Gay man sues publishers over Bible verses

Well, isn’t this interesting.

Got wind of this story through emails from friends.  One of the responses from the people in the email circle is “Don’t let your flesh justify what your spirit already knows is wrong.” 

Well….I guess, I’ll leave that one alone.  Just read the USA Today story.

A gay man is suing two heavyweight Christian publishers, claiming their versions of the Bible that refer to homosexuality as a sin violate his constitutional rights and have caused him emotional pain and mental instability.

Bradley LaShawn Fowler of Canton, Mich., is seeking $60 million from Zondervan, based in Cascade Township, and $10 million from Nashville-based Thomas Nelson Publishing.

Fowler filed the suit in federal court against Zondervan on July 7, the same day U.S. District Judge Julian Abele Cook Jr. refused to appoint an attorney to represent him in his case against Thomas Nelson.

Fowler filed a suit against Thomas Nelson in June. He is representing himself in both claims.

“The Court has some very genuine concerns about the nature and efficacy of these claims,” the judge wrote.

Fowler, 39, alleges Zondervan’s Bibles referring to homosexuality as a sin have made him an outcast from his family and contributed to physical discomfort and periods of “demoralization, chaos and bewilderment.”

The intent of the publisher was to design a religious, sacred document to reflect an individual opinion or a group’s conclusion to cause “me or anyone who is a homosexual to endure verbal abuse, discrimination, episodes of hate, and physical violence … including murder,” Fowler wrote.

Fowler’s suit claims Zondervan’s text revisions from a 1980s version of the Bible included, and then deleted, a reference to homosexuality in 1 Corinthians without informing the public of the changes.

The other suit, against Thomas Nelson and its New King James Bible, mirrors the allegations made against Zondervan.

Interestingly enough, I think there’s an interesting logic behind this that I agree with.  Haven’t we all be chastised for something by another as a result of something that “the Bible says?”  Is it the fact that it’s homosexuality that people are having problems with it–as opposed to Jesus and Paul’s response to divorce?

Lemme hear from you.

 Does this man have a frivolous suit and just out looking for money, or do you think that he has a legitimate case?  Or perhaps at the very minimum, a thinking and critical public should take time to analyze the logic behind this lawsuit.

Keep it uppity and keep it truthfully radical, JLL

14 thoughts on “Gay man sues publishers over Bible verses

  1. I don’t think he has a legitimate case. The problem is not the Bible, is man’s usage of the Bible.

    The Bible clearly outlines tons of sins. We as humans only focus on a few.

    So, he needs to sue humanity, not the makers of the Bible.

    I think he filed the suit to advance a cause.

  2. @Big Man

    I saw another story, but I wasn’t sure of the implications from pulling from a gay site, just didn’t wanna have to go through the explanations, but that story said that the publishers, Zondervan and Thomas Nelson had changed the wording of 1 Cor. 6:9 since the 1960’s through the 1980’s that at first said “man lay with another man” and then “homosexuals” and then “those that commit homosexual acts” without telling the readers that they had changed.

    I don’t think necessarily that he should win, but, I’d love to see this go to court because it would address my concerns about biblical interpretation and the Bible used as a tool to manipulate the masses. Clearly, there are a good chunk of Christians who believe in the infallibility of the Bible, but clearly we see a change in what those consider the Word of God.

  3. Hey y’all, saw this story on CNN (I am fairly certain) after seeing Uppity’s post. It seems that the lawsuit may get thrown out as frivolous somewhat based on the definition of ‘sin’ vs law. If this lawsuit in won, won’t ‘sinners’ sue not only bible publishers but churches that make them feel bad?

    Should we as Christians, and other formal religious groups, be held accountable when some one’s feelings are sorely hurt from the sacred literature used? Is it because we have become such a litigious culture that this story was covered?

    It will be interesting to know how the lawsuit is resolved.

    Reflection, in a youth Sunday School class (7th – 9th graders), because the words ‘premarital sex’ were not in the Bible (KJV and RSV), then it was not sin, ‘adultry’ was in the Bible so it was real sin and much more so because adults committed that sexual sin.

    Is this lawsuit financed because of a gay alliance agenda? Would / should that make a difference to a Christian? I was not so sure from the CNN piece that the man filing the lawsuit felt wronged by Bible used in church or were his family and friends using the Bible as a weapon to injure him because of his sexual preference.

  4. @Get Togetha


    Some folks get amnesia real quick when this book says stuff that they do like versus the stuff they don’t like.

  5. From my rather informed perspective, he has a point. Most of the verses that Zondervan renders as homosexual and/or sodomite are mistranslations of the Greek based on our own societal discomforts.

    To be fair, a lot of it depends on which authorized translation Zondervan is publishing; NIV is notorious for doing stuff like this; NRSV is far more careful.

  6. Your argument is faulty Uppity.

    The Bible was used to “justify” slavery. Nowhere in the Bible does it say slavery is cool. In fact, the Bible explicitly encourages all of us to treat everyone else the same way we would like to be treated. Love your neighbor and all that jazz.

    Human beings ignored the parts of the Bible that did not coincide with their viewpoints and used it to give them cover to do evil. Period. The Bible warns Christians that this will happen forever.

    No, the problem is this man has been treated poorly by people who have used the Bible to justify mistreating homosexuals. I believe homosexuality is a sin. It’s outlined as such in the Bible. I do not believe it is any worse of a sin than a host of other things and I am positive that God does not have levels of sin. Sin is disobedience to God’s word, and all sin is equal.

    Finally, this idea that homosexuals and Christians have to be at each other’s throats is stupid. I can disagree with someone’s sexual preference without deeming them less than human. More importantly, as long as I don’t use my feelings about their sexual preference as an excuse to mistreat them, there should be no problem with me having my own opinion.

    Homosexuals do not have to agree with me, but resorting to namecalling or frivilous lawsuits to prove a point is not smart.

  7. @ Big Man

    Ephesians 6:4-8 reads thusly:

    “SLAVES BE OBEDIENT TO YOUR EARTHLY MASTERS, with fear and trembling, in singleness of heart, as you obey Christ; not only while being watched, and in order to please them, but as slaves of Christ doing the will of God from the heart.”

    Colossians 3:22 reads thusly:

    “SLAVES, OBEY YOUR ERTHLY MASTERS IN EVERYTHING, not only while being watched and in order to PLEASE them, but wholeheartedly, fearing the Lord.”

    I Peter 2:18 reads thusly:

    “SLAVES, ACCEPT THE AUTHORITY OF YOUR MASTERS with all deference, not only to those who are kind and gentile, but al those who are harsh.”

    I’m QUITE sure that the slaveowners following the 1611 publishing of the King James Bible who landed in the US eight years later in 1619 had FUN, much FUN quoting the 1 Peter passage.

    Now if these DIRECT passages don’t make slavery “cool” then please tell me how else these slaveowners “justified” slavery. Not to mention that in the book of Philemon, Paul sent Oneisimus BACK INTO slavery, regardless of if he told Philemon to receive him as a brother or not–Paul, told a runaway slave to go back into his former condition.

    You see black folk don’t read these passages CLEARLY because they are problematic. No more than the average Christian knows the full story of the Levite Concubine in Judges 19. I just think black folk and women on a whole should be among the first groups to keep quiet at least when it comes to the debate over the Bible and homosexuality. There is enough scripture that has been intererpreted that says that slavery is “cool” and enough that say that women should defer to their husbands and keep silent in the church setting.

    Your turn, lol.

  8. Big Man,

    Reality check. All of the 66 books of the Protestant canon were written in an era in which slavery was normative and justified by the text.

    All one has to do is to start with Genesis–Hagar is a slave of Abraham who, like Sally Hemmings, bears him unrecognized offspring.

    All of the patriarchs keep slaves, and the mothers of some of the tribes of Israel are slaves.

    There are slave codes in Exodus 21; Lev 19:20; and Lev 25:44-46. Indeed, parts of the text take care to distinguish between slaves that are of the people of Israel and slaves that are of the nations or the Gentiles.

    The conquest and kingship and exile narratives presume slavery; indeed, Samuel’s warning about the king that the people want is that their king will enslave them.

    Proverbs regularly uses the metaphor of slavery, which is evidence of its familiarity among the people. Slavery is throughout the prophets.

    In the gospels, Jesus regularly (and uncritically) uses slavery as a metaphor: Matthew 6:24; 8:9; 10:24-5; 13:27-8; 18:22-35; 20:26-27; 21:33-36; 22:2-10; 24:45-51; 25:14-30; (most of the Matthean examples are also Markan); Luke 12:37-47; Luke 14:17-23; Luke 15:22-29; Luke 17:7-10; John 8:33-35.

    Acts tells of the kind of slaveocracy inherent in the Roman world; Paul’s letter to Philemon confirms it.

    And all of this precedes Uppity Negro’s discussion.

    The difficulty that abolitionist preachers had in justifying their anti-slavery stance was precisely that the biblical witness is so overwhelming and so universally pro-slavery, with very few exceptions. It is upon these few exceptions–and upon a western understanding of human rights–that the antislavery movement was finally born.

    And, in light of my previous argument, let me note that the word slave (doulos (Gk); ebed (Hebrew)) is often translated as servant in more conservative translations to blunt the impact.

    In contrast, the taboos about same-gender sex are 1) no more sinful than mixing meat and milk or eating shelfish or pork–they are also “abomination” according to the Law; 2) seen as God’s punishment for idolatry in Romans (which then begs the question what one does with all of these same-gender loving people that have never worshipped idols); 3) badly translated in 1 Corinthians –since we have no other extant use in any ancient Greek text of Paul’s coined word “arsenokoitai” and “malakos,” the Greek word for soft, is a word Jesus uses about John the Baptist (as in, did you expect to see a malakos–always translated as one in soft raiment).

    I know this is long, but before you get outraged, you really should know what you’re saying. And from your response, it’s not clear that you do.

  9. Uppity and Maragaret

    Neither of you addressed the core of my argument which was that the second most important commandment in the Bible was incompatible with the way slavery was practiced in this country and in other locales the world over.

    Namely, did slaveowners love their slaves the way they loved themselves? Did they treat them as equals in Christ?

    The reason neither of you addressed that was because the answer is no. They did not treat their slaves in this manner, which makes the version of slavery practiced in America incompatible with the Bible and invalidates any claims that slaveowners made to the contrary.

    If y’all find a flaw in that logic, let me know.

    Also, neither of you has addressed my point that it’s man’s misuse of the Bible that creates mistreatment and evil in the world, not an inherent problem with the Bible.


    If you think the Bible posits that slavery is “cool” given the argument I’ve made against that, then we just differ in our opinions. You clearly have more knowledge about the actual passages of the Bible than the average Christian, but you seem to be willing to cherrypick passages to support your point of view. Like I said, you ignored the crux of my argument, which was that the brutal realities of slavery were at odds with how God has said we should treat our fellow man. I have never said that the Bible explicitly condemned slavery, but in none of the passages that you listed did I see Biblical authors say “slavery is a good thing for Christians to do.” Much like the rules of divorce in the Old Testament, this seems to be an example of the Bible addressing the realities of the time without choosing a side. Since that occurred I used my Christian discernment to determine what I think God’s stance was on the issue. It’s only my interpretation which is clearly at odds with your own.


    In my post here, in related posts on my own website and on Holy Shit From Deacon Blue, I have addressed why I think the hoopla over homosexuality and gay marriage are ridiculous. Basically, as you said, there is no evidence that God considers them to be a particulalry egregious sin because God considers all sin to be egregious. Once again, the problems for homosexuals stem from the attitudes of mankind, not the Bible. The Bible outlines a whole host of ways we can fail to live up to God’s standards and our recourse when this happens. Man has decided to focus on a few sins and make those a big issue.


    If y’all don’t think homosexuality is a sin, that’s cool. It doesn’t bother me one bit. Every man or woman walks his own path and comes to his own understanding of where the Bible stands on various issues.

  10. Okay, fair game, I didn’t address your main concern. I just wanted to make sure you understood where the biblical authors stood on the issue of slavery.

    Some say that the slavery of the Roman Empire wasn’t like the slavery here in the US as far as brutality was concerned, but I think that’s just an argument to remove the biblical comparisons of slavery to that of the African American struggle for equality here in the US.

    I don’t know if I find flaw in your logic, but I will say this: just because one treats a slave well, does it still justify one being a slave? Just cuz “massa been good ter’us” does it justify Paul sending Oneismus back to Philemon?

    You said:
    “Like I said, you ignored the crux of my argument, which was that the brutal realities of slavery were at odds with how God has said we should treat our fellow man. I have never said that the Bible explicitly condemned slavery, but in none of the passages that you listed did I see Biblical authors say ‘slavery is a good thing for Christians to do.'”

    Well, those in the OT and in the NT and here in America got around that argument VERY easily by reducing slaves to less than humans. For those in the OT they did on the basis of religion, caste and the same for NT, and daresay color of skin. And clearly here in the America’s one’s “less than human” status was a direct result of skin color. Therefore, why would the slaveowners be subject to “what the Bible says” if these people are less than human.

    Also, since the Bible doesn’t say “slavery is a good thing for Christians to do” I’m quite sure the slaveowners would read that it doesn’t say “slavery ISN’T a good thing for Christians to do.”

    Just as a side note Big Man, I’m sure me and you would go back and forth on these issues, but I just wanted to hear what your response was to this one.

    Much luv, JLL

  11. Big man

    I didn’t address your argument because, the same Jesus who took a marginalized commandment from the book of Numbers and elevated to the status of second only to the Shema Israel, is the same Jesus who says “The slave that knows his masters’ will and does it not will be beaten with many stripes” (Luke 12:47).

    My point is simply this, even the words of Jesus are ambivalent –in fact in many ways supportive–of the slave system of his day; because he lives in a slaveocracy, he speaks that language–as does Paul, as do the other writers.

    The fact that African Americans have taken several biblical texts– “Love your neighbor as yourself”; “Whatsoever ye would that others do unto you, do ye even so unto them”; “God is no respecter of persons”; and stories like the Good Samaritan –as the basis for fighting against slavery and arguing for civil rights does not negate the fact that

    1) Jesus never spoke against slavery directly
    2) Jesus used slaves and slavery as an unchallenged systemic reality that were good sources for metaphors about the kingdom of God
    3) Jesus never questions slaveowners about their holding of slaves–even the centurion

    WE, not Jesus, have claimed this text as an antislavery text. It is not, in itself, an antislavery text. (Note: even in the Lukan telling, the Samaritan is not a slave–he owns an animal and carries enough money to help the man who has been mugged).

    There are texts that criticize the trafficking in slaves, most notably in 1 Tim 1:10 (manstealers) and in Revelation to John 18 (Babylon is criticized for her trade in slaves and human lives). But the one you cite is not–by itself–such a text. And the above texts do not, by themselves, negate the weight of the thousands of years of traditions found in these texts.

    To negate such a weight of tradition is the work of faithful, Christian people who–looking at the world today–can say of the biblical texts–that may be Bible, but it’s not scripture. That may be written, but it is no longer true–no longer relevant. We CHOOSE to interpret in this way; that may not be what the text originally meant, but this is how WE read it and will read it in the future.

    I honor the right of a people to take a text and to use it for their own liberation (just as I honor the right of GLBTQ Christians to claim as their own “what God has called clean, you may not call unclean). African Americans did just that repeatedly, both in the aforementioned texts and in the biblical texts sung in the spirituals (Good News, Chariot’s A Comin; Go Down Moses; Didn’t My Lord Deliver Daniel).

    But to claim that a text thus appropriated is ipso facto an antislavery text, or that it single-handedly negates all of the other antislavery texts does not wash with me. It smacks of wanting to “fix” the Bible rather than to engage in the ongoing struggle with our theological ancestors about where God in moving today in light of their testimony and our experience.

  12. Margaret and Uppity

    Thanks for the responses.


    Your point about many Christians attempting to fix the Bible is a good one. However, I am not one of those folks.

    If you don’t think the Jesus’ second commandment invalidated the Christian justifications for chattel slavery, than that’s cool. If you think that homosexuality is not considered a sin in the eyes of God based on your interpetation of scripture, you’re entitled to that opinion.

    Obviously I differ on both accounts, and have explained my reasoning. As you noted, Jesus regularly took the realities of the time of his ministries and used them to illustrate points about the Kingdom of Heaven. In the words of his used in the Gospel he does not clearly condemn slavery. Nor does he clearly endorse it. I never claimed that he did either. I said that my understanding of his comments about loving your neighbor make it impossible for me believe that Jesus of God endorse chattel slavery. That is the argument I made.

    Jesus’ actual feelings about slavery are never clearly stated therefore each man or woman can reach a different conclusion based on their purpose. If slaveowners stripped slaves of their humanity maybe they could justify their treatment, but the Bible never endorses the stripping of humanity.

    Finally, you are absolutely right that much of the Bible is open to interpetation and people reach different conclusions based on their backgrounds and their reasons for studying the word.

  13. Big Man,

    I encourage you to read more about Roman slavery before you determine that slaves were not stripped of their humanity.

    Much of what is said in the black church about slavery being “not as bad”–at least in Jesus’ day–is fallacious.

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