N.C. Senate hopeful asks if Orlando shooting victims ‘deserved it’

Participants in the 47th annual Chicago Pride Parade carry pictures of the victims killed in the Pulse nightclub shooting as a tribute on Sunday.
Participants in the 47th annual Chicago Pride Parade carry pictures of the victims killed in the Pulse nightclub shooting as a tribute on Sunday. AP

Did the victims of the Orlando gay nightclub shooting deserve to die?

You’d think a candidate running for the North Carolina Senate would be among the last people to pose an incendiary question like that in a public forum.

But Bob Diamond, a pharmacist and Mecklenburg GOP activist running for the District 37 seat held by Democratic incumbent Jeff Jackson, did just that recently.

The N.C. Democratic Party this morning is demanding that Gov. Pat McCrory and the N.C. GOP denounce Diamond for a June 14 Google Plus post in which he asked: “Did They (The LGBT Victims) Deserve It?”

He then wrote: “All men and women are #sinners and deserving of hell. ALL are equally #guilty before a Holy and Righteous God. Unless repentance of sin occurs, and faith in #Christ takes place, ALL will equally and eternally perish.”

His post included a link to an article by Dave Kistler, president of the N.C. Pastors Network. In that article, Kistler wrote that, despite the “sinful lifestyle choices” of the 49 people killed by Omar Mateen, the tragedy didn’t happen because they were gay. Homosexuality is a sin, he added, but no more or less so than any other sin, and all sinners will perish unless they repent.

The N.C. Democratic Party pounced on Diamond’s post.

“Bob Diamond has disqualified himself from holding elected office,” executive director Kimberly Reynolds said in a press release. “To suggest that the victims of the terrible tragedy in Orlando deserved to die is unacceptable. To say that LGBT people are ‘deserving of hell’ is downright hateful.”

Diamond told the editorial board Monday that he’s being unfairly attacked. He says his post, especially the headline, was just designed to entice the reader to read Kistler’s article.

“The headline was just a teaser,” he said. “The post was indicating that all of us are sinners. Every one of us deserves to be in hell if it weren’t for what Jesus did.”

He said no one at the Pulse nightclub that night “deserved to die because they were gay or not gay.”

“I apologize for misleading anybody” with the headline, he added. “Jesus loves everybody. I love everybody and I want everybody to be saved.”

Given the link to the Kistler article, it does appear that Diamond was trying to give a tease (albeit an inflammatory one) into what Kistler had written. But a pastor writing about his theological beliefs is one thing. A candidate for Senate, who ostensibly will be called upon to represent gay citizens as well as straight ones? That’s another thing entirely.

As Donald Trump’s tanking poll numbers show, we expect our public leaders to speak for more than just themselves or the narrow slice of the electorate that agrees with all of their positions.

We generally value the diverse, pluralistic nature of our society. We expect public leaders to behave – and speak – with respect for all.

If Diamond keeps missing that point on social media, he’ll learn it the hard way come November.