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Extremism is a vice

By Sheila Bapat
Arizona Daily Wildcat,
March 2, 2000
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When a gay UA student was stabbed at the Rainbow Planet coffee house Feb. 6, the UA campus experienced the shock of hate crimes first hand.

But according to the Reverend Donald Spitz, a Virginia evangelist who read about the stabbing, the student should feel lucky - not because he could have died from the stabbing, but because he would have gone to hell for being gay.

"The Bible says he should be put to death for being gay," Spitz told the Wildcat. "Maybe God used this crazy guy (the attacker) to do it."

Spitz, a Virginia Pentecostal minister and director of Pro-Life Virginia, an in-your-face pro-life organization, made both the Wildcat and Rainbow Planet aware of his hatred toward gays.

In a chilling letter to the editor, Spitz wrote, "With all the hubbub regarding the homosexual that was knifed, we must remember he is very fortunate he did not lose his life. If he did, he would be spending eternity in hell fire as one cannot be saved and be a homosexual at the same time."

Some may argue that Spitz ought to be ignored, that even responding to Spitz gives the religious extremist unneeded attention.

But Spitz should not be ignored because he is using religion as the vehicle for spewing his hatred. His extremist views do not represent those of most religious people, and instead of expressing sympathy for the victim, he used the incident as an opportunity to spread his hate-filled message.

Spitz also sent a letter to the manager of Rainbow Planet laden with verses from the book of Leviticus.

"He sent me a letter about gay people that was so ridiculous, it was just garbage," said the manager, who chose to remain anonymous. "If he would read his Bible properly, it also says you go to hell for eating shellfish. This guy picks and chooses the verses he wants to believe in."

Rainbow Planet's manager chose to shove Spitz's threat right back at him.

"I called him and left a message on his machine telling him not to send me any more garbage," he said. "And I told him he was going straight to hell."

That both would condemn each other to hell reflects that the religious views regarding homosexuality vary according to individual belief. Some think you will go to hell for being gay; others think you will for hating them.

Those who choose to hate gays, as Spitz does, will use the Bible as a way of justifying and legitimizing their hatred.

It is disturbing, though, that instead of expressing sympathy for the victim, Spitz is pushing more hatred. And it is unfortunate that, even while the UA pulled together in its march to protest the stabbing, there are extremists like Spitz who would blatantly justify such violence because they believe that God hates gays.

In condemning gays to hell because he believes the Bible says homosexuality is wrong, Spitz is trying to legitimize the hatred that he feels in his own heart.

Spitz's life's work clearly represents that of the fringe right-wing. His organization, pro-Life Virginia, aggressively pickets abortion clinics.

"We try to confront abortionists," Spitz said. "We let them know they are baby killers."

While pro-Life Virginia has never violently protested abortion clinics, Spitz admits to being friends with militant pro-lifers such a man on death row in Pensacola, Florida, who was convicted of killing an abortion clinic worker.

True, Spitz is an extremist. His rhetoric likens that of the crazies on the UA mall who preach that homosexuality is evil and that the apocalypse is tomorrow.

But Spitz is a minister, and he has a following. He has a powerful religious backing to spread his message of hate. Whether or not we should legitimize Spitz is not the issue; he exists, his way of thinking has the power to influence and can lead to tragedies - the stabbing, or even to murders like that of Matthew Shepherd.

UA students and faculty responded honorably to the stabbing with the protest march and the overwhelming amount of support. But the news traveled far and fast, to places and people who would use the incident to preach intolerance.

According to the manager of Rainbow Planet, Spitz preaches insanity rather than the Bible.

"Most religious people don't think the way he does," he said. "He's not just an extremist. He's just crazy."

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