Frank Barham, ‘The Religious Right is Wrong’

Some of the LGBT-rights movement’s most vocal opponents use religion as the basis for bigotry, but one local author is looking to use years of research to challenge the messages promulgated by the religious right.

Dr. Frank Barham’s “The Religious Right is Wrong,” released last month, takes a meticulously researched and measured approach to debunk the notion that homosexuality is decried in ancient religious texts, seeking to demonstrate both to the religious and to LGBTs that those identities do not need to be mutually exclusive.

Barham, 75, a native of Tennessee who now lives in Bella Vista, said his interest in the topic germinated from his time growing up gay in the Bible Belt.

“For many years I was conflicted about my sexuality and my religious upbringing and, as time went on, I got tired of hearing the religious right make these great pronouncements about the sins of gay people while ignoring the other admonitions found in the Old Testament,” he said. “I began to doubt the veracity of the works the ministers were using and even my own interpretations of the Bible. So I began a search of these admonitions primarily for my own benefit and my interest grew from there, and I decided to dig deeper.”

“The Religious Right” has been in the works for about five years, he said.

Barham spent his career as a physician and later in health-care administration, and upon his retirement in 2004 turned his attention to his passion for writing.

He released his first book — a series of short stories about feral dogs that he assisted in rescuing near his winter home in the Yucatan, with proceeds going to animal-rescue agencies — in 2010. He currently has two other works in the pipeline.

The information-gathering process for “The Religious Right” was an arduous one that included interviews with priests, ministers and rabbis and the translation of Aramaic, Greek and Hebrew texts.

Barham said he believes many of the biblical passages that are often used by antigay activists are misinterpreted.

“Many of the religious right ignore the context in which the Old Testament was written,” he said. “They ignore the fact that, from what I’ve read and from the people I’ve spoken to, the admonitions against so-called homosexual acts really pertain instead to people practicing a pagan religion. As far as Hebrews were concerned, the acts involved with the pagan religion were ignoring the true god and, therefore, that was the sin and not the act itself.”

Barham said his book can be relevant to a vast array of audiences — LGBTs and allies questioning their faith and Christian and Jewish communities looking to gain a deeper understand of their faiths’ tenets on homosexuality.

“There are many different ways to interpret much of what has been taught in Hebrew school or Sunday school,” he said. “The gay lifestyle, in my opinion, is not a sin at all. That it has been maligned is because of a misinterpretation of certain words, expressions and the context of the environment in which the old scripture was written.”