13 August 2007

"We stand for our right to be ignorant bigots."

The Chicago Tribune published an article in today's edition on the new anti-hate crime law currently in consideration before the U.S. Congress. The new law would make it easier for federal law enforcement to prosecute hate crimes and extend hate crime protections beyond race, ethnicity, and religion "to include violent attacks against victims based on their gender identity or sexual orientation."

Anti-hate law shifts to debate on gays

Obviously, there is opposition in conservative and religious circles to extending protection to gays, lesbians, and transgendered people. Their latest argument is that the law would infringe on the free speech rights of religious leaders to speak out against homosexuality. They fear that if they go on another hellfire and brimstone sermon about gays and a parishioner acts on their exhortations and bible-thumping by committing a crime against gays, they would be liable under the new law.

Nevermind that there is no such provision in the law, but they really, REALLY don't want any infringement on their right to preach intolerance. Here's what Bishop Harry Jackson had to say:
"What I'm talking about is my right to preach what I believe," said Bishop Harry Jackson, pastor of Hope Christian Church in Beltsville, Md., who joined three dozen black pastors to buy a full-page ad in USA Today denouncing the proposed federal hate crimes law. "We preach love and acceptance, but I don't believe the Bible condones gay lifestyles. Yet the way these laws would be invoked would be that whoever is a commander or director of this kind of action can be brought up on the same charges as the actual perpetrator of a crime."

While you're picking up your jaw off the floor, let me just repeat what the good bishop said about himself and others who preach against gays and lesbians:

"We preach love and acceptance, but I don't believe the Bible condones gay lifestyles. Yet the way these laws would be invoked would be that whoever is a commander or director of this kind of action can be brought up on the same charges as the actual perpetrator of a crime."

"Commander?" "Director?" What the fuck are they preaching at Hope Christian Church that they're "commanding" and "directing" against gays? Is this a misquote? Did he mistake himself? Surely he didn't mean that he actively "directs" and "commands" his parishioners on how to act toward gays (at best, with indifference; at worst...well)?

I don't think he misspoke, because let's face it, religious bigotry and hate is a primary motivator in speeches and actions against gays and lesbians. And, again, who is showing their persecution complex ad nauseum in reaction to this law? Yup, religious leaders. James Dobson. Pat Robertson. Jerry Falwell would be, if he hadn't gone tits up (and I'm glad he did, by the way). Oh, and let's not forget our friends at the Westboro Baptist Church and the kindly pastor Fred Phelps. "Oh! Poor us! We're the overwhelming religious majority in the Western world but those mean gays keep oppressing us with their hopes for equal treatment under the law! How dare they demand recognition of our common humanity by asking for equal protection under the law?"

The persecution complex is more evident further on in the article, as Michael Marcavage, leader of the Christian conservative group Repent America, shows:
Marcavage and several followers were arrested in 2004 while staging a protest march outside a Philadelphia gay and lesbian street festival, charged with ethnic intimidation and violating Pennsylvania's hate crimes law.

Although a judge later dismissed the charges and cleared the group of any wrongdoing, Marcavage said he believes the incident foreshadows how zealous prosecutors could wield an expanded federal hate crimes law against religious leaders.

"The lawmakers in Pennsylvania said that the state hate crimes law would not apply to pastors, to people sharing their faith, but here we have an example of exactly that," Marcavage said. "People say these hate crimes laws only apply to violent acts against gays. Well, we committed no violent acts. This is how the abuse happens."

Yeah, the law is so bad he was convicted and sent to prison...wait, didn't the article say the judge dismissed the case? Huh, so I guess the law actually DOES work the way Marcavage wants it to. He was able to preach his hate and ignorance, got pinched for it, then after careful review, was found innocent. Funny how judicial review works, isn't it? But poor Michael and his ilk are afraid that they won't be able to "share their faith," as he put it (filth, I say), if the new law is passed. Oh, woe are they, that they can't exhort their fellow believers to discriminate against their fellow human beings based on the writings of bronze age sheep herders. Those poor Christians, who will help them cope with this new form of oppression?

What complete and utter rubbish. The law is needed, and it's past time for argument. It should have been enacted right after Matthew Sheppard was brutally tortured and left for dead tied to a barb wire fence in Laramie, Wyoming in 1998. But I guess it's more important that ignorant pricks like Jackson and Marcavage get to continue to preach hellfire and damnation against gays and lesbians like Matthew, who want nothing more than a simple acknowledgment of their dignity as human beings.

Fred Phelps, by the way, has a Cronkite-esqe counter of the days Matthew has "spent in Hell," which he and his vile family bring to every protest they stage...but no one has ever arrested them for having such signs (or the signs which say "God hates Fags," "Thank God for Dead Soldiers," and the like). Pies in the face, yes. Epithets hurled in their faces, of course (I personally called his daughter and son-in-law "bloody cowards" when they came to SIU). But never arrested for waving their horrible signs and shouting their equally horrible slogans. They're safe, and they will remain so.

But regardless of whether they are allowed to continue to preach ignorance and bigotry (whether it's in the extreme,like Phelps, or "moderate" like Jackson and Marcavage) they should not try to argue that they, or ANYONE for that matter, have the free speech right to "direct" or "command" others to commit any kind of crime, whether it be merely discriminatory (i.e "don't hire fags," etc.) or violent, against anyone based on their race, ethnicity, religion, or, yes, their sexual orientation/identity.

We need this law, and be damned to their bigoted sermons and lectures.

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