In addition to his anti-bullying work, columnist and commentator Dan Savage is known for issuing some controversial rhetoric. From claims that he has been a hypocrite in his treatment of young people to his views on monogamy, Savage frequently catches the ire of critics.
In 2012, he made headlines for lambasting the Bible (he also called offended high school students who walked out during his speech "pansy a*ssed") during an address at The National Scholastic Press Association. While many were angry over his tactics in addressing the holy book, he has gained some support as well -- particularly among non-believers.
Over the weekend, the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF), a church-state separatist group, honored Savage with one of its biggest accolades. The gay rights activist and founder of the "It Gets Better" campaign was given the "Emperor Has No Clothes" award.
This is an honor bestowed, as the FFRF notes, upon "public figures who make known their dissent from religion." It was given at the group's 36th annual convention over the weekend. Here's how the organization describes it:
The award is based on the folk tale, "The Emperor Has No Clothes," by Hans Christian Andersen. In the story two weavers con a gullible emperor by selling him expensive cloth they claim is so exquisite only the very wise can see it. The emperor parades before his cowed subjects in his imaginary finery, until an astute child calls out:
"But the emperor has no clothes!"
Religion, the Foundation contends, has a similar imaginary base.
The award is reserved for public figures who take on the fabled role of the little child in the Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale and "tell it like it is"—about religion. The premiere award went to Nobel Laureate and plain-spoken physicist Steven Weinberg in 1999.
In this photo taken on May 22, 2013, author Dan Savage is in his home in Seattle. (AP)
In an interview with The Christian Post, FFRF Co-President Dan Barker said that, in addition to his views on religion, Savage was selected because of his "It Gets Better" anti-bullying campaign, which the atheist activist says has saved lives.
The gay rights activist isn't a religious person, which likely makes him appealing to the FFRF, a group that has often taken a hard-line position when it comes to faith in the public square. In a New York Times book review earlier this year Savage offered an overview of his theological standing:
"My father was a Catholic deacon, my mother was a lay minister and I thought about becoming a priest. I was in church every Sunday for the first 15 years of my life. Now I spend my Sundays on my bike, on my snowboard or on my husband. I haven’t spent my post-Catholic decades in a sulk, wishing the church would come around on the issue of homosexuality so that I could start attending Mass again. I didn’t abandon my faith. I saw through it. The conflict between my faith and my sexuality set that process in motion, but the conclusions I reached at the end of that process — there are no gods, religion is man-made, faith can be a force for good or evil — improved my life. I’m grateful that my sexuality prompted me to think critically about faith. Pushed out? No. I walked out."
The award comes just a year and a half after the controversial, anti-Bible speech Savage delivered to young people. There was no mention of the debate surrounding this incident in Barker's interview with the Post.
"So we're giving him an award for being outspoken about religion, but also because we really are impressed that he's saving lives," Barker told the Post "Whereas before, young men and some women who were conflicted over their sexual identity, some of them killed themselves. And I think what he's doing -- his concern, his care, his love for humanity to start this, is really worthy of recognition."
The atheist leader went on to say that churches tell gay youths that they are "sinners and are going to hell." He praised Savage for working against this notion to help kids see the light at the end of the tunnel.
In this photo taken Wednesday, May 22, 2013, author Dan Savage stands with a three-foot tall statue of Jesus, adorned with old press credentials, rosaries, beads and other miscellaneous items, in his home in Seattle. (AP)
"They need to know that it does get better, and that there's another way of seeing the world than through the narrow religious glass," he added.
Critics have charged in the past that, while Savage has been an advocate for gay youths, he has also taken controversial steps to progress his own ideology. TheBlaze once recapped some of his more troubling rhetoric and actions. But most notably, his aforementioned address at The National Scholastic Press Association stands out.
Here's what we reported about that event back in April 2012:
Savage noted that Americans disregard much of the “bulls*it” in the Bible, from laws about shellfish to those about slavery, and we just need to clear one more “hurdle” in disregarding writings about homosexuality.
“The Bible says that if your daughter’s not a virgin on her wedding night– if a woman is not a virgin on her wedding night– she shall be dragged to her father’s doorstep and stoned to death,” he says, yet “Callista Gingrich lives.”
Then, seemingly unable to resist a jab at Republicans, he added, “and there is no effort to amend state constitutions to make it legal to stone women to death on their wedding night if they’re not virgins. At least not yet– we don’t know where the GOP is going these days.”
Some youths were so distraught and disturbed by Savage’s words that they literally walked out of the event. It was at that point — after they left and were visibly offended — that the founder of the “It Gets Better” campaign referred to them as “pansy a*ses.” This was considered by some critics to be a form of bullying (read more about that here).
(H/T: Christian Post)