Fear the Fundies

I don’t have to be tolerant of your intolerance. The LA Times reports on a growing trend for conservative fundamentalists (I refuse to call them “Christians”) to sue in order to claim their “right” to call gays sinners. Or, as the paper puts it,

With her lawsuit, the 22-year-old student joins a growing campaign to force public schools, state colleges and private workplaces to eliminate policies protecting gays and lesbians from harassment. The religious right aims to overturn a broad range of common tolerance programs: diversity training that promotes acceptance of gays and lesbians, speech codes that ban harsh words against homosexuality, anti-discrimination policies that require college clubs to open their membership to all. The Rev. Rick Scarborough, a leading evangelical, frames the movement as the civil rights struggle of the 21st century. “Christians,” he said, “are going to have to take a stand for the right to be Christian.”

If Scarborough wants to know what it’s like to be persecuted, he ought to do as my cousins did. They put their faith on the line by going to teach English and witness in China, where if their mission was found out, they could have been expelled from the country. She, by the way, almost died over there due to catching a nasty virus while in a rural village.

Claiming that Christians are under attack in America is simply ludicrous. If these losers want to preach hate against gays, then they have every right to do so — but the rest of us don’t have to put up with it.

By equating homosexuality with race, [fundamentalist activist] Baylor said, tolerance policies put conservative evangelicals in the same category as racists. He predicts the government will one day revoke the tax-exempt status of churches that preach homosexuality is sinful or that refuse to hire gays and lesbians. “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.”

Yes, if you’re a bigot, we’re going to lump you with other bigots. That’s what free speech is all about — you get to be known by your words, and we get to say what you really are.

16 Responses to “Fear the Fundies”

  1. Dirk Deppey Says:

    I hate to say it, but I’m with the fundies on this one. What’s bad for the goose is bad for the gander, too. Laws that restrict what fundamentalists can and cannot say will eventually wind up justifying what other people can and cannot say ten years later, just as soon as the political winds shift a bit.

    Look at it this way: Fifty years ago, the first gay-rights magazine published in the United States (One, the newsletter of the Mattachine Society) had to sue the U.S. Post Office over its right to use the postal system despite containing an obscene word. That word was “homosexual.” As repulsive as I find his message, I sincerely hope that the Rev. Rick Scarborough wins his lawsuit.

  2. Michael Denton Says:

    Dirk, free speech is NOT what these people are fighting for – these people are actually attacking the free speech of others in disguise. This isn’t about their right to say homosexuality is a sin – they have the right to say that as much as they want – but, rather, this is a movement to eliminate programs and policies that support gay and lesbian equal rights. Fundamentalists claim that programs that exclude them because of their viewpoints are somehow violating their first amendment rights. However, if a company, organization, or college wants to say that speech isn’t welcome, they are perfectly within legal and ethical bounds to do so. First Amendment rights don’t guarantee that, when you do spew your repulsive hate speech, you won’t be excluded in certain venues.

    Fundamentalists are launching attacks on a myriad of laws, social programs, and public and private efforts to provide some basic rights (and I’m talking about housing discrimination, medical benefits for partners, the right to refuse treatment by doctors and other basic needs type of rights) and claiming that the mere existance of such things violates their Christian and free speech rights. Even Jerry Faldwell believes that basic human needs shouldn’t be denied gays and lesbians, yet many of these zealots persue these ends.

    It’s not uncommon for the people in power and/or in the dominant social position to claim they are under attack when a subordinate group begins sharing in some of that power. It’s happened with whites and blacks (and now Hispanics); it’s happened with men and women (and continues to); and now it happens with “straight” fundamentalists and gays. It’s a diversionary tactic less people realize that, hey, how can a group with so much power and influence be threatened? Yet people in power are always reluctant to give up any degree of that power.

    Yes, bigots have every right to speak their bigoted views. They don’t have the right to force that viewpoint on others, which is exactly what these lawsuits are about.

  3. Dirk Deppey Says:

    I don’t see anything here about overturning access to domestic-partnership rights or throwing homos like me in jail. Everything listed in the above excerpt involves either the policing of other people’s attitudes and thoughts (mandatory diversity training), freedom of speech (speech codes and so-called “hate speech”) or freedom of association (for example, the right of Catholic groups to exclude gays or pro-abortion members). I don’t feel I should have the right to force other people to think the way I want them to think, keep them from voicing opinions I dislike or forcing them to include me in their private clubs.

    As someone who values freedom for everyone, not just those who look, think or live like myself, I think that the Cristian groups mentioned above are absolutely right to find such legal restrictions onerous and objectionable. They should have the same rights that I have, and I claim a hell of a lot of leeway in deciding my own conduct. They should be allowed the same.

  4. David Oakes Says:

    If all of these things were happening in a vaccum, or entirely in the public sphere, then you would be right, Mr. Deppy. Indoctrination, segregation, and banning of speech are never right.

    But Diversity Training is just that, training. No different from telling you the proper way to run the deep frying or informing you as to the company dress code. If you do not wish to follow your employer’s rules, you do not have to. But neither are they obliged to give you a job. (And of course this is not a matter of *being*, but of acting. You can’t be fired for being Christian. You can be fired for telling every Black customer that comes in that they are going to Hell. You can’t be fired for being Gay. You can be fired for hitting on your coworkers even after they have told you they aren’t interested. Which, oddly enough, goes for Straight employees as well. Or employees that call every White customer “Honkey” and “Massah”, regardless of their personal ethnic background.)

    Religious groups – specifically because they cannot be funded by the government, “Seperation of Church and State” and all that – do have the right to exclude whomever they want. If they want to build a country club using only private funds, they can throw out the Niggers and the Kikes as well as the Fags, more power to ‘em. But we are not talking about a private club (saddly too many churches are) but rather a public one. Nearly all college clubs receive money from the school. And they are granted the use of college facilities as well. But the quid pro quo there is that they have to allow any member of the college to participate. College money, college rules. If I rented out the basement to the local Church, I would have to accept the fact that they will not allow me to hold a homosexual orgy. Their basement, their rules.

    Banning hate speech… aye, there’s the rub. The common refrain is that “Hate speech is not protected speech”. But unpopular speech is, and should be protected to the highest degree. And by it’s very definition, hate speech is something that nearly everyone dislikes. (In concept if not in specific practice.) And it’s not like banning hate speech bans hate, any more than saying “No” gets rid of the drug problem or never talking about sex eliminates teen pregnancy. It simply goes underground, starts holding midnight meetings, and wearing bed sheets over it’s head. I for one would rather these people remain out in the sanitizing light of day, myself.

    The argument goes that hate speech is inflamitory, and therefore a matter of public safety. But my calling you a “Stupid Moron” is also inflamitory, and yet protected. If you are going to riot because someone called you a “Kike”, or because some campus paper published a cartoon of Jesus engaged in Gay sex, well, that’s your problem. The fact that most hate speech rises from mere baiting to calls for action, or duplicitous phrases like “Suffer not a Witch to live” where the speaker tries to have their hate and eat it too, should not criminalize hate speech as a whole. If I say “Anyone who liked IC #6 is a Stupid Moron”, that’s my opinion, and you have to let me say it. (You don’t have to let me borrow the Auditorium to say it, you don’t have to listen, but you do have to let me say it.) If I say “And we should burn down the stores that sell this filth!”, *that* is incite to riot, *that* is yelling “Fire!” in a crowded theatre, and that is a criminal offense that needs to be dealt with.

    Actions, not words, not beliefs. You can *be* a bigot all you want. But you can’t ask anyone to be a bigot for you, any more than you can ask them to be Black or be Gay. (The opposite of Gay isn’t “Straight”. It’s “We don’t talk about sex in the workplace, thank you very much. Do you want fries with that?”)

  5. ~chris Says:

    The key, that is rarely discussed, is that public schools are government schools, and are therefore subject to government rules. Government is not allowed to censor (refer to the 1st Amendment); private individuals & groups are. If you want public schools, you must allow all non libel/slander/immediate-danger speech there, no matter how offensive. Speech codes are unacceptable in a public school; diversity training is fine (though we should be wary about what government teaches as “correct”), as long as open discussion is allowed and you don’t get an F just for disagreeing. The way to fight free speech you don’t like is with more free speech.

    My solution, which is rather unpopular I know, is that eventually all schools should be private. First, stop wasteful government programs such as unnecessary wars, corporate welfare, etc., and cut taxes or provide education tax deductions so that more people will be able to choose private schools (which are less wasteful than public). The freer we are to choose from schools based on our preferences, not what George W. Bush or any other politician wants to impose on everyone, the better. Sure it’s nice when those in power teach things we agree are good (such as acceptance of gays and lesbians), but what if they teach things we don’t like? Kansas comes to mind.

  6. ~chris Says:

    “Yes, if you’re a bigot, we’re going to lump you with other bigots. That’s what free speech is all about — you get to be known by your words, and we get to say what you really are.”

    Now that’s what I’m talking about! Fight free speech with free speech! :-)

    P.S. Thanks Johanna for allowing opposing views, even though you, as an individual, have the right not to. You opened a can of worms on this one!

  7. Lyle Says:

    Fundamentalists have used “free speech” to couch their desire to descriminate in the past. When I lived in Hawai’i there was controversey over a school board resolution that, essentially, said that bullying is not okay (and neither is overlooking incidents of bullying) regardless of the percieved sexual orientation of the victim (along with other groups, though the controversey was about sexual orientation). I remember screaming at the TV because opponents were allowed to talk about not wanting the school board to “encourage homosexuality” or “being allowed to speak out” but no reporters dared to ask if they felt that school violence was okay if the victim was a kid that seemed gay.

    (Then again maybe I was the only one who actually read the measure [a key excerpt, honestly] and realized that the motion essentially said “Student-on-student violence is not tolerated, regardless of the rationale of the offender.”)

    I’ve certainly seen fundamentalist activists claim that policies against discrimination are stifling their “free speech” and this activist hasn’t made a case otherwise.

    There are limits in place to free speech in the workplace and it all comes down to finding that point when the speech is disruptive to operatons that an exception to Free Speech is acceptable.

    David puts it very well:

    (And of course this is not a matter of *being*, but of acting. You can’t be fired for being Christian. You can be fired for telling every Black customer that comes in that they are going to Hell. You can’t be fired for being Gay. You can be fired for hitting on your coworkers even after they have told you they aren’t interested. Which, oddly enough, goes for Straight employees as well. Or employees that call every White customer “Honkey” and “Massah”, regardless of their personal ethnic background.)

    I’m curious to what this woman means by “speaking out” against homosexuality. Does she intend to remind LGBT co-workers that she thinks they’re going to hell? If someone asks a gay co-worker about the dinner date (s)he was getting ready for in her presence, does she feel the need to tell them how sinful it was for going on that date?

    Aside from arguing school policies (which would mean advocating discrimination in the instances I can think of), I’m not sure where this woman could “speak out” against homosexuality in a way that doesn’t come down to wanting to behave rudely to others without consequence.

  8. ~chris Says:

    I’m not sure where this woman could “speak out” against homosexuality in a way that doesn’t come down to wanting to behave rudely to others without consequence.

    She could stand or set up a booth in a designated area. Or picket in a public area. Same non-harassment rules apply to her as to everyone else. One can be wrong without being rude.

  9. Lyle Says:

    Good point, Chris, I had forgotten about extracuricular activities. I would expect her speech would be held to the same standards as any other demonstrator.

  10. Ed Sizemore Says:

    Okay, let me, as a fundamentalist Christian, give my take on this. First, as far as college student organizations go, they receive funds not from the State, but from activity fees collected from the students. I have a hard seeing why a group like Campus Crusade or InterVarsity should not be allowed to speak openly and freely about their beliefs regarding homosexuality. Most, if not all, colleges now have a gay and lesbian student group there to give the opposing point of view. The interchange of ideas between the two groups seem to be exactly what college is about. Now I do expect both sides of the debate to be civil and courteous in expressing their ideas. This means no “The only good queer is a dead queer” or “Christianity equals hate” t-shirts or placards. Feelings are going to get hurt when these two groups talk. You can’t have a purely rational discussion about something as personal as sexuality. You can have a respectful dialogue to help each understand and appreciate the other, even if they never agree with each other.

    Second, I have attended a business diversity training session. It’s hard not to conclude that whoever writes such training believes that homosexuality is an undisputed fact of life equivalent to race or gender. (Or at least the training I went to was written that way.) I think what fellow fundamentalist Christians are upset about is that they feel such training seems to imply that they must accept and be supportive of homosexuality. They say if such training implies this acceptance, then it is a violation of their religious convictions. Now we can debate whether attending diversity training means acceptance of homosexuality. I don’t think simply attending diversity training makes me a gay activist. I do think I have the right to voice disagreement with my company’s policy regarding the whether or not homosexuality should be a specifically protected classification. If the company says it won’t change its policy, then I have to decide about staying with my current employer. An interesting question, is how do you know someone is gay in a business setting. Maybe I’m the odd man out, but I don’t make inquiries into the sex lives or sexual preferences of co-workers. If is inappropriate for me to make negative remarks about your homosexuality, it should be inappropriate for you to be discussing your sexual preference in a work environment.

    In the end, I try very hard to treat everyone with respect and dignity. I don’t have to agree with any aspect of your lifestyle choices to afford you common courtesy. But I do expect the right to comment either in favor or against your lifestyle decisions if you are allowed the right to make declarations about your lifestyle. If you have the right to make a public statement, I have the right to a public rebuttal.

  11. Johanna Says:

    Memo to self: make sure have time to read and respond to comments before posting potentially inflammatory content.

    Thank you all for your thoughtful input. I want to start by clarifying one thing: free speech applies to EVERYONE, including bigots. However, free speech doesn’t mean that you have the right to have everything your way or that you are protected from the results of your speech. You don’t get to talk without consequence, in other words. (Free speech also may not apply when you’re advocating harm to others.)

    What made me upset about that article was that the fundamentalists didn’t seem to be claiming the right to speak what they want. Instead, they wanted the right to special treatment. If you attend a university or agree to work at a company, you play by their rules, and if their rules include attending diversity training, for example, then you do it. If you don’t like it, go elsewhere.

    The rules within such a community include not harrassing your fellow members. Just as you have the right to post girly pics at home but not at the office, you have the right to spout hateful beliefs at home but not in an unrelated class.

    Even beyond the question of rights, there are the matters of responsibility and tact. Just because you can say something doesn’t mean you should.

    Now, on to reading the comments.

  12. Johanna Says:

    The question of speech codes at school is a tricky one and much bigger than I want to get into here, and most of my other points are already represented in the comments.

    Ed, I very much appreciate your participation. I have a question for you, though, which you should feel free not to answer if you wish: if a church was preaching that black skin was a sign of sin and God’s displeasure, should that religious group also be allowed to meet on school property and receive student fee support?

    I agree with your comment about desiring a respectful dialogue. Unfortunately, I’m not sure that can happen when one side doesn’t respect the other’s right to exist.

    I think attending diversity training can be a good exercise in keeping one’s mouth shut to complete a company requirement. I’ve attended training sessions where I vehemently disagreed with the company’s policies on other matters, and it’s part of keeping the job.

    I don’t make inquiries about my coworkers, either, but if you’re sensitive to it, every day someone mentions their opposite-sex spouse or otherwise demonstrates their heterosexuality. I know gay co-workers who are very sensitive about what they can and can’t say about their weekend or after work lives (in similar, innocuous ways, like “my partner and I went boating”), and I would rather they didn’t have that added level of pressure and separation from the rest of the community. Sometimes what makes a public statement just isn’t that simple.

  13. Ed Sizemore Says:

    Johanna, If a racist church, or the KKK, can get a student organization formed and running, then they have the right to receive money from the student activity fees. This is why I’m a big advocate for allowing students to designate which groups receive their activity fees. Racism from the pulpit breaks my heart, but those people have a right to college access just like any other group.

    I guess there is still some optimism left in me. I believe in letting anyone and everyone into the public debate. My hope is that unfounded and hate-filled ideas will come to a natural death in the light of discourse. I also hope that even when there are irreconcilable differences among ideas that mutual respect can be learned and practiced. For example, you and I are probably going to be on the opposite side of the homosexuality debate for the rest of our lives. However, I have a lot of respect for you as a person and thinker. I like hearing what you have to say even when I disagree with you. You speak with sincerity, passion and eloquence. At the end of the day, I have to plow through so much BS in this world that I welcome an honest opinion and find delight when someone speaks with conviction.

  14. Lyle Says:

    Taking another look at the article, the part that’s stands out and irks me (also found in the portion quoted above) is that the campaign is against anti-harassment rules. If they want to open a dialogue about the definition of harassment, claiming that it stifles free speech, that’s one thing, but as its being reported in the LAT the fight is for the ability to discriminate and use language considered inflammatory.

    So I’m back to my example about bullying. It still looks to me like Free Speech is being used to muddy the issue.

    Semi-related vent:

    He asserts that antidiscrimination policies regarding homosexuality are different because they protect people based on conduct.

    Conduct is a pretty slippery word to use because you can legally ban someone for their conduct, even gays. Besides, they’re not judging gays based on their behavior because a promiscuous, drug-using heterosexual gets more a chance to demonstrate the content of their character than a celibate, mild-mannered gay person.

  15. Comics Worth Reading Says:

    […] Why am I bringing all of this up? Because Alan did, in a response to my post against religious intolerance. He makes the point that, surprise, we all grow up and learn more shades of grey. (A lesson reinforced when I read some of those threads from 2000 I linked to above. I miss “hanging out” online with lots of those people, but all of us said stupid things at one point, a feeling I will probably have about this type of post after another six years passes.) Back then, I objected to seeing all Christians lumped into one group; now, I object to the people who proudly claim the name without living the actions and use their creed to bludgeon others. […]

  16. Brian J. Says:

    This is from yesterday’s Reuters — of course, it applies to public grade schools. I especially appreciate Reinhardt’s dismissal of Judge Kozinski’s dissenting opinion.

    San Diego Appeals Court: Schools can ban hurtful T-shirt slogans

    Thu Apr 20, 7:08 PM ET

    Public schools can bar clothing with slogans that are hurtful, a U.S.
    appeals court ruled on Thursday in the case of a student who wore a
    T-shirtsaying “Homosexuality is shameful.”

    The 2-1 decision by a three-judge panel of the U.S. 9th Circuit Court
    of Appeals backed a San Diego-area high school’s argument that it
    was entitled to tell a student to remove a T-shirt with that message.

    The officials were concerned the slogan could raise tension at the
    school, where there had been conflict between gay and straight

    The student sued, claiming the school’s dress code violated his free
    speech, religious freedom and due process rights.

    Writing for the panel’s majority, Judge Stephen Reinhardt affirmed a
    lower court’s decision against an injunction against the school and
    said schools may bar slogans believed to be hurtful.

    Students “who may be injured by verbal assaults on the basis of a
    core identifying characteristic such as race, religion, or sexual
    orientation, have a right to be free from such attacks while on school
    campuses,” Reinhardt wrote.

    “The demeaning of young gay and lesbian students in a school
    environment is detrimental not only to their psychological health and
    well-being, but also to their educational development,” Reinhardt

    In his dissent, Judge Alex Kozinski said the majority would gag
    campus dissent to Poway High School’s policies.

    “The types of speech that could be banned by the school authorities
    under the Poway High School hate policy are practically without limit.
    Any speech code that has at its heart avoiding offense to others
    gives anyone with a thin skin a heckler’s veto – something the
    Supreme Court has not approved in the past,” Kozinski wrote.

    Reinhardt rejected this argument.

    “Perhaps our dissenting colleague believes that one can condemn
    homosexuality without condemning homosexuals. If so, he is wrong.
    To say that homosexuality is shameful is to say, necessarily, that
    gays and lesbians are shameful,” Reinhardt.

    “There are numerous locations and opportunities available to those
    who wish to advance such an argument. It is not necessary to do so
    by directly condemning, to their faces, young students trying to
    obtain a fair and full education in our public schools,” Reinhardt




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