A Southern Baptist Convention official criticized the White House for putting an openly gay physician in charge of the United States policy to combat global AIDS.

“I think it’s a tragedy to have a sodomite living with another man and being the AIDS coordinator,” Wiley Drake, the SBC’s second vice president said in Agape Press, “because we all know that if we do away with sodomy we’d almost eradicate AIDS.”

With First Lady Laura Bush standing by, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice swore in Mark Dybul as U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator, a post with the rank of ambassador, Oct. 10.

Dybul took the oath of office with his hand on a Bible held by his domestic partner, Jason Claire. Rice referred to Claire’s mother as Dybul’s “mother-in-law,” raising hackles among the Religious Right.

“I am truly honored and delighted to have the opportunity to swear in Mark Dybul as our next Global AIDS Coordinator,” Rice said, according to a transcript on the State Department Web site. “I am pleased to do that in the presence of Mark’s parents, Claire and Richard, his partner, Jason, and his mother-in-law, Marilyn.”

“You have a wonderful family to support you, Mark, and I know that’s always important to us,” Rice said.

Peter Sprigg, vice president for policy at the Family Research Council, called the secretary’s comments “profoundly offensive” and said they fly in the face of the Bush administration’s endorsement of a federal marriage protection amendment.

The act was widely viewed as an overture to gay voters, at a time when the Republican Party risks fragmentation over the Mark Foley scandal. Drake, for one, said he believes pandering to homosexuals will alienate evangelicals, which he views as the party’s core support group.

“Even as second vice president, I can’t speak for the convention,” Drake said. “But I certainly … believe most Baptists would be like me; they would be appalled at what Condoleezza Rice has done, and in general [with] what the Republican Party is doing with things like Log Cabin Republicans and other sodomites [in] trying to get their vote.”

Drake said Wednesday on his live call-in radio show he uses the term “sodomite”–which some view as a demeaning slang expression along the lines of slurs based on race, gender or religion–instead of “gay” or “homosexual” because it is in the Bible.

“I prefer to use the term that is in the Bible, and that is sodomy, sodomites,” said Drake, pastor of First Southern Baptist Church in Buena Park, Calif.

“Sodomy” is in the dictionary and is used as a legal term, but it is not the Bible. The word is derived from Sodom, a city named in Genesis 19 and denounced as the epitome of evil.

Liberal Bible scholars interpret the sin of Sodom in different ways, including inhospitality, rape and greed. Fundamentalists view it as homosexuality.

Leviticus 18:22 describes the act of sodomy but does not give it a name. “You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination.”

The King James Version uses the word “sodomite” in Deuteronomy 23:17 as well as in verses in First and Second Kings. While the word was commonly used when the KJV was translated in 1611, modern translations avoid it.

The New King James Version translates the reference in Deuteronomy as “perverted one.” The Holman Christian Study Bible, a translation produced by LifeWay Christian Resources, routinely renders the term as “male shrine prostitute.”

Dybul, nominated by President Bush and unanimously confirmed by the Senate Aug. 3, is the third openly gay U.S. ambassador. Some Christian groups objected when former Secretary of State Colin Powell held a similar swearing-in ceremony for Michael Guest as U.S. ambassador to Romania.

When former President Bill Clinton appointed the first gay ambassador, San Francisco businessman and philanthropist James Hormel, in 1996, the Southern Baptist Convention responded with a resolution appealing to “deeply held religious beliefs” calling on Clinton to “rescind his appointment of an openly professed homosexual as U.S. Ambassador to Luxembourg.”

The head of the SBC’s public-policy arm called Hormel’s appointment “an affront” to the desires of the American people.

“The majority of Americans do not want a self-acknowledged homosexual living in a domestic partnership with another homosexual as his mate who funds and advocates a radical homosexual rights agenda to be an official representative of their government as an ambassador to another nation,” Richard Land of the SBC Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission said, according to Baptist Press.

Land hasn’t commented publicly on Dybul’s appointment.

Drake, elected as SBC second vice president in a first-ballot vote over three other nominees this June in Greensboro, N.C., is no stranger to colorful comments. The 62-year-old pastor earned the reputation of “Mr. Microphone” for his penchant for making motions and resolutions at SBC annual meetings over the years–so many that the convention changed rules limiting the number of motions made by a single messenger and requiring resolutions to be submitted in advance.

Drake brought the original resolution calling for the SBC Disney boycott in 1996, though he said he wasn’t going to throw away his family’s passes to Disneyland because they were too expensive.

He received probation for violating zoning laws to provide shelter for homeless people in his church, earning him the distinction of being, as he boasted on a Webcast this summer, “probably the only convicted criminal” to serve as an officer of the SBC.

In 1999 he applied for a concealed-gun permit, because of death threats he said he received from advocates of abortion and homosexual rights.

As Global AIDS Coordinator, Dybul will oversee President Bush’s $15 billion Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, part of a U.S. effort to fight AIDS in developing countries, particularly in Africa. About one fourth of the grants have gone to religious groups, most of which emphasize disease prevention through abstinence.

Dybul, a nationally recognized expert on AIDS care and prevention who has served as acting coordinator since January, advocates an “ABC” approach to fight AIDS in Africa, standing for “abstinence,” “being faithful” and “condoms.”

He is scheduled to speak at a second annual HIV/AIDS conference for church leaders at Rick Warren’s Saddleback Church in California in November.

Bob Allen is managing editor of EthicsDaily.com.

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