Delusional, or immoral?

You might have seen a video that went viral over the weekend – five minutes of some of the most bizarre claptrap about gay people you are ever likely to hear, delivered by a speaker at a city council public meeting. I say “some of” because much of it could easily have come from certain public figures, or from one or two speakers addressing local public boards here in Loudoun.

Well, it turns out that the speaker in the video is a “protected person,” a resident of an assisted living facility and diagnosed with schizophrenia. She is a regular at these public meetings; the council members are familiar with her and listen to her politely. Her brother Patrick acts as her conservator:

He said he’s disappointed the video garnered such attention and jokes without the whole story.

“To me, it shows how little society really cares about people with mental health issues,” Patrick Svoboda said. “She does have a very tender heart … but anything she says is certifiably schizophrenic … she’s not some crazy conservative.”

He said her family has tried to get her help multiple times, but unless she harms herself or others, there’s not much more they can do.

Ms. Svoboda apparently has spoken about a number of other topics that are not quite tethered to reality, things like “subliminals” coming through electronic devices. But in this case, she was misread as a legitimate spokesperson for anti-gay causes. Here is a statement from her speech, seemingly made in opposition to an anti-discrimination ordinance:

“A huge percent of gay men in school grounds molest boys, partly because they don’t have AIDS yet,” she said.

In a way, you can see why the mistake was made. The above quote cannot be distinguished, in either tone or absurdity, from statements made by the Sterling Supervisor/anti-gay charlatan in his fundraising letters, for example:

“Forcing the Boy Scouts to hire homosexuals is the same as being an accessory to the rape of hundreds of boys.”

Or:

“You’ll see two men hand in hand, skipping down to the adoption agency to ‘pick out’ a little boy for themselves.”

More from Ms. Svoboda:

“Hillary Clinton’s roommate four years in college was a gay woman. To avoid going gay like Clinton did, college students need single rooms and single gender dorms.”

“P-E-N-I-S goes into the anus to rupture intestines,” Svoboda notes. “The more a man does this, the more likely he’ll be a fatality or a homicider.”

The five minute speech was described by the Huffington Post as “a graphic homophobic rant” – which with equal accuracy describes the public utterances of anti-gay figures like Peter LaBarbera, Bryan Fischer and Ken Hutcherson (like Delgaudio, all leaders of SPLC identified anti-gay hate groups). Likewise, it resembles the speeches of local public commenter Paul Gozé. Gozé memorably had his mic cut off by then School Board Chair John Andrews, after repeatedly making graphic sexual comments and bizarre attacks on LGBT people and our allies, such as claiming that anyone in the room with an opposing view was a “homosexual activist” trying to “gain sexual access to children.” As far as I am aware, none of the individuals named above have been diagnosed with a serious mental disorder.

Upon learning “the whole story” about Ms. Svoboda, some of those who had ridiculed her as a homophobe recanted. Jim Burroway removed the video from his website, saying he was ashamed to have not realized she was mentally ill. As one of many commenters pointed out in his defense, when the likes of Bryan Fischer, et al, are actually asked for comment by pundits, or flown in at taxpayer expense to testify in legislative hearings, “the line between mental illness and hate filled ignorance is often hard to distinguish.”

My question is this: If we recognize that this woman isn’t responsible for her hate speech because of delusions brought on by illness, and if people feel remorseful for having ridiculed her, then why would anyone treat comparable hate speech and delusions as if they are legitimate “beliefs” deserving of our respect? If an elected official makes remarks that are indistinguishable from the remarks made by a woman with schizophrenia who is legally incompetent and not responsible for her actions, why on earth would anyone take him seriously about anything, or try to justify voting for or donating to him?

How pathetic this is. I don’t know whether the other activists I’ve mentioned are delusional or fraudulent, so I’ll only ask Mr. Delgaudio’s apologists. There are really only two explanations. Either you think the wacky statements of both Ms. Svoboda and Mr. Delgaudio make sense (God help you), OR you realize that Mr. Delgaudio doesn’t really believe those wacky statements himself, that he’s just a fraud preying on people like Ms. Svoboda, and that’s fine with you as long as you get something you want (again, God help you). So, you proud Delgaudio supporters: which one do you admit to?

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