Nationally-renowned comedian and actor Bob Newhart has bowed out of headlining at the conference of an anti-gay, conservative Catholic organization’s conference, after a campaign launched by GLAAD (Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation) and Faithful America requested that he do so.
Newhart, who is a lifelong Catholic who has been supportive of LGBT people, posted the following on his Twitter account on December 18th:
“Upcoming Bob Newhart Tour Date Change — Bob will not be performing at the Legatus Summit in Orlando FL on February 6th, 2014″
GLAAD had made its request to Mr. Newhart in a blog post which recounted many of the anti-gay initiatives that Legatus has performed. Here’s a sample from GLAAD’s post:
“On November 1, 2012, Legatus magazine, the print publication of the conservative Catholic organization of the same name, listed five “non-negotiables” for voters about to head to the polls. Marriage equality (which the magazine labeled homosexual “marriage,” smear quotes and all) was one of the five listed items, with the staff writer instructing Catholics ”to avoid voting for candidates who endorse or promote policies that provide for any of these acts and to vote instead for those who promote policies in keeping with moral law.” The phrase “intrinsic evil” was used seven times.
“Although this organization’s insistence that civil marriage equality is one of God’s major unacceptables shouldn’t come as a huge surprise, considering Legatus pushes the idea that homosexuality itself is a “disorder” from which one must be “cured.” I’m not exaggerating when I say that. In a 2011 Legatus piece, Legate John Haas (whose family has close ties to the National Organization for Marriage, by the way) called for our “curing” in the clearest of language:
There are many reasons why people suffer from SSA [same-sex attraction] disorder. Some “discover” this tendency within them. Others grow into it through pursuits of pleasure or experimentation. Some use it to punish themselves or others. Whether the disorder has some deep, unknown roots over which one has virtually no control, or whether it’s a developed disorder resulting from bad choices, it leaves an individual disposed toward activities and a lifestyle that are dangerous — physically, emotionally and spiritually.
“Fortunately there is hope for those who suffer from the disorder. The National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality reports that significant numbers of homosexual persons have undergone treatment and had their sexual drives properly ordered. These findings are a beacon of hope to those suffering from SSA, as well as for their family and friends who desire their happiness and good health. Finally, for those who for whatever reason cannot be cured, there is a support group known as Courage to help them live safe, moral, chaste lives. Those who continue to suffer from this disorder can find true help through an orientation toward their Savior and Redeemer, “the Orient from on High,” and the life that He offers them in Himself. “
According to the Legatus website, the group, founded by Domino’s Pizza magnate Tom Monaghan in 1987, is described as:
“an international organization of practicing Catholic laymen and laywomen, comprised of CEOs, Presidents, Managing Partners and Business Owners, with their spouses, from the business community and professional enterprises.”
The organization’s website says that its mission is:
“To study, live and spread the Catholic faith in our business, professional and personal lives.”
In GLAAD’s blog post alerting Bob Newhart and the world to the anti-gay positions that Legatus has taken, blogger Jeremy Hooper noted the following:
“Personally, I’m choosing to believe that he just doesn’t know and that this booking is the result of bad advice. I’m looking at this post as an opportunity to fill in the missing details so that Mr. Newhart makes a more informed choice rather than presuming to know his intent. That’s the only way I know to approach it, since I can’t stand to think that this man who I admire is actually supportive of the truly shocking ideas that I showed you at the beginning of this post. As a kid who stayed up late to watch Nick at Nite reruns of multiple Newhart shows, I have to believe that this is an act of ignorance, not malice. I have to believe that he simply doesn’t know.
“GLAAD is reaching out to Mr. Newhart’s representatives to let them know how, exactly, an appearance at this event will come across to LGBT people and allied voices. I am hoping that I am right, and Mr. Newhart doesn’t want to go down that path. He can still express his Catholic faith in a way more consistent with the rest of American Catholics, by loving and supporting his LGBT friends and family. GLAAD is urging him to do the right thing.”
In GLAAD’s follow-up blog post, announcing Newhart’s decision to bow out of the event, Ross Murray noted the actor/comedian’s long record of supporting LGBT people in the media:
“Bob Newhart is a lifelong Catholic. He also has a history of working with LGBT people and storylines. In 1976 The Bob Newhart Show featured an episode with an openly gay character. It was remarkably groundbreaking for its time.
“Newhart also was in the film In & Out, in which he played a principal dealing (not so well, but very comically) with the coming out of one of his teachers, played by Kevin Kline. Most recently, Newhart won an Emmy Award for his guest appearances on Big Bang Theory, opposite of openly gay actor, Jim Parsons.”
GLAAD also noted that Faithful America collected approximately 17,000 signatures on a petition asking Newhart not to attend the conference.
Though Newhart has not explained his reason to step down, the likelihood that this campaign has influenced him is very likely. There seem to be no other reasons why he would do so. New Ways Ministry congratulates GLAAD and Faithful America on their powerful action, and we agree with GLAAD’s Vice President of Communications Rich Ferraro when he stated:
“Newhart is merely siding with the majority of fair-minded Americans who do not support the anti-LGBT agenda of organizations like Legatus. “These groups constantly struggle to find high-profile people of faith to speak at their events, but at a time when more and more people of faith are accepting of LGBT people, they will continue to be left to choose between increasingly fringe figures.”
–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry