Paranoid Politics, Extremism, and the Religious Right: A Case of Mistaken Identity?
V. Darleen Opfer
In June 1998, the city council of Orlando, Florida, approved the flying of rainbow flags from city light posts. The flags were paid for by a private group and were flown to show support for Walt Disney World's "Gay Days." Gay Days is a weekend event at Walt Disney World that attracts thousands of gay men and women. The weekend itself has attracted negative comment in the past, but the flying of the flags in support of the Gay Days weekend created an entirely new conflict. On the June 8, 1998 broadcast of the 700 Club, Pat Robertson, a leading spokesperson for the religious right, stated:
We'd better respond according to what the Bible says. The Apostle Paul made it abundantly clear in the Book of Romans that the acceptance of homosexuality is the last step in the decline of Gentile civilization. So if the United States wants to embrace "degrading passions" -- according to the Bible, something that the Bible says is an abomination against God-we're not in any way, shape, or form hating anybody. This is not a message of hate; this is a message of redemption. But if a condition like this will bring about the destruction of your nation, if it'll bring about terrorist bombs, if it'll bring earthquakes, tornadoes and possibly a meteor, it isn't necessarily something we ought to open our arms to. And I would warn Orlando that you're right in the way of some serious hurricanes and I don't think I'd be waving those flags in God's face if I were you. (Transcript of broadcast, June 8, 1998)
Within two weeks of this statement, devastating fires engulfed a large portion of central and north Florida. Pat Robertson explained the presence of these fires on the June 24, 1998 broadcast of the 700 Club: