By Adam Brinklow
Bishop Desmond Tutu just told God to go to hell.
No, wait, that’s not quite right: What he actually said was that he’d tell God he’d rather go to hell than go to a heaven that excluded gays. “I would refuse to go to a homophobic heaven. I’d say sorry, I’d much rather go to that other place,” Tutu said to reporters in Cape Town, who were there covering the kickoff of the UN’s Free and Equal campaign to promote equal rights and end discrimination worldwide, particularly in those countries where being gay is still a prosecuted crime.
We’ve got to hand it to the bishop: Lots of brave people have laid down their freedom and even their lives in the name of equality, but Tutu might be the first person to actively commit to sacrificing his soul. Of course, that he brought it up in the first place means he’s probably pretty confident that it won’t come to that.
As Tutu himself pointed out, it would have been downright out of character for him to take any other position: “Can you imagine me having said it’s unjust to penalize someone for their race or gender and then to keep quiet when people are hounded because of their sexual orientation? I think it’s as utterly unjust as racism ever was,” reported the Associated Press.
Though South Africa may be famous for its long and successful struggle against institutionalized racism two decades ago, Tutu’s home country’s record on LGBT rights would have to markedly improve to even qualify as dismal. Human Rights Watch called anti-gay violence in South Africa “epidemic” two years ago. Sexual assault against lesbians, known by the queasy term “corrective rape,” routinely shocks other nations. And yet, South Africa adopted a constitutional ban against homophobic discrimination nearly 20 years ago. But as it turns out, a fair government does not an equal society make.