This is FRONTLINE's 2000 interview with Jerry Falwell, the founder and leader of The
Thomas Road Baptist Church, an $80-million-a-year ministry that is one of the
most influential in the nation. Reverend Falwell has long spoken against "the
homosexual lifestyle." In October of 1999, however, Falwell hosted a meeting
of 200 gays and lesbians and 200 members of his Thomas Road congregation. The meeting
came at the invitation of Mel White, a writer who helped compose Falwell's
autobiography, and who later revealed to Falwell that he was gay. In this
interview, Falwell discusses his relationship with Mel White, his views on
homosexuality and the Bible, gay marriage, and the recent rise in anti-gay
This is FRONTLINE's interview with Rev. Donald Fado,the longtime pastor of St.
Mark's United Methodist Church of Sacramento. Donald Fado made national
headlines in January of 1999 for organizing and presiding over the holy union
of a lesbian couple. The ceremony, witnessed by more than a thousand clergy,
lay leaders, and gays and lesbians who gathered at the Sacramento Convention
Center, drew protests from anti-gay activists. The Methodist Church's
governing body spoke out against Fado's action. The Church ordered an investigation of the matter which was underway when Fado spoke to FRONTLINE about gay marriage and other
religious questions affecting homosexuals.
This is FRONTLINE's interview with Daniel Helminiak, Roman Catholic priest
for twenty-eight years, and now a writer, counselor, and educator. Helminiak
waded through the sometimes dense thicket of scholarship on the bible and
homosexuality and produced a book for general readers, What the Bible Really
Says About Homosexuality. He gathers scholarly evidence to argue against
biblical literalism and all those who wield the scriptures to condemn
To underestimate John Boswell's significance to the debate about Western attitudes toward homosexuals would be difficult. Boswell almost singlehandedly rewrote the orthodox view that Christianity denounced homosexuals from its earliest days in a way that was total and unchanging. "The New Testament takes no demonstrable position on homosexuality," he argued. "At the very most, the effect of Christian Scripture on attitudes toward homosexuality could be described as moot. The most judicious historical perspective might be that it had no effect at all."
Duke University Bible scholar Richard B. Hays disputes Boswell's reading of the scriptures, characterizing Boswell's effort as a textbook case of 'eisegesis,' the fallacy of reading one's own agenda into a text."
New Testament scholar L. William Countryman argues that ancient Christian purity codes, meaningful in their time but of questionable relevance to the modern world, were given new legitimacy over the last century by medical and scientific claims that equated homosexuality with sickness. "Our society, having made a religion of medicine and a priesthood of physicians, is tempted to invoke the word "sickness" as a mere synonym of "impurity" without imparting any definite meaning to it." Countryman's exhaustive study of Christian purity codes argues for a provocative conclusion: "The gospel allows no rule against the following, in and of themselves: masturbation, nonvaginal heterosexual intercourse, bestiality, polygamy, homosexual acts, or erotic art and literature. The Christian is free to be repelled by any or all of these and may continue to practice her or his own purity code in relation to them. What we are not free to do is impose our codes on others."