I was thinking about Halloween when I read this new report by the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force titled "Homophobia at ’Hell House’: Literally Demonizing Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Youth". The Task Force estimates "that this Halloween season, 1.6 million people, many of them children as young as 10 years old, will go to "Hell Houses," religious alternatives to traditional haunted houses that are designed to scare youth into a "sin-free life."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." They also include scenes where women who have abortions are damned to hell.
One has to wonder how many unsuspecting parents, thinking that they are visiting a haunted house, end up taking their children to these Hell Houses.
According to the report, "Hell Houses first appeared in the 1970s at the Rev. Jerry Falwell’s Liberty University, and they have been gaining popularity since 1996, when the Rev. Keenan Roberts, an evangelical Christian pastor in Colorado, began selling "Hell House kits" to churches worldwide. Roberts estimates that these kits, which cost $299 each, have been distributed to 800 churches across the United States and 18 countries."
Have they forgotten that the New Testament teaches us to ’love your neighbor as yourself?’ Have they forgotten that Jesus taught that we must love and include everyone? Cloaking hate in Christian language does not mean that it is not hateful or harmful. Religious leaders know that sexual difference is a blessed part of our endowment.
These Hell Houses are fear-based education at their worst; I am glad that the Task Force has exposed their homophobic and anti-choice messages.
More on safety and Halloween tomorrow.