Thursday, May 03, 2007

Hate crimes laws

I see that Gary Bauer has been rallying the usual forces to oppose the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act (HR 1592), which establishes "sexual orientation" as a specially protected status. The bill passed the House today with bi-partisan support according to a Log Cabin Republican News Release. Interestingly, twenty-five Republicans voted in its favor.

The fear among conservative Christians is that hate crimes laws will lead to hate speech laws, and pastors will no longer be able to preach from the Bible against homosexuality. I'm not entirely unsympathetic. I have some concerns about what might happen to free speech down the road. Furthermore, I'm not completely comfortable with the idea of prosecuting people on the basis of conjectures about their possible motives. You just can't know the human heart.

That said, it is a pretty horrendous testimony to the outside world for Christians to be rallying for the exclusion of gay and lesbian people from the protection of such laws.

Listen. It is bad enough that conservative Christians give gay people the impression that we hate them. Although as a Christian you may insist that you really do "love the sinner," the fact remains that we collectively give off the vibe, the feeling, the impression of hatred. That is not a good testimony.

Furthermore, this feeling of being hated and excluded by the religious community (which many gays will tell you is not merely a feeling, but a fact based on personal experience) is a big reason why the gay community is seeking inclusion in the aforementioned Hate Crimes Prevention Act.

Now the most logical and, uh, Christian response to such a situation would be for conservative churches to rally together in an effort to assure gays that we really do condemn violence against them. We could reiterate our clumsily-expressed love for them, and as usual proclaim our utter shock and amazement that they would interpret our religious rhetoric as being an expression of hatred towards them.

But instead what do we do? We respond by opposing the inclusion of gays and lesbians from laws that would give them a much-needed sense of physical protection whenever they walk the streets, hold hands, or give a goodbye hug in public. Remember, this is protection they are seeking largely because of hostility they sense from us. You may say that this fear is completely unfounded. But by opposing their inclusion in this protection, conservative Christians send the implicit message that we are in favor of physical assaults on gay people, and are willing to do whatever it takes to make sure they have as little legal recourse as possible.

Now if you are a Christian, are you still going to tell me that gay people are just paranoid, prejudiced and deluded when they claim the conservative church hates them? There are words and there are actions. Both speak. Which of the two do you think the gay community hears most loudly?