Democrats, fair-minded Republicans see through conservative religious leaders’ agenda, pass Matthew Shepard hate crimes legislation
It got pretty ugly in the last few days before the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Matthew Shepard Act, also known at the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act. Following the Human Rights Campaign’s “Clergy Call for Justice and Equality,” which brought 220 clergy from all 50 states and the District of Columbia to our nation’s capital to lobby for the bill, as well as for the Employment Non-Discrimina-tion Act, the radical Christian right really pumped up their lies and vitriol.
There’s something horribly wrong when the language of faith is based on lies and deception. Despite the fact that strong First Amendment protections were written into the hate crimes bill, and the bill clearly only covers violent acts, the radical Christian right insisted on calling it the “Thought Crimes Bill.”
Their contention is that they wouldn’t be able to practice their particular brand of hate-filled Christianity if the bill is passed by both houses and signed into law.
James Dobson of Focus on the Family wrote to his membership, “There’s a vote coming up on some insidious legislation in the United States Congress that could silence and punish Christians for their moral beliefs. That means that as a Christian if you read the Bible a certain way with regard to morality you may be guilty of committing a “‘thought crime.'”
“Most Christians might as well rip the pages which condemn homosexuality right out of their Bibles, because this bill will make it illegal to publicly express the dictates of their religious beliefs,” said Andrea Lafferty, executive director of the Traditional Values Coalition.
Dobson, Lafferty, and their friends are lying. They are bearing false witness. They are the ones ripping pages from the Bible in order to disregard the verses that admonish all of us for being deceitful.
Among the many verses that tell us not to lie is Leviticus 19:11: “You shall not steal, neither deal falsely, neither lie one to another.” All the Christian right ever does is steal our rights, deal falsely with our lives, and lie to garner political power. Proverbs 26:28 says: “A lying tongue hates those that are afflicted by it.” How true those who lie about us really do hate us, otherwise, why bother?
This time their tactics did not work.
Out Wisconsin Congress-woman Tammy Baldwin credited HRC’s clergy action with helping pass the bill. “I have heard from my colleagues how pleased they are to have the support of their local religious communities as they voted in support of the Hate Crimes Prevention bill,” she said in a statement released on May 3.
She also took on the lies.
“I am very proud of my Democratic colleagues and fair-minded Republicans who voted in support of the bill, seeing through the misinformation and outright deception by the radical right to derail the bill. Anyone who has read the bill must realize that it was carefully crafted to protect an individual’s First Amendment right to speech, expression, and association.”
The bill still has to pass the Senate, which it is expected to do, and then will land on W’s desk. The right is pushing for a veto, which Bush’s senior staff said is the action they will recommend.
It’s not surprising that the Big Liar would buy into the big lie. But the rest of the country doesn’t have to.
Faith in America, a nondenominational group, is launching a five-city “Call to Courage” campaign to educate Americans about what it calls the misuse of religious teachings to discriminate and isolate us. The campaign was kicked off in Ames, Iowa, on May 6, and will be visible in Reno, Nev., Greenville, S.C., Manchester, N.H., and Colorado Springs, Colo.
It will feature billboards and paid ads educating the public on the historical precedents of religion-based bigotry and on today’s struggle for full equality for LGBT people. You can view the ads at their website, www.faithinamerica.com. My favorite has a cross comprised of pictures of LGBT people. The copy is simple: “Do you know someone who is homosexual? Would you give your life for that person? Christ did.”
The ad’s message is simple and powerful. The truth will set us all free from the religion-based bigotry that has dogged us most of our days.
And maybe, just maybe, we’ll be able to up the score love and compassion: 2; hate and deceit: 0.
Libby Post is the founding chair of the Empire State Pride Agenda and a political commentator on public radio, on the Web, and in print.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition, April 27, 2007.