Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Bringin' On The Hate

Tim Rutten nailed it again, and his timing is perfect. While the Defense Department, administration, and Congress continue to dither over "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," Mr. Rutten came to the defense of the Southern Poverty Law Center, and, by extension, to the gay and lesbian community.

Last week, the law center added the Family Research Council to its list of more than 930 active hate groups, citing the anti-gay rhetoric of its leaders and researchers, which have included calls to re-criminalize consensual sex between individuals of the same gender. The Southern Poverty Law Center defines a hate group as one with "beliefs or practices that attack or malign an entire class of people, typically for their immutable characteristics."

The Family Research Council, which is essentially an extension of the Religious Reich and one of the more influential conservative groups in Washington, was infuriated by the inclusion on that list. Howls of protest about the attack on "protected speech" emanated from the group and its supporters. Yet this group has been doing more than just talking or preaching in church, as Rutten points out in graphic detail.

...Over the years, it has published statistical compendiums purporting to quantify the "evils" of homosexuality. One of its pamphlets is entitled, "Dark Obsession: The Tragedy and Threat of the Homosexual Lifestyle." At various times, its spokesmen have spuriously alleged that the gay rights movement's goal "is to go after children" and that child molestation is more likely to occur in households with gay parents. Last week, one of its senior fellows, Peter Sprigg, told reporters on a conference call concerning repeal of the "don't ask, don't tell" policy that "homosexuals in the military are three times more likely to commit sexual assaults than heterosexuals are relative to their numbers."

In other words, this powerful lobbying group has been trying to affect public policy by their religious beliefs and shabby "scholarship." By targeting homosexuals in this fashion, the group deserves to be on the list, even if the group is essentially a church based organization.

Rutten concludes, and rightly so, that while the group is entitled to its religious beliefs, it is not entitled to impose those beliefs on the rest of us by government action:

So long as even the most objectionable religious dogma stays under the church roof, it's a constitutionally protected view. People's religious beliefs — even when noxious — are a private matter. Our churches are free to order their internal affairs as they will — to set the terms of sacramental marriage as they see fit, to discriminate in the selection of their clergy, to racially segregate their membership or to separate the sexes in their schools or places of worship.

However, when a group sets out to impose its views on the rest of society by lobbying for public policies or laws, it can no longer claim special protections or an exemption from the norms of civil discourse simply because its views are formed by religious beliefs. This is precisely the dodge the Family Research Council has been running.

Beautifully stated, Mr. Rutten.

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