Reverend Lou Sheldon, founder of the Traditional Values Coalition (TVC), a conservative Christian anti-LGBTQ hate group that lasted from 1984 to 2018, died this week at age 85. Good riddance.
His cause of death hasn’t been revealed.
Sheldon served as the California executive director of Anita Bryant’s 1977 Save Our Children (SOC) campaign, the first-known anti-gay political organization. SOC successfully opposed municipal ordinances protecting gay, lesbian and bisexual citizens from discrimination in cities across America.
The SOC did this largely by painting gay people as godless sluts who wanted to cross-dress and rape children. The group’s public face, singer Anita Bryant, compared LGB people as prostitutes, thieves, murderers, and child molesters.
Gay activists at the time showed how the SOC’s rhetoric was similar to Nazis during the Holocaust — and once, members of the Ku Klux Klan even showed up at one of Bryan’ts public events to protect her. The anti-gay stigma being voiced by supporters of the SOC in print, TV and radio contributed to anti-LGBTQ sentiment, increased harassment and suicides of queer people.
As for the TVC, it opposed gay-straight alliances in schools; disseminated anti-gay “educational” videos to schools, churches and community groups across America; was pro-death penalty; anti-immigrant; anti-pornography; anti-abortion; pro-military; anti-taxes; anti-drug; supported Christians converting all non-Christians; and supported conversion therapy (the debunked form of psychological torture that seeks to change a queer person’s sexual orientation or gender identity).
Here’s just a taste of Sheldon’s anti-LGBTQ quotes, courtesy of the Southern Poverty Law Center:
- “The effort to push adult/child sex … is part of the overall homosexual movement.”
- “As homosexuals continue to make inroads into public schools, more children will be molested and indoctrinated into the world of homosexuality. Many of them will die in that world.”
- “Homosexuality is a behavior, not a fixed identity. It is similar to smoking or drug use, not an immutable characteristic like race or ethnicity. There are no ‘former’ Blacks, but there are ex-homosexuals. The existence of ex-homosexuals is clear evidence that homosexuality is behavior-based, not an unchangeable characteristic.”
- “Americans should understand that their attitudes about homosexuality have been deliberately and deceitfully changed by a masterful propaganda/marketing campaign that rivals that of Adolph [sic] Hitler.”
Sheldon also helped lobby for a congressional hearing to support Senator Jesse Helms’ proposal to deny federal funds to public schools “encouraging or supporting homosexuality.” At the hearing, a speaker said gay activists use federal AIDS funds to host orgies.
When Congress introduced the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) in 2013, the TVC released campaign literature calling transgender people “psychologically unhealthy” and accusing them of wanting to introduce “gender confusion” into public schools.
In June 2014, the TVC released a flier comparing gay and lesbian people to those who have sexual fetishes for amputees and eating feces. Physical disgust, revulsion, and demonizing tactics like this are often used by anti-LGBTQ activists to appeal to fear over logic.
The TVC was also intensely Islamophobic, contributing to anti-Muslim sentiment following the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.
The only upside to Sheldon’s existence is that it helped unite LGBTQ people in cities across America and gave the press a reason to focus on the day-to-day discrimination and violence queer people experience.
Correction: An earlier version of this story referred to Anita Bryant as SOC’s “pubic face.” We are very sorry for this typo.
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