Homophobia, Southern Style: South Carolina Human Rights Consultant Driven To Resign


When Christine Johnson was hired by South Carolina’s City of Columbia to aid creation of a Human Rights Commission, she brought a lot of relevant experience to the table. She previously served on the Human Rights Commission of Salt Lake City, Utah, for example, and was a former legislator in that state, too. That she’s a native of South Carolina is extra gravy on her heaping plate of fine mashed potatoes.

And, incidentally, Johnson is also lesbian. But while that personal factor should bring even more meat to the table regarding a human rights project, a far-right freak used it to stage a few public gag-fests. As a result, Johnson was recently compelled to resign.

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Johnson, 46, was hired in December 2014. Her role as a consultant was to help create a commission the city would use to address discrimination complaints from its employees, as well as promote diversity and equal rights in education.

She quickly met challenge, though, and from none other than at-large city councilman Cameron Runyan. The grandson of a Baptist missionary, Runyan is well-known as the religious right portion of an otherwise moderate city government. For example, last year he was the only council member to vote against allowing homosexual employees of the city to include their partners in their health insurance plans.

He organized a stronger homophobic crusade this year, though, and directly against Johnson and the Human Rights Commission. Runyan went to conservative churches throughout the city, telling them that Johnson’s goal wasn’t to protect everyone from discrimination based on any factor, such as age, race, religion, sex, and nationality; it was only to promote gay rights and force the public to accept gay lifestyles, he claimed. He went on the radio, claiming such a commission would allow boys to use girls’ restrooms. Runyan even organized an ad hoc committee, complete with rightwing ministers and president of the state’s chapter of Focus On The Family, to drum up public support for his anti-public cause, and the meetings of that “committee” consisted only of homophobic tirades about Johnson. Her goal with this Human Rights Commission was anti-Christian, he said.

And by April 10, Johnson had enough and quit the temporary job. Her resignation letter, which was only recently publicly released by Columbia’s Free-Times, says:

It is apparent that some members of Council have limited appetite for the opportunity [to create a human rights commission] and that Councilman Cameron Runyan’s preoccupation with my sexual orientation is a direct obstruction to my contractual work. […] (Runyan) misled members of the faith community by facilitating meetings in February and March to which Council members were invited and in which the agenda specifically requests dismissal of my contract due to my sexual orientation.

Runyan denies any involvement in it, though, and despite his direct and public organization of this junk. He told The State:

What she wants to do is make this about her and me, but it’s not about her and me. It’s about an aggressive overreach by the government.

Runyan is flat-out lying, however. In each of his Big Brother road shows pertaining to the commission, he consistently claimed Johnson’s sexual orientation was the sole focus of the project, putting the spotlight on that personal issue (regarding a public issue to protect personal issues). And that, Runyan, is what “an aggressive overreach by the government” actually is.

The pseudo-Christian veil he bears is rather par-for-the-course for him, though. This is the same Cameron Runyan who came up with the oh-so Christian plan to ban the homeless from coming near Columbia. His “Emergency Homeless Response,” which took effect in late 2013, made it illegal for homeless to be present in the city, and made police round up the unfortunate (who total about 1,500) and bring them to a shelter (which only accommodates 240) on the outskirts of town. Those persons are not permitted to leave the grounds of the shelter, either. In reality, then, Mr. Holier-than-the-Homeless gave them two choices: prison or prison camp. (And you can’t exactly find the job needed to move you out of homelessness if you can’t leave the friggin’ place, now can you?) And last year, the so-called Christian fought against the city’s formation of a new council to address the needs of the homeless.


Image: Public Domain via Wikipedia (modified)

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