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05/08/2007

And in Britain they have a Parliament -- what's your point?

by Jeremy Hooper

In what they are calling a "Q&A about the federal hate crimes bill," Baptist Press has posted a chat that they recently shared with Alliance Defense Fund attorney Chris Stovall. One portion that really annoyed us was this, in which Stovall tries to link hate crimes to hate speech by using other countries as examples:

BP: "What are some countries where [prosecution of speech and expression] has been a problem?"

STOVALL: "Australia, for instance. In Australia you had two men who were prosecuted for a hate crime because they held a seminar to educate Christians about Muslim beliefs. And Canada has had several examples in the last couple of years of people who have been convicted or at least prosecuted and investigated under a law that criminalizes basically as hate propaganda any speech that's critical of homosexual behavior. That can be anything from writing an editorial to a newspaper to possibly preaching a sermon. The classic sermon example is the Ake Green case in Sweden, where you had a pastor who stood in the pulpit of his small country church in Sweden and preached a message essentially urging his congregation to love persons who were involved in the sexual immorality of homosexual behavior, and preaching on why -- based on Romans 1 -- that it was the church's duty to lovingly call people to leave that lifestyle behind. And he was criminally prosecuted [under Sweden's hate crimes law] and threatened with a jail sentence. That case had to go all the way to the Swedish Supreme Court before he was acquitted. The Alliance Defense Fund was involved in that case. We provided a lot of support to the defense team over there. It took literally a coordinated international effort to spare that man from going to jail over what he preached in the pulpit out of the Book of Romans. It's not far-fetched to see how this [bill in the United States] is the first chink in the armor of the First Amendment that leads down that path here."

But what do Australia, Canada, Sweden, and many other countries have in common? None of them offer the sort of free speech protections that are guaranteed by the United States' First Amendment!

-Sweden explicitly bans hate speech against various groups, including gays.

-Canada has a so-called "limitation clause" that allows speech to be limited under certain situations (including hate speech).

-Australia has no freedom of speech provision in its Constitution (though the right largely is considered to be constitutionally implied). There are also laws to ban certain types of hate speech.

Now, this is not meant to be a judgement or debate regarding the speech guidelines of other countries. It is just to say that when we talk about the hate crimes legislation that's being proposed here in the states, we are talking solely about the UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, a land where we do have a first amendment that protects unpopular and religious speech. That is not a minor detail you can overlook when comparing how speech is handled in America and abroad. IT IS THE MOST CRUCIAL DETAIL!

The religious right is dead set on making it seem like this hate crimes legislation, which is geared solely on crime, would eventually be used to go against hate speech in ways that is has in other countries. Clearly this a fear tactic, which is always annoying. But what raises the level of this particular line of thought from annoying to enraging is the sheer intellectual dishonesty of it all (and the possibility that they themselves realize they are being duplicitous)! They are trying to make it look as if the gay community, by and large, WANTS freedom of speech to go bye bye. And they are acting like as soon as we obtain federal hate crimes protections, we gays are gonna immediately follow it up with the Rip Leviticus Out of the Bibles Act of 2007. They are simply relentless in their attempts to make us look relentless!

The irony here is that if such an upheaval of free speech were actually proposed in the U.S., we're willing to bet it would be gays and liberals who would come out against it the most! It's a generalization, the LGBT community tends to value First Amendment rights greatly. So as this hate crimes legislation heads to the Senate and we all press on in this debate, we humbly ask our socio-politic-religo opposition to PLEASE stop cooking up these red herrings to scare and rally their peeps. And beyond all means -- Let's try and keep our legal discussions confined to the country in which the legislation is being proposed!

Q&A about the federal hate crimes bill [BP News]

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