Mike Huckabee, former governor of Arkansas, is claiming that the movement for LGBTQ equality is the “greatest threat” to America’s moral fiber.
The former presidential candidate and father of White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders voiced his anti-LGBTQ views in an interview published Friday on The Christian Post, a conservative Christian news website.
“The biggest threat to biblical principles today is the failure to apply a biblical standard of maleness and femaleness,” Huckabee told the news site.
He described same-sex marriage as something that is “in vogue” ― even though the U.S. Supreme Court has recognized marriage as a fundamental civil right that belongs to same-sex couples just as much as it belongs to heterosexual couples.
Huckabee also blamed “the Christian Church” for failing to teach Americans “what biblical marriage should look like.”
“People are afraid that if they are really biblical, it will alienate people, and I think that’s nonsense,” he said.
Before becoming a politician, Huckabee was a Southern Baptist pastor. The Southern Baptist Convention is the largest Protestant denomination in the U.S. and holds conservative views about marriage and gender identity. More broadly, studies suggest that white evangelicals often stand apart from other American religious groups in their adamant opposition to same-sex marriage and LGBTQ rights. About 58% of white evangelicals are opposed to same-sex marriage, compared with only 30% of all American adults, according to a Public Religion Research Institute survey.
But progressive Christian groups have come to a different conclusion about what “biblical marriage” looks like. The United Church of Christ, the Episcopal Church and the Presbyterian Church (USA) have adopted affirming stances.
The United Methodist Church, America’s second-largest Protestant denomination, is facing a schism over the issue ― with many American UMC members encouraging congregants in Africa and Asia to embrace LGBTQ Christians.
Lisbeth Meléndez Rivera, director of faith outreach for the Human Rights Campaign, told HuffPost that the rhetoric that Huckabee used in his interview “hurts Christians” and also drives many LGBTQ young people to high-risk behaviors, such as contemplating suicide.
“The future of the Christian Church in the U.S. depends on the voices of the faithful who will continue to be vocal in supporting marginalized communities, and on LGBTQ people who are working to strengthen and transform our faith communities ― even in the face of these dangerous, exclusionary voices,” Meléndez Rivera told HuffPost in a statement.
Isaac Archuleta, a queer Christian leader and psychotherapist based in Denver, told HuffPost he believes the “biblical standards” Huckabee references in the interview were products of the deeply patriarchal cultures in which they were written. But he pointed out that scientists have learned much more about the fluidity of gender and sexuality.
Archuleta said that for him, being a Christian means respecting the incredible diversity with which God created the world. Anti-LGBTQ rhetoric like Huckabee’s attempts to reclaim ground conservative Christians feel they’ve lost in the “culture wars.” But it also disparages God’s creativity and causes LGBTQ Christians to feel fear and shame, Archuleta said.
“When we start shaming [God’s creativity], we’re going to feel like we’re doing God a favor when we start shaming God’s created children,” Archuleta said. “And then those children will start living in that shame. That is homophobia; that is transphobia.”
As a counselor, he said, he would tell queer Christian youth who hear anti-LGBTQ rhetoric from Christians to listen instead to the desires God has placed in their hearts.
“Rely on that internal God-given compass,” he said. “So that you can blossom into the person you were created to be.”
This article originally appeared on HuffPost.