All people have the right to freedom

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July 15, 2007

 

In July we celebrate the birth of our country. Freedom is one of our most sacred values. Unfortunately not all have freedom in this “land of the free and the home of the brave”. 

Not many years ago interracial marriage was illegal in many states. It was locked into prejudicial religious beliefs based on the Bible. Fortunately that has legally changed.

            The enslavement of people mostly from Africa and black in color was not only legal but considered to be in keeping with the Bible. Three Amendments to the US Constitution changed this legally, but the struggle for equality and freedom still continues 142 years later.

There is another group of people who comprises up to ten percent of the  total population but are largely invisible. They are fellow students, co-workers, neighbors and church attendees. They are engineers, chemists, teachers, doctors, nurses and laborers.  They are next to us and there is no way we would know it.  They have no apparent characteristics like skin color. Their only distinction is that they are attracted to members of the same gender. They are the gays and lesbians in our midst.

            When flipping channels one night I found a program on which a panel of people spoke to various aspects of issues surrounding  their lives. The panel consisted of white and black men and  women with various professional responsibilities and religious affiliations. They were gays and lesbians speaking  about issues affecting them.

            “Gay pride”,  and “gay rights” are slogans that elicit strong emotion in the hearers. It is difficult to approach issues when there is so much emotion. From my observation these assumptions are based on a stereotypical understanding of gay men and lesbians.  For whatever reasons homophobia is strong in this country and time.

The men and women on that TV program experience something that is common to all men and women. That is love.  They love people of the same gender and want to have the freedom to be public about that. The cultural, religious  and societal taboos against their freedom to love will change very slowly.

An email about US House Bill 1592 was the catalyst that led me to write about this subject today. The email was originally from the American Family Association (AFA). The email said, House bill H.R. 1592 and Senate bill S. 1105 would make negative statements concerning homosexuality, such as calling the practice of homosexuality a sin from the pulpit, a “hate crime” punishable by law.”

            I found the bill on line and read it. I could find nothing in it that even came close to this claim. Urban Legends supports my understanding. Another website said this. "H.R. 1592 prohibits willfully causing or attempting to cause bodily injury to any person based upon the victim's race, color, religion, or national origin, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability.” (http://annavenger.blogspot.com/2007/05/more-equal.html

This bill adds sexual orientation and gender identity to the list of reasons for including a crime as a hate crime. It would also provide funds for local governments to prosecute “hate crimes” if the local government applies for such funds and qualifies. The President has said he would veto this bill because there is no reason to federalize these  crimes. That argument is reasonable and honest, whether one agrees with it or not.

            The argument by the AFA is not reasonable or defensible. It fuels the widespread homophobia I already mentioned.   I would like to know how preaching from a pulpit could possibly be considered an act of violence. Is AFA afraid that their preaching against homosexuality might lead to violence and the preacher would be held accountable? If so, then that preacher should be held accountable. If not, then the preacher has nothing to fear from this bill. If AFA wants to support preachers like the Rev. Fred Phelps who told the family of Matthew Shepard at his funeral that Matthew was rotting in hell for his homosexuality then the AFA is dead wrong.  There is no defense of this kind of preaching. It is against the Christian commandment to love our neighbor. I don’t recall any exceptions to that mandate.  Violence is never a part of love.

Whether you support or oppose gay rights it is important to examine assumptions about gays and lesbians. Homophobia is rampant and must be curtailed to prevent violence. 

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