What constitutes “hate speech”?
A large number of religious leaders opposed the recently-enacted Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Law because they said it would make it a criminal offense for them to preach in their churches that homosexuality is a sin. But is that hate speech, or a reasonable expression of religious beliefs?
I don’t think the new law encroaches on anyone’s ability to preach that kind of sermon. I don’t think it’s hate speech, although I know plenty of people disagree with me on that. Many, many people do believe that homosexuality is a sin, and surely they have the right to express that belief.
But if a preacher stands in his or her pulpit on a Sunday morning and tells the congregation that God says homosexuals should be put to death and then encourages the members of that congregation to carry out God’s word — is that hate speech? Is that constitutionally protected?
Would your opinion of whether or not someone expressing their religious views constituted “hate speech” change if the person were an Imam in an Islamic extremist sect saying that the Koran teaches that the U.S. is “the great Satan” and that Allah decrees Americans should be killed, and then encouraging his followers to stage attacks to carry out Allah’s decree?
Where do we draw the line? Do we draw a line at all? Should people be able to say whatever they want just because they believe a religious text tells them to? How do we decide what is “valid” religious text? Is the Bible more valid than the Koran or the Book of Mormon or the teachings of Buddha?
Tell me what you think.