What Bishop Frade May Have Meant When He Called President Obama A Sodomite

Nov 21, 2014

Miami's downtrodden, disenfranchised and undocumented probably have no greater friend than Bishop Leopold Frade, spiritual leader of Southeast Florida's 33,000 Episcopalians.

FIGHTING WORDS? Episcopal Bishop Leo Frade may not have meant what you think he meant when he called the president a sodomite.
Credit Rick Stone

The Cuba-born clergyman -- once the Bishop of Honduras -- authorized the South Florida diocese's first same-sex wedding in 2012. Five years before that, he demanded that the Bush Administration give protected status to 101 Haitians refugees who had washed ashore in South Florida after a three-week ordeal at sea. Even earlier, he was convicted of trading with the enemy for helping Cuban refugees make it to Florida after the Mariel boatlift (the conviction later was overturned).

So, there was nothing unusual when Frade (say FRAH day) stood this week with immigration advocates urging President Obama to "go big" with his executive order to curtail deportations. 

"It is horrible," Frade, in his purple robes, shouted from the steps of  Trinity Episcopal Cathedral, "to see the people being deported, being separated from their children, being separated from the people that they love because we have insisted on not doing what we need to do as a country."

But here’s where it did get strange. In his anger over the country's dysfunctional immigration system, the bishop called the president a nasty name: sodomite.

"He has been the president that has deported more people than even Bush did!" Frade said. "And I am asking President Obama to stop being a sodomite!"

And he repeated it in Spanish for the Hispanic media: "Es la hora de decirle al Presidente Obama que deje de ser un sodomita!"

Technically, a sodomite is merely a person who engages in homosexual sex, much as the residents of that biblical town, Sodom, did before God destroyed it. But, shouted to a crowd by some character in clerical vestments, "sodomite" is often a homophobic insult.

Was it in this case? Hard to tell. But probably not. At the very first level of analysis, no one has accused the president of being gay. And even if Obama were gay, Frade's background suggests he would have no problem with it.

The bishop did not respond to phone calls and emails asking for comment. Neither did the national church or South Florida figures who have worked with Frade. But if you open the Bible, and turn to its funkiest and most X-rated chapter, you may get an idea of what the bishop was driving at.

Ezekiel 16, cited by the bishop, reads like a condemnation of female sexuality as might be heard from, say, a member of ISIS. But it becomes apparent that the slutty, ungrateful woman getting all the grief is actually a metaphor for Jerusalem, which the Lord is berating for enjoying unearned wealth and beauty while giving no help or comfort to the poor and needy. Then, there's a comparison to Jerusalem's "sisters," Samaria and that champion sin city of all time, Sodom.

So, then: being this kind of sodomite, as Bishop Frade perhaps inadequately explained to the immigration rally, is wallowing in undeserved luxury while ignoring one's duty to the needy. In his view, perhaps a perfect indictment of the U.S. and its Congress and its approach to immigration.

"This was the sin of your sister Sodom," Frade bellowed as the immigrant activists darted worried glances at each other. "She and her towns, they felt very proud of all the abundance that they had, all the food they have, enjoying all their comfort. But they never help the poor and needy. They became proud and they did things that I detest."

It's hard to imagine anything good or productive coming from shouting "sodomite" at the president of the United States  unless you're a bishop with a really exaggerated idea of how familiar people are with the 16th chapter of the book of Ezekiel.

But once you do the reading, it does become clear: We should really stop being such sodomites.