of acceptance, one that's already been caught by younger Republicans like Meghan McCain, or get caught up - and washed up - in increasingly outdated rhetoric.

Truly, I may not always like them, or even want them to come out on top, but it would be in the Republican Party's best interest to take some action against Scheffler, because the Party's not all bad, and should prove it, especially as the nation undergoes a period of political metamorphosis.

My suggestion: public apology and, perhaps, even a resignation. Scheffler may have claimed he was writing as a "private citizen," but this clearly is political intimidation, one the RNC cannot endorse by staying silent.

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The positive changes in polling are directly related to diminishing influence of religion in America. It is a very welcome sign.

rapid butterfly | June 4, 2010 8:13 AM

I don't think the changes in polling are entirely or even primarily related to any diminishing influence of religion, as such. I think that ever-growing numbers of people who would still call themselves "religious" see that there need not be an inconsistency between their religious beliefs and the notion of live-and-let-live. In part I think that is b/c as LGBT people become more visible and people spend time with us, it becomes harder to "other" us. And *that* is a welcome sign, especially for those of us who live in the bible belt.

Andrew Belonsky Andrew Belonsky | June 4, 2010 8:34 AM

I agree with rapid butterfly: the United States are still extremely religious -- something like 53% of people think the Bible is, literally, by God, whose publisher must be making bundles. I think religion's just adjusting to the times. Not only are gays more visible, but they're also becoming more vocal in their religious communities, which can only be good news...

Gallup polling during the last 30 years shows the direct correlation to religious intensity and beliefs about homosexuality.

Approximately one-third of those describe themselves as religious are literalists, meaning they see the Bible as "God's word." Another third is either non-religious or "spiritual." That last third is in the middle, but they do not have a moral objection to homosexuality.

This is also reflected in polling data on religious beliefs and age. The majority of literalists are +45 years old.

Religion grows less important each year in America. It has become more of an ideal than the "truth."

Beliefs about homosexuality have always been directly related to religion. Religion is the only institution that teaches homosexuality is wrong. As people stop believing, those beliefs are disappearing.

rapid butterfly | June 4, 2010 9:05 AM

Andrew, where I live, people aren't about to "stop believing." If you want to say that there is a decline in biblical literalism, that is (hopefully) true, though here again, where I live, I am not so sure. But I think it is a mistake to conflate literalism with religious intensity.

It varies dramatically by State. People are less religious in States that have already accepted SSM.

Pew has some great research, too.

I like Fred Karger. I think his run for president will shake a few people and generate some media.