This Halloween many of our children dressed up as witches and went door-to-door trick-or-treating. But not all of our children did.
Due to homophobic bullying some of our LGBTQ children already feel like they are looked upon as witches.
And in some places across the globe children would never pretend to be witches, because the consequences are too deadly.
Throughout history, people described as witches have been tortured, persecuted and even murdered. And it is usually society’s most vulnerable who are targeted, just as we see with bullying.
Many would argue that anti-gay bullying is the present-day form of witch-hunting. And let us not forget the role religion has and continues to play in both witchhunts and anti-gay bullying.
“Hell Houses” are today’s contemporary form of both anti-gay bullying and witch-hunting. Created in the late 1970’s by the Rev. Jerry Falwell, “Hell Houses” are religious alternatives to traditional haunted houses. They are tours given by evangelical churches across the country designed to scare and bully people away from sin. And one of those sins is homosexuality.
In 2006 the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force put out a report titled “Homophobia at ‘Hell House’: Literally Demonizing Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Youth” explaining how hell houses specifically targets youth.
“Instead of spooking youth with ghosts and monsters, Hell House tour guides direct them through rooms where violent scenes of damnation for a variety of “sins” are performed, including scenes where a teenage lesbian is brought to hell after committing suicide and a gay man dying of AIDS is taunted by a demon who screams that the man will be separated from God forever in hell,” the NGLTF stated.
A study published in the Journal of Psychology stated that a strong belief in Satan is directly related to intolerance of l (LGBTQ) people.
Residing just a stone’s throw from Salem, Mass., I am reminded of one of this nation’s earliest examples of witch-hunting - the Salem Witch Trails of 1692.
Little is known about the first women accused of witchcraft, Tituba, who was a black slave.
Although a slave, Tituba was nonetheless subjected to the same gender restrictions placed on Puritan women. And Puritan men had only two views of women: the good wife and the bad witch.
Clerics’ sanctioning of Exodus 22:18, “Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live,” not only gave men biblical license to control women but also to kill them.
Homosocial circles of women threatened the Puritan’s paradigm of male dominance, giving rise to the charges of witchcraft. The theological belief was that women ought not to be in the company of each other without the presence of a man. And without the presence of a man, of course, women could not help but engage in sorcery, paganism and lesbianism.
Witchhunts have always created moral panic, mass hysteria, and public lynching of society’s most vulnerable and marginalized.
This Halloween, I thought of the children in Africa and of the recent death of our LGBTQ children here to anti-gay bullying and I was reminded of our present and past witch-hunts.