Worldwide many influential religious and political leaders are linking the coronavirus to the legislation of same-sex marriage. They claim that the outbreak of the pandemic is the punishment and reckoning of God. These statements are uncheckable by nature, but to show how widespread this kind of misinformation is, EUfactcheck gives an overview of the different statements, across religions.
The patriarch of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine, Filaret Denysenko, claimed that the legislation of same-sex marriage is the cause of coronavirus. He said the following in an interview with the Ukrainian national tv network Channel 4 published in March: “An epidemic is God’s punishment for the sins of man, the sinfulness of humanity.” The patriarch has a big influence on society, he has more than 15 million followers in Ukraine, a country with a population of 42 million.
When he’s disseminating this type of misinformation, it could have a big impact on the thoughts of these 15 million people or even more. Especially because his statement was spread by the national tv channel. The Ukrainian organisation Insight LBGTQ has announced to sue Denysenko for his discriminating statements while many activists have condemned the Ukrainian preacher Patriarch Filaret’s comments as ‘dangerous’ as PinkNews reported.
In Germany, the Russian Orthodox bishop of Berlin and Germany, Mark Arndt, identified the non-recognition of the “God-given difference between man and woman” as one of the reasons for the Corona crisis. He said it is no surprise that God punishes humans for these sins.
There are also some statements that are similar to the ones described. They’re not directly concerning same-sex marriage, but accusing the LGBTQ scene and homosexuals as sinners and therefore as the reason of the spread of the virus. For his statement he was heavily criticized cross-party in Germany. “It is wrong to interpret the coronavirus as a divine visitation in reaction to a free society”, said Stefan Rupert, member of the Liberal Democratic Party in Germany. He told the newspaper TAZ: “This is suitable to frighten people and not part of a solution.” But not only he spoke against Arndt, as members of the German Green Party and the Social Democratic Party joined the criticism.
This is not restricted to Ukraine. In Iraq, the influential Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr described same-sex marriages as one of the reasons for the spread of the coronavirus. “I therefore call on all governments to repeal this law [to legalise marriage] immediately and without hesitation,” Al-Sadr demanded on Twitter. He said that would also enable them to repent for their guilt. Homosexuality is strictly forbidden according to Islamic faith. Iraq is inhabited by a majority of Shiites, but same-sex is not explicitly punishable. Nevertheless, Iraqi authorities use laws on prostitution and the maintenance of public order to punish LGBTQ people as hurriyet.de reported.
Statements like those of Muqtada al-Sadr may reinforce these discriminatory views and lead to further humiliation and punishment of this group. The impact of his claims may even be bigger because he is an influential cleric. Nonetheless, he was heavily criticized for his tweet on social media. Aya Mansour, editor of Iraq Media Network, said for example that coronavirus is not as dangerous as his statements. Iraq activist and photographer Ali Dab Dab asked for his source as the Middle East Eye reported. So, there was a lot of criticism, not only by LGBTQ organisations or activists.
Across the Atlantic in the United States we can find a lot of statements regarding same sex-marriages in evangelical circles. Chattanooga Times Free Press, Metro Weekly and Bild reported that the conservative Evangelist Perry Stone said that he predicted the coronavirus. He claimed the pandemic is a “reckoning” of God for same-sex marriage. Stone is very popular and earns millions with tv shows and books and sees himself as a prophet. So, he has a big influence, which can be dangerous when spreading misinformation because he can shape perceptions of the people listening to him. He not only claims that the outbreak is God’s retribution for same-sex marriage, he also sees abortion as a reason for the pandemic. Stone has been criticized for statements like these for decades. Critics have called him a heretic and false prophet who is using faith to sell his products as the Chattanooga Times Free Press reported
The influential media mogul, US television preacher and former presidential candidate Pat Robertson also considers same-sex marriage and abortion responsible for the corona pandemic. In his own personality show “The 700 Club” he blamed the marriage opening for gays and lesbians as well as abortion for the corona crisis. He also said a cure is only in sight if people stop sinning. Like the others he is an influential character in the United States. According to CBN about 650.000 households watch his show every day. Additionally, he is very close to president Donald Trump’s administration and regularly invites high-ranking White House officials as guests to his show. Thus, he and his statements can have a major influence on society and politics. Robertson is an anti-LGBTQ activist for decades and was criticized for his discriminating words. He is using catastrophic events like the corona outbreak as an excuse to spread the same agenda he always supported.
In Europe, the Northern Irish Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) councillor John Carson also sees abortion and same-sex marriage as the reason for corona. In a Facebook post he claimed it was clear that the nation would be judged by God for the legalisation. After a social media storm he said his comment was “misinterpreted.” Even the DUP, his own party, has distanced itself from his discriminating comment. In addition, the LGBT advocacy group, the Rainbow Project, labelled his statement as “disgraceful but not surprising” and called for disciplinary action against him.
The influential Orthodox Israeli Rabbi Meir Mazuz claimed that Covid-19 was the retribution for nations that allow LGBTQ pride parades. He said Pride is “a parade against nature, and when someone goes against nature, the one who created nature takes revenge on him.” In addition, he said that the Bible teaches homosexuals lose their souls and God destroys LGBT societies. As the others he is criticized for this discrimination.
Countering misinformation and hate speech
The discrimination, stigmatization, hate speech and attacks on the LGBTQ community went so far that even the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) pointed out in a newsletter the size of the impact of these statements. The newsletter announces that these people are especially vulnerable during the pandemic and face a greater risk. Therefore, they should be protected and not be discriminated even more. But as previously mentioned, homosexual people were attacked by several political and religious leaders and their alleged sins were declared as the cause of the coronavirus. And that happened across religion, across continents. Rabbis, pastors and imams blame homosexuality and same-sex marriage for the coronavirus pandemic.
The fact that same-sex marriage is not even legal in China, Italy and Iran – countries that are badly affected by the coronavirus – makes these statements even less credible and -from a logical point of view- untrue, despite that we are dealing with uncheckable religious rhetoric.
The statements regarding the connection between coronavirus and homosexuality or same sex marriage, cannot be disproved, as the advocates of this thesis refer to God. It is therefore a matter of faith and of religious rhetoric.
The statements share the similar words like plague, sins, punishment and always refer to God or religious beliefs. Therefore, one can see the similarities between these statements, claiming that same-sex marriage or homosexuality is the cause of the virus.
All claims are shared on social media and regular media are reporting about it as well. Hence, these claims can have a huge impact on society because they are spread and discussed in public. With this in mind, none of the cited examples or statements were linked in this EUfactcheck article.
RESEARCH | ARTICLE : Paula L. Trautmann
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