Monday, April 10, 2006

religious expression

Kristen posted about this article today – Evangelical Christians (some at Georgia Tech) are suing for the right to protest anti-discrimination policies meant to protect homosexuals.  They claim speaking out against homosexuality is part of their religion and they should be allowed to do so.  Here’s the problem, though.  The constitution never said you had a right to enforce your religious views on other people.  In fact, that’s the whole POINT of religious freedom – the Christians who came here in the first place wanted to make sure they could practice Christianity without other people making them change.  So why, now, do Evangelicals think it is within their rights to harass, bully, and otherwise discredit homosexuals.  Even if I did agree that homosexuality was sinful (and I don’t) I don’t think it is biblically mandated or a constitutional right that these people should persecute homosexuals.  The Bible, and especially the new testament, lead me to believe that Gentiles are not under the law.  So I’m not sure where, exactly, these people get off thinking it is part of their religious practice – just like worship and prayer – to tell other people what they should or shouldn’t be.  I really think religious expression that makes other people miserable is a different thing from, say, public prayer.  And this quote was ridiculous:

"Think how marginalized racists are," said Baylor, who directs the Christian Legal Society's Center for Law and Religious Freedom. "If we don't address this now, it will only get worse."

That’s right.  Those poor racists.  Somehow I don’t feel bad about marginalizing people because they want to marginalize others because of who they are.  I think conservatives like to call that a “preemptive strike”…

16 comments:

kristen said...

Great analysis.

I've been reading A LOT of articles from fundamentalist Christians who argue that Christians are being denied a variety of rights...

Maybe it is just me...but I'm pretty sure the religious right is in control of almost all the discourse and political policies as of late. How can a group in such a position of power also be discriminated against?!?

GRRRR.

Anonymous said...

Americans have the right to peaceful protest. Be very careful here, Bethany. You made the jump from protest to persecution very quickly.

kristen said...

But do they have the right to attain legal justification to discriminate?

Bob K said...

As much as I hate to be on the side of anyone who is against any other group of people as a group - I think you might have a little bit of a knee-jerk liberal reaction going here, Bethany.

What if there was a racist group on campus and the Christian organization wanted to speak out against them? This is a situation that would have been not only possible but likely 60 years ago. Should the church be banned from speaking against certain ways of life just as a matter of course?

What we have is a situation in which the gay and lesbian group is allowed to speak out on campus against these particular right-wing Christians and the Christians aren't allowed to speak back. That doesn't sound like something you'd advocate.

It is always tricky to ban particular types of speech even with the best of intentions because someone then has to decide what is acceptable and what is not. I have no tolerance for hate speech. The problem is that it is OK to disagree with someone. At some point that disagreement could be interpreted as "hate" and we find ourselves in a situation where the church could be banned from calling anything sin. Would, for example, speaking out against lying be intolerance of people who lie? I'm not sure this is a cut and dried example of hate speech.

bethany said...

the difference, as I see it, is speaking out against BEHAVIOR in an abstract, general sense, and speaking out against PEOPLE. Nobody is hurt when a christian person goes to sensitivity training and understands that certain slurs are offensive. Because you don't go around calling people hurtful names if you know they struggle with any other sin (and just to clarify, I really am not sure it's a sin). My bigger beef, I think, is that even if you think homosexuality is wrong, it shouldn't be the primary expression of your faith. Last I checked the second greatest commandment was to love your neighbor as yourself.

Bob K said...

Good point - but were the people in question speaking out against the behavior or the people? You and I have spoken before about how "hate-the-sin/love-the-sinner" usually works out with the sinner feeling hated anyway so I really don't want to in any way support outspoken anti-gay rheotic. I also get nervous when people spend a lot of time talking about someone else's sin - we all have plenty of our own to keep us busy.

But I also get nervous when speaking about sin is banned. I guess I want to make sure that Pat Robertson, for example, can still put his foot in his mouth and that I am allowed to say that he did.

joshwall said...

I think what I find compelling/disturbing is that its become a religious issue and that it is on the basis of her freedom of religious expression that she is making her stand.

I too respect her right to say what she wants but I'm disturbed by its close assoication with her understnanding of Christianity. And part of her religious expression is condemning the other... maybe because that condemnation strikes me as so against how I understand Christianity.

The woman pisses me off... but I like Bob points and arguments, its really the close tie to Christianity that distrubs me.

joshwall said...

p.s. that quote from Baylor is amazing... did he realize what he was saying?

Anonymous said...

Homosexuality is something that we as a people will be discussing for years trying to figure out what is right. Is homosexuality nature or nurture? Are people born gay, is there a "gay" gene, or is homosexuality something that you choose to be?

Now while I do find it wrong what Baylor said, we do have a problem where gay right activists are saying that if you speak against the act of homosexuality you are intolerent or the homosexuality movement, but those who find the act of homosexuality wrong cant say anything back. It seems like we have developed a huge double standard here. What is next, African-Americans saying that it is wrong for White middle class males to say that it is becoming harder for them to get into the elite colleges and universities?

Yet at the same time to blame the conservative christians for what is going on is a bit much as well. Are Christians the ones that are asking "In God we Trust" to be taking off our currency or to have the Ten Commandments taking out of court houses? Unless I am out of the loop, I am pretty sure that the Ten Commandments said that things like Murder and Adultery is wrong, and dont we punish those acts in the court of law?

And while I agree with Bob saying that it is fun to see guys like Pat Robertson and Jery Falwell make such outrageous claims, are they not allowed to do such things under the first amendment? As long as this student from G. Tech isnt condemming any one person but just the act, how is that worse then saying that President Bush is the cause of all our current problems?

Morgan said...

Speaking of this, come check out the post I just put up:

http://www.morganfoster.com/?p=418

Sorry to advertise on your site, Bethany. It's for the cause.

jimmy said...

Homosexuality is something that we as a people will be discussing for years trying to figure out what is right. Is homosexuality nature or nurture? Are people born gay, is there a "gay" gene, or is homosexuality something that you choose to be?

If you'll excuse my curtness, while an interesting question certainly worth studying among psychologists, physiologists, and biologists, this question honestly means exactly jack to any ethical response to homosexuality. Whether it's nature or nurture doesn't matter a lick; what matters is that the church has a terrible history of mistreating those it thinks are different, and the Church is called to apologize and reconcile ourselves to our gay brothers and sisters.

Now while I do find it wrong what Baylor said, we do have a problem where gay right activists are saying that if you speak against the act of homosexuality you are intolerent or the homosexuality movement, but those who find the act of homosexuality wrong cant say anything back. It seems like we have developed a huge double standard here. What is next, African-Americans saying that it is wrong for White middle class males to say that it is becoming harder for them to get into the elite colleges and universities?

Is it a double standard that on a university campus you can call people who think black people are inferior to white people racists, and the racists can't respond back? I guess it is, but those double standards are the price we pay for having an academic climate in which everyone feels welcome (except perhaps those who want to force their beliefs on others) and all are encouraged to have a voice. If I had someone constantly telling me that something I consider definitional to who I am - say, my dark hair - was a sin and made me evil, I would find it significantly more difficult to participate in the discourse. Homophobia is no different from other kinds of hate - racism, sexism, religious bigotry - and thus has no place in an academic climate which needs so desperately for the voices of the oppressed to be heard.

Yet at the same time to blame the conservative christians for what is going on is a bit much as well. Are Christians the ones that are asking "In God we Trust" to be taking off our currency or to have the Ten Commandments taking out of court houses? Unless I am out of the loop, I am pretty sure that the Ten Commandments said that things like Murder and Adultery is wrong, and dont we punish those acts in the court of law?

I'm also pretty sure that the Ten Commandments say that you shall have no other God before Yahweh, that you shall not make graven images and worship them, and that you shall not covet. Should courts of law begin enforcing those Commandments as well?

The Constitution sets forth the idea of a secular state. This is another argument, though, and if you'd have been big enough to put a name to your comments I'd love to have this argument with you in a different venue. But not here.

And while I agree with Bob saying that it is fun to see guys like Pat Robertson and Jery Falwell make such outrageous claims, are they not allowed to do such things under the first amendment? As long as this student from G. Tech isnt condemming any one person but just the act, how is that worse then saying that President Bush is the cause of all our current problems?

Nobody's disputing the fundamentalists' First Amendment rights to free speech and free assembly. They're free to stand on a street corner and harangue whoever they want to harangue. What we're disputing is their nonexistent right to speak hate in the academy, and their nonexistent right to discriminate on the basis of religion or sexual orientation in hiring, housing, and other matters.

Merv said...

First things first...is homophobia the fear of homosexuals or the hatred of homosexuals? I'm just trying to clear that up in my head here. See, i'm afraid of hights and I know there is a technically term for being afraid of heights, but just because I am afraid of heights doesnt mean that I hate heights. In fact I love rollar coasters and things like that where they really push you in terms of height. So what really is Homophobia?

Now I have read the article a number of times and I think that I have a good understanding of it. So let me holla at ya and see what yall think.
So the problem is that this student at G. Tech doesnt think that it is fair that this minority is protected from certain types of speech while the majority is not protected. So while this group cannot say anything bad about any homosexual, theoretically the homosexual students could blast this christian group and any other group since the school has only protected homosexuals from discrimination. Is that fair really?
Now if Molhatra is only trying to get this rule repealed...what is the problem to that as long as they dont plan on discriminating homosexuals. As long as they dont go out and spread messages of hate and start saying "we hate fags", isn't she just trying to get all people on a level playing field? Is that not what homosexual activists want, that all people including gays and lesbians treated just like any other heterosexuals with the same rights and benefits? Then if that is the case, why are colleges letting gays and lesbians "hide" behind these policies from banning certain types of speech that other groups have to deal with.

Now if I got things right here and we applied G. Tech's policy over this blog, the minority group has protection from the majority. So technically I would have protection from most of you since I find myself to be more of a conservative then most of you, so really none of you could say anything about my decisions and how I am. You just all need to deal with it and be frustrated by what I am since I have protection.
Now is that really fair? Is that what we all want, where we have some groups of people protected by policies and politicians?
I dont claim to be an expert on this topic, maybe its due to the fact that I spent far to much time studying sports and business, but isn't one of the main goals of gay and lesbian activist to get equality? To not have two seperate groups of homosexuals and heterosexuals but instead just one grop of Americans?

Now is the fear that if G. Tech repeals this rule that Molhotra is going to spread a message of hate around campus? Is that the concern? What if she is just trying to get equal and fair rights for all students? So that no one group is protected any more then any other group? I'm not saying that I have all the answers but just because I am a conservative Christian doesn't mean that I hate homosexuals either. One of my better friends claims that she is nothing but a gay man in a girls body and while we dont see eye to eye on all issues, its a work in progess.

Banning speech is the first way to becoming just like the society in Orwells'1984 where they have censored speech. Is that what we want in this country because I feel as if we are starting to go that route if we let this get any farther out of hand.

-Merv

bethany said...

ok, first, comparing my blog to school policy is ridiculous. My blog is not a public institution, and if I and my friends make it uncomfortable for you to be here, all you will have lost is another opportunity to waste your time. I invite dissent, but you have to be ready for me (and anybody else) to defend my original arguement. And my readers have a lot of education. And also, cry me a river! you poor upper-middle-class white guy.

The problem with these students is this: they have the ability to create an atmosphere at the university that is toxic, and potentially even violent toward GLBTQ students. Outlawing epithets and hate speech in order to make a safe atmosphere for these students is completely fair. Being opposed to homosexuality isn't anywhere close to what's important about christian identity, and if it is, that christian is very misguided, and we need to have another arguement. You shouldn't be allowed to discriminate against people because of who they are.

dsigned said...

actually, i would disagree with the idea that disagreeing with homosexuality is not what is important about christian identity. christian identity is very much abou t speaking the truth in love (or else you wouldn't be posting, would you?). I think that we do have a responsability as a church to decide which acts are life-bringing, and which ones are not. And i take issue with your implication that this is an evangelical/homosexual issue. Its not. its a pro-homosexual/the rest of the christian church (think historically) issue. as far as i know, your interpretation of scripture on this issue is in the minority (historically), and thus the burden of proof is on your side. Having said that, i also think that there are elements in the church who are going to face judgement far sooner than homosexuals- hypocritical leaders for one (and let us not forget that Jesus came into the world to save sinners, or whom i am chief). and i'm not saying that homosexuals aren't my neighbor (or in some cases, my Christian brother). I am just leery of accepting something that is untrue so that one group can feel like i don't hate them. Truly loving is wanting what is best for someone, and if homosexuality is a sin, then it is normal that i would not want my brother (or my neighbor) to live in it.

dp said...

Only two observations: first, I have often found it interesting to hear you (and many others) use self expression of person views (whatever their foundaion; family, friends, political parties, the Bible) to denounce the self expressed views of others, including other groups. I simply say, thank God for free speech. Second, if you are going to reference something with authority (the Bible, in this case) know of what you speak!

bethany said...

dp, you are welcome to disagree with me, that's what dialogue is for, but please state your position more clearly. are you criticizing my knowledge of the bible? Challenge my interpretation all you want, but please do not make a sweeping claim that I don't know what I'm talking about!