billy jack
a gay gene?
the bible
cultural context
discussionassault on gay america

join the discussion: What are your views on anti-gay attitudes, fears and hatreds in America?


This Frontline report was not well-written or well-presented. It became clear that the writer wanted the audience to agree with his or her broad opinion that stretched beyond the reporting of a heinous murder. I sat and watched and waited for a balance of opinions. It didn't happen. The people who were quoted as opposed to homosexuality were outnumbered and outclassed in credentials, ex. religious minister against several PhD's...

As journalists, we attempt not to choose sides but simply balance difficult topics with well-chosen sources. I regretfully haven't always met my mark. But this report in my opinion didn't even come close...

S. Alexander

S. Alexander
Los Angeles, California


I have been fired from a job after 20
years of service to them for being gay and never could take it to court. Just thought I'd fill you in on people like me who are gay that fight for the right to be treated as all others on this planet.

As in the life of Billy Jack he was treated as an outsider then killed for being
what he was, it makes no sense to me and never will to the community in which we live in.

Someday soon I hope it will get better, but for now I believe it will stay like this for a very long time! Time never will heal the hate we have in this county! But I'm glad that some people do care enough to be concerned. Thanks.

Randy Weir
Ann Arbor, Michigan


First of all, thank you for your thoughtful preparation and airing of this piece on the violence perpetrated against gays and lesbians in America. I'm glad that Peter Gomes of Harvard was cited in the program; his book, "The Good Book", a study in what the Bible does and doesn't say on matters relating to societal prejudices, is one that thoughtful Christians and non-Christians alike would do well to read...

It's interesting to me that "Bible-believing" Christians continually insist upon quoting a small handful of passages, without any theological or historical context, to justify their dislike and often out-and-out hatred of gay men and lesbians...

David Fletcher
Richmond, Va


Being black and gay has been especially hard since I have moved here from California. I work two jobs and on my part time job...I get comments all the time about my hair, or someone will tell my boss I made them feel weird inside. Downtown where my day job is I get a lot of slack about my ethnicity. I braid my hair in the summer and keep it neat, yet I have had companies tell me to cut my hair even though it is not even down to my neck. I never know if people are giving me a hard time because I am black or because I am gay.

Even the white gay community has problems with black gay men. White gay men are historically turning their noses up at black gay men. We are currently feuding with a major gay club because blacks have had so many problems with the staff and patrons.

The saddest part of it all is that people seem to forget that the Bible says, while we were yet sinners Christ died for us. He did not wait until we became moral or holy but while we were doing our thing he paid for us also. So what makes anyone qualified to pass judgement?

Wilfred Simms
Seattle, Washington


I missed the airing of this very important show, but stumbled upon your website-- and I am very grateful for your informative and unbiased airing of such a culturally relative discussion and debate for Americans.

As a lesbian, raised in a conservatively Jewish household, and with a brother as a Rabbi, I have faced many issues with internalized homophobia in addition to society's prejudices. I am blessed with a brother whom no matter his religious convictions holds me dear in love and respect and whose family has accepted and embraced me regardless of sexuality or lifestyle.

In my struggle to come to terms with my own sexuality I have spoken with Orthodox Rabbis and Conservatives alike who have either no opinion of lesbian relationships, or dismiss them as having little reference and no direct mention in the Torah.
I thought you may find this fact interesting. I was informed on more than one occassion that the only reference to Lesbians in the Old Testament was not a condemnation, just a suggestion that they not behave as the egyptian women in harems. The "abomination" they spoke of was a man lying with another man.

My personal belief is that the "Bible" is not a literal document. It was written by men, in an age where many rights that exist today were not protected...love is love. And God in every faith is the ultimate manifestation of that love. It is humankind's manifestaion of a need to make sense of a very complicated world.

Hense, faith religion and spirituality need to evolve to encompass the 21st century thinker, believer and spritual being. Living in fear, is no way to live. Fear produces hate, ignorance produces hate-education and enlightenment produces harmony, joy, progress, and intelligent informed choices, that will in turn create a more humane society.

Madison Weiss
San Diego, CA


I'm a gay pastor, as well as a lay member of the Episcopal Church. I really appreciate your program, and the impact it's had on exposing GLBT issues to the public.

However, as was mentioned in another post, you've aired the extremes, which are indeed newsworthy, but neglected the real, day-to-day work of the reconciling forces afoot in the religious and secular communities to reconcile the differences between gays and straight society.

I'd really like to see a couple of programs on the less sensational aspects of Reverend Mel White and SoulForce, and their dialogue with Reverend Falwell. In addition, the Episcopal, Methodist and Presbyterian denominations in particular, are ardently dialoguing on the acceptance of gays in their denominational structures.

There are a few forums online, particularly Bridges Across the Divide to which I belong and Justice and Respect, the Evangelical Christian response to those same issues.

I'd like to see a program or two on the results we're getting, in meeting one another in Christ's love and acceptance. Maybe not as sensational; but certainly at least as newsworthy as Matt Sheppard's and Billy Jack Gaither's murders. And hopefully, doing things which will prevent others from losing their lives as well.

Jack H. Jackson Maddox
Indianapolis, Indiana


Sadly, I can relate to many of the indignities and prejudice that people like the late Billy Jack Gaither and the majority of gay men and women suffer. I grew up in a small Wyoming town and was beaten up and terrorized frequently at school. How anyone, Christian or otherwise, could believe that an elementary-aged boy or girl could choose to be gay and, according to their logic, deserves to be treated like this is incredible.

I now live in Utah which is one of the most rabidly homophobic states in the US. In fact, one of the two Salt Lake area PBS stations, owned by the Mormon Church, would never have broadcast your program even if they did carry "Frontline", which they don't. Too controversial!

I have accepted my own homosexuality as just one of nature's nuances; it's the attitudes of others, especially straight men, that is my only regret. Unfortunately, they are unlightened and will likely stay that way.

Bravo to "Frontline" & PBS. Keep up the good work!!

Bill Fulmer
Tooele, Utah


There is a serious gap in the Justice System. It exists on Federal Military Resevations or Bases. Hate Crimes are not reported. If a Civilian or Military person is a victim of a Hate Crime especially if committed by Military personnel, it will not be reported as a Hate Crime, it will be reported as an assault or something else.

There is a quite conspiracy by Military Police not report assaults as Hate Crimes. Company Commanders will consciously ignore Hate-related activities whithin their Command. Many young Marines are members of Skin-head and Neo-Nazi Organizations. Their Hate-organization activities are practiced on the Military Base, again ignored by their Commanders.

Jay Salsburg
Shreveport, LA


Unfortunately, I did not see the program, however, I am currently serve as President of PFlag Phila. and several of our members, told us about seeing the program, and that it was very good. I've just read through some of the letters you have posted.

The three most important things that need to be done on these issues is EDUCATION, EDUCATION, EDUCATION! When a parent puts the face of their child on the issue of homosexuality, the debates take a very different path. Our sons and daughters need to be able to find accurate information in their school Libraries, to start with. Quite often when your son or daughter, Comes Out,parents go into the closet and feel a great deal of isolation and very much alone. Parents and family members need to know that PFlag Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays is here to support them through their coming out process. There are over 450 PFlag chapters across the USA. It is most important that when you do programs such as the one that you did recently, that you give people helpful information. PFlag is a safe place to share their feelings and find support while educating themselves.

Susanne Cassidy
Narberth, PA


Thank you very much for a very sensitive and thoughtful television program concerning gay assaults.

It is nice to know that an intelligent portrayal of this topic is being broadcast to the Colorado viewing public.

Dan Normile
Littleton, CO


Persons who hate homosexuals, or who treat them with any less civility than they would treat anyone else, or who perpetrate crimes on them, are very much in the wrong; and in the case of crimes, should be punished within the full extent of the law.

That having been said, I feel that those of us who believe that homosexual behavior is wrong, for whatever reason, should be given equal respect. Popular culture, popular media, and even PBS seem to regard religious-based views at best as quaint relics and at worst as cultural abberations which need to be changed.

Witness the rise of the term "Homophobia". I feel that stealing is wrong; this is a deeply held moral conviction of mine. Do I then suffer from "Kleptophobia"? I think not. Why then does the media PBS included continually portray those who view homosexuality as wrong as being a bunch of narrow-minded fools who carry around "God hates fags" signs and engage in various acts of gay-bashing. In general I think that your program was quite biased - definitely below Frontline's usual standards.

Kevin McKee


I continue to appreciate the quality programming you present. Assault on Gay America was well done -- however, I would have appreciated more information on homophobia itself, causes and cures, and the work of Michael Kimmel rather than so much detail about the violent attack itself on Billy Jack Gaither. The sensationalism may help some people realize how prevalent and deep the violence that results from homophobia is but for others we need more avenues to cure the homophobia itself.

I appreciate your attempt to present a balanced biblical view by interviewing Helminiak and Falwell -- but did you really think you could adequately present this debate with anything other than the basic opposing viewpoints which we have already heard "ad nauseum"? I wish you would devote an entire program to this sometime...finding more equal partners for the debate i.e. Mr. Falwell just could not measure up to Mr. Helminiak!

Nonethless, I found the program thought provoking and intend to use it and the viewer's guide as an educational program at the church I serve as pastor and teacher.

As a Christian, ordained minister, and openly gay man I know that the discussion is not easy but it is necessary. Thank you for providing another resource for the continuing conversation.

Rev. Brad Lutz
Waukegan, IL


THank you for an exceptionally educational program that was very thorough. As a reporter for a small newspaper near Sylacauga, Al. I attended the candlelight vigil held for Billy Jack in Birmingham. Though I have many gay friends, it didn't hit me until that night how isolated gay people must feel.

All the "Christians" were upset because the gays were out in force that evening. What they didn't realize is that these people were hiding from cameras for fear of being recognized as being gay. Billy Jack's candelight vigil was the one time they were able, to some degree, gather and support each other for their lifestyles. But this one showing upset the heterosexual majority.

Thank you for showing that such prejudice ulitmately leads not merely to discrimination but to physical violence.

Heather Sharp
birmingham, alabama


If nothing else, the segment has made the vital link: the idea that boys have to use violent acts as a "rite of manhood."

It seems that most of reported homophobic killings are perpetrated by young males, sometimes egged on by their young female companions. Consider every violent children's story in which Prince Charming proves his worthiness through killing someone or something. Consider how many of the schoolkids who have shot up their schools, "proving" they weren't the "worst thing" their classmates accused them of. Of being gay.

Consider all this, and consider how we have to start curbing this--by retraining our kids from being caught up in this constraining idea that manhood must be proved, no matter who gets hurt.

Seth Bookey
New York, NY


As a northern Nevada Paiute indian, our tribe has never had the distain for people who were gay. They were considered at one time to have special magical powers.

Things changed when the white settlers brought their bible. What i've read jesus never preached hatred of homosexuals, but he did preach unconditional love for his fellow man.

Maybe those who hate homosexuals need to examine their own sexual orientation, instead they seem to always wind up in our penal system where they experience homosexuality first hand.

david andrews
sacramento, ca


home · billy jack ·  homophobia's roots ·  a gay gene? ·  the bible's words ·  cultural context
discussion ·  quiz ·  video excerpt ·  viewer's guide
press ·  tapes & transcripts ·  synopsis ·  FRONTLINE

web site copyright 1995-2014 WGBH educational foundation