07 July 2008

Hate Kills

Focus on the Family, the Colorado Springs group opposed to human rights in the name of God, is busy stirring up hate in connection with its opposition to Colorado's SB 200, passed earlier this year and signed by Governor Ritter. The bill is this session's anti-discrimination bill, sponsored by my state senator, Jennifer Veiga. The law primarily extends the state's anti-discrimination protections to discrimination based upon sexual orientation. This includes protections from discrimination aimed at transgendered people.

Focus on the Family is aiming its P.R. campaign against the law at the straw man threat of transgender pedophiles in school bathrooms. This misstates the law that was passed, and conjures up a non-existent threat.

The threat is easy enough to conjure up. Even many people who strongly support gay rights don't really understand what being transgendered means in real life. And, straw men are less obvious in the absence of knowledge. I am not an expert on transgender issues, but I know far more than I did a few years ago. This knowledge has focused my views on the importance of these kinds of anti-discrimination protections.

Lies and deception are nothing new in politics. They are practically the stock in trade of religious right politics. But, this kind of hysteria isn't harmless, and it doesn't just lead to bad policy. This hate mongering also encourages crimes that kill real people.

No, I am not suggesting that anyone hold Focus on the Family liable for civil damages or criminal liability for stirring up hate in their political messages. I also oppose the criminalization of politics. In fact, the best long term P.R. response in my opinion is to find ways for people to understand what being transgendered means at a person, human emotional level.

But Focus on the Family, and the religious tradition from which it springs, should be held morally responsible for the havoc that they wreck on innocent people who didn't ask to be persecuted by them and did nothing to hurt them. This religious tradition's organizations are a despicable font of immoral inhumanity. Their ideologies help make our children stupid and our scientific establishment weak by undermining support for science, drive politicians to undermine our national security with appalling violent anti-Muslim taunts, and corrupt our criminal justice system by supporting a drug war that long ago proved itself a failure. They are a primary reason why the United States lags internationally when it comes to human rights.

Their followers serve as a stark counter-example to those who would like to believe that people are basically morally good. Most Christian denominations espouse the theology that every member of mankind is tainted Adam's original sin, which must be redeemed through faith in Jesus Christ. But most other Christian denominations don't build their business model on maximizing the expression of the original sin present in every person to the greatest extent possible for profit and political gain.

The failure of other Christians traditions to decisively call out organizations like Focus on the Family as diametrically opposed to their Christian message also discredits all Christian claims to moral high ground. There was a time when "being Christian" was synomous with being good. These days, in no small part due to the religious movement that Focus on the Family is a part of, "being Christian" is often a code word for being proud of being hateful, intolerant and ignorant. Is it any wonder that the ranks of the non-religious are growing like crazy in this country? Christians in this country who don't come from hateful religious traditions are harming themselves with their silence.

One appropriate response to the religious tradition that produced Focus on the Family is to undermine and discredit this ideology's claim to being Christian or moral, gently, but authoritatively. Barack Obama has had the courage to do so. But too many others have failed to join him in what should be a bipartisan condemnation.

3 comments:

Michael Malak said...

It would be helpful if you could provide a legal analysis as to why you feel SB200 does not apply to pedophiles self-identifying as transgendered and entering single-sex bathrooms.

After a quick read of SB200 just now, that wasn't the first issue that jumped out at me, but the following did:

24-34-502 regarding rentals does not seem to make the same crucial distinction of shared living spaces that the federal Fair Housing Act does. Under the federal Fair Housing Act, if you share a living space (e.g. the same kitchen), then you can advertise for a housemate of a particular gender. I.e. SB200 seems to outlaw Craigslist adds for women looking for women housemates.

What I didn't see in this bill that has been discussed on hate radio was whether Christian bookstores were prohibited from refusing to hire homosexuals, as is the case in California. When it comes to employment SB200 seems to be concerned only with government agencies.

Pam Bennett said...

Employment Non-Discrimination Act 2007 covers employment in the workplace.

Andrew Oh-Willeke said...

Michael,

In a nutshell --

The basic issue with the bathroom is that there are very few transgendered people in the state (500 to 10,000 by best estimates, with about three-quarters male, spanning all ages, of whom relatively few at any given time are in school bathrooms, mostly parents, teachers and students, with teachers having had background checks as well and students almost by definition not being pedophiles), that bona fide transgendered people are quite easily distinguishable in practice from posers such as pedophiles (if your have male sex organs and are interested sexually in girls the case that you have a bona fide self-identification as transgendered is weak on the facts almost definitionally), and if you have prior convictions then you are very likely subject to lifetime sex offenders parole which imposes conditions on your conduct that override anti-discrimination laws. Bona fide transgendered or homosexual people are no more likely to be sex offenders than heterosexuals.