Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Hate To Disappoint You

A group of conservative Christian ministers showed up in Washington, D.C. to protest against the new hate-crimes bill that was recently passed by Congress and to see if they could get arrested for denouncing homosexuality in public.

Anything other than sex “between a male and his wedded wife,” announced the Rev. Paul Blair, “is a perversion, and the Bible says that homosexuality is in fact an abomination.”

No arrest was made.

The Rev. Rick Scarborough, quoting Scripture, listed “homosexual offenders” along with thieves, drunkards, swindlers and idolators as those unwelcome in the kingdom of God. “To fail to call homosexuals to repent of their sin and come to Jesus is the highest form of cowardice and sin,” he said.

No charges were filed.

“Had people listened to our plea, there would be tens of thousands of people who had not died of a dreaded disease,” contributed the Rev. Jim Garlow. “This breaks our heart to see people die of AIDS.”

No hands were cuffed. In fact, the few cops in attendance were paying no attention to the speakers, instead talking among themselves and checking their BlackBerrys.

The evangelical activists had been hoping to provoke arrest, because, as organizer Gary Cass of the Christian Anti-Defamation Commission put it, “we’d have standing to challenge the law.” But their prayers were not answered. Nobody was arrested, which wasn’t surprising: To run afoul of the new law, you need to “plan or prepare for an act of physical violence” or “incite an imminent act of physical violence.”

It got interesting when a group of gay-rights supporters showed up and engaged the ministers in a lively and at times amusing discussion about hate crimes and the rights of LGBT citizens to be afforded the same rights as everyone else.

Ironically, it is the preachers who are claiming to be the persecuted victims.

“Preachers will soon be targeted for prosecution, and their speech will be monitored,” Scarborough warned.

“Christians have civil rights, too,” declared Bishop E.W. Jackson Sr., an African American minister. He said he spoke “for the many martyrs of the civil rights movement who have gone before,” including Martin Luther King Jr., in saying that “none of them died to advance the cause of homosexuality.”

That’s more than a little presumptuous on the part of Bishop Jackson; I doubt that Dr. King would have excluded gays and lesbians from his determination to seek equal rights for everyone, and he had at least one notable counselor, Bayard Rustin, who was gay. And I really don’t think it’s a good idea to bring up the question of people being killed for being gay since the law they are protesting was named for Matthew Shepard.

The First Amendment protects the right of every citizen to make a complete jerk out of themselves and pass off fear and loathing as “Christian” ideals. The new law hasn’t changed that.