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I'm not interested today in unleashing yet another onslaught of name-calling and who-can-outslander-whom. We see plenty of that destructive behavior swirling around us.

But the way I see it in this grossly politicized, increasingly divided country we've allowed to manifest, the following issue raises a question that must be asked and answered in a reasonable way for the sake of society's very fabric.

I've reached the point where I wish some rational person could explain what constitutes authentic "hate speech" in America today, especially as it relates to our constitutional freedom of speech and religion.

Aggressive efforts at social engineering by our government and secular groups over the past decade have sought to categorize what we choose to say to each other in terms of sacred biblical scriptures as also criminally fostering hate.

It doesn't appear to matter that the biblical admonitions haven't been considered criminally hateful in our Judeo-Christian society. I see considerable irony in these deepest roots of our heritage.

Yet some interest groups and their attorneys are pushing the envelope today. They'd like to make publicly expressing specific passages from Christianity's holiest book related primarily to homosexuality as legally hate-worthy. Yet, oddly enough, I don't hear similar screams about similar passages addressing the same subject published in, say, the Islamic Koran and the Jewish Torah. So what gives with singling out the Christians?

It's certainly no secret that while the gay lifestyle, up to and including same-sex marriage, has become more accepted by many groups across American society, those same people could be (and often are) tortured and murdered for being homosexual in Islamic countries. In other words, a cultural prejudice reflected in the most extreme criminal action.

I have to wonder, as do many others, where's the similar outcry over that kind of genuine, intense hatred expressed in those religious teachings?

A working definition says hate speech is "intended to insult, intimidate, or cause prejudice against a person or people based on their race, gender, age, sexual orientation, political affiliation, occupation, disability, or physical appearance."

That being the accepted definition, a practicing Christian wouldn't be participating in hate speech by simply quoting from controversial scriptures. The problem here, as I see it, lies not with a religion changing its stripes, but with the transforming definition of hate speech within some circles. Pushed largely by political posturings, the definition has been steadily broadening to the point where simply expressing how one's beliefs and actions appear to be mistaken or sinful based solely on historical biblical principles is hate speech.

We should all agree that approach to exercising such restraint over religion and free speech is as slippery as an already Criscoed slope can get.

For me, calling scripture hate speech clearly bleeds over into creating thought laws and into challenging the constitutional right to practice the tenets of whatever religion one chooses. I also see great danger in making it illegal to offend someone or hurt their feelings for the politicized sake of social engineering aimed at preventing or eliminating human preferences and biases.

Are we, by this undeniable push to culturally re-engineer our free society, in fact, verging on making it illegal to be Christians in the United States of America?

Yes, the Bible does contain specific passages that categorize homosexuality as religious sin. But in many instances, the list of those committing sins also includes idolaters, adulterers, slanderers, drunkards and all who are sexually immoral.

So it makes me wonder if designating such passages as criminal hate speech also gives equal legal standing to adulterers, slanderers and drunkards when they claim one who recites the relevant scripture publicly makes them genuine victims of hate speech. If the answer is no under such a revised standard of supposed criminal conduct (as opposed to simply chalking it up to hurt feelings or offensive speech), then why not? Where do you properly draw such a line when it comes to religion?

The same Bible, by the way, advises that all humans are created in God's image and instructs us not to call each other derogatory names. Should we take it those parsed passages can then be quoted without concern?

A number of nations, including our neighbors in Canada, continue to grapple with Christian commitment to biblical teachings as their right under religious freedom, as well as to speak their opinions freely, even though some see them as offensive.

I put the question of criminalizing passages from the Holy Bible to social media and got significant reaction. "Sounds un-American to me," said one. "I see it coming," added another, followed by: "Part of it is already considered hate speech," and "I see the day coming soon when they will come into the church and arrest the preacher for preaching God's word." Wow! Just look where we are in America today.

You likely have an opinion on the question of hate speech. Feel free to express it, my friends. The time to be heard most assuredly is now.


Mike Masterson's column appears regularly in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. Email him at

Editorial on 05/10/2015

Print Headline: Hate speech?


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Archived Comments

  • JakeTidmore
    May 10, 2015 at 7:01 a.m.

    After weeks and weeks of letters and blog entries on the subject, one finds that often derogatory terms are being used against homosexuals (evil, abomination, etc.) and that discrimination against them is being encouraged as well as defended.
    Is this not hate speech or do you want us to believe it is the message of love? Are we to speak out against jihadist who turn Islam into a message of hate and not stand against people who do the same with Christ's message of love? Or must we listen to them endlessly parse their scriptures for ways to support their bigotry?
    One of the comic strips had a great line in response to those who defend religious bigotry as "religious freedom": Don't spit on my cupcake and call it frosting.

    May 10, 2015 at 7:35 a.m.

    Bravo, Jake.

  • 23cal
    May 10, 2015 at 7:57 a.m.

    About "Yet, oddly enough, I don't hear similar screams about similar passages addressing the same subject published in, say, the Islamic Koran and the Jewish Torah. So what gives with singling out the Christians?"
    Why, that's EASY!
    We live in the USA. In the USA, Islam is followed by 0.9% of the population, compared to 78.3% who follow Christianity.
    Who would care about the tenets of such a religious minority with absolutely no power .instead of an overwhelmingly powerful one with an agenda? Connect the dots.
    If this concept is too difficult to grasp, let me spell it out with crayons to make it easier. Christians claim 44 presidents in a row (100%), a 98+% majority in both Houses of Congress, a 100% Judeo-Christian Supreme Court from its inception, every single governorship of every state in the country, and control of every single state legislative body in the country. Christians are virtually the only people who can get elected to political office. They claim this is a Christian nation and then want you to believe they are a persecuted minority.The United States is also a country whose culture is shaped by the mores and conventions of its overwhelmingly Christian majority. This culture makes it not only acceptable, but often popular and advantageous for Christians to be outspoken and public with their professions of faith. Not so with Islam.
    To even ask the question of why people in the USA would care about the book of less than 1% of its people instead of the book of virtually ALL of its lawmakers and the overwhelming majority of its population is just ridiculous.
    About ".....calling scripture hate speech...." I have never heard of any kind of movement to make scriptural quotes by themselves a legal form of hate speech. However, when used in COMBINATION with other statements and symbols, then yes.........and this is almost certainly what Masterson refers to but leaves out a crucial part in order to mislead.
    To hear the minions of the religious right tell it, they are being persecuted across the land, martyrs in a secular environment, victims of a government hostile to the word of God.
    There are now 1,648 "Christian" radio stations, an increase of 500 in the past five years--one in seven stations on the dial. Right-wing evangelism permeates television--faith healers, gospel music, partisan politics, talking in tongues, and old fashioned fire and brimstone. Sunday morning television and every day cable are rife with Christian channels and shows. American houses of worship are the single largest nonprofit enterprise in our society. Christians annually fund lobbyists to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars, while getting a pass on what would be $71 billion dollars a year in unpaid taxes.
    Christians aren’t being pushed anywhere. So many of them demand impunity for suppressing the rights of others by dressing it up as their right to do so and squealing intolerance when people suggest it's not.

  • cliffcarson
    May 10, 2015 at 8:38 a.m.

    And most of our Christian brethren have absolutely no clue what the other Religions that they espouse or trash really stand for.

    May 10, 2015 at 8:54 a.m.

    As soon as someone says "gay lifestyle," I know not to put any stock in whatever else he or she has to say.

  • WGT
    May 10, 2015 at 9:10 a.m.

    This article supports cherry picking parts of the bible to meet personal interpretation. The US has a godless constitution and secular form of government for the reasons cited above. (Mr. Tidmore, very well,pointed out in detail.) All religion is poison. Period. It will be a eons before humanity reaches this conclusion of fact. The discussions now occurring in the realm of the public square are a small start to a much needed realization the bible, Koran, Torah, book of Mormon, Buddha, Sikhism, Taoism, all, are constructs of the human mind. The ignorant beliefs in such institutions must come to an end. Superstition and supernatural are coping mechanisms of leaders wishing to control others. I have realized this after many years of following such bull. I have broken free of religion. One can when one is willing to face the facts. There is no proof a god exists. Time for humanity to grow up. Thank you for the column. It helps knowing another small chink in the ugly coat of mail of religion has been removed.

  • nwar
    May 10, 2015 at 9:23 a.m.

    Would someone please point out to me who is proposing to "criminalize Christianity"? And who is it that says one cannot quote ANY passage in the Bible? Has any bill been introduced anywhere to do such things? And while we are at it, Mike you mention that the Bible also calls out the sin of idolaters, slanderers, adulterers and drunkards. So why is it that Christians seem to turn a basic blind eye to these "sins", but go crazy if they think they might have to treat gay folks like the rest of the citizens of this country? And as 23cal said, Islam is not the issue here. I don't know of anyone who approves of the way Muslims treat gays in their countries or women either. But they don't get to do that here. And the big, loud organizations running around the country bashing gay people are Christian affiliated. If you can find me Muslim one, I'd like to know what it is. Christians in the middle east are truly being persecuted and killed. Here? -- it just comes off as a whining majority angry that they can no longer indulge their prejudices without being called out for it.

  • 23cal
    May 10, 2015 at 9:48 a.m. on.
    About "A working definition says hate speech is "intended to insult, intimidate, or cause prejudice against a person or people based on their race, gender, age, sexual orientation, political affiliation, occupation, disability, or physical appearance."
    Don't forget the bar raids with names in the newspapers. Gay bars burned to the ground with many deaths. Gays beaten and left on the side of the road to die.

    For decades, anti-gay organizations and their supporters have portrayed the LGBT community as child molesting, diseased, sexually aggressive miscreants whose sole desire is to cause chaos before being sent to the lower pits of hell after they die for their supposed sins. Through lies, distortions, and bad science, anti-gay groups made it difficult for laws to be passed to protect their interests, health, and families. They created and repeated ad nauseam the false mantra that gays are a "public health hazard" and their lives are fraught with pain, sadness, loneliness, and early death.
    They want the world to forget all of the ignorance they exploited, the lies they told, and the tactics they undertook to dehumanize the LGBT community.
    They want us to forget the times when folks like Anita Bryant accused LGBTs of "recruiting" children to "refreshen" their ranks.
    They want us to forget the officials in the Reagan Administration who kept the president from adequately addressing the AIDS crisis in its early days.
    They want us to forget the names and faces of people whose lives were destroyed via homophobic violence or suicide most likely spurred on by the nods of societal homophobia based on religious doctrine.
    They want us to forget all of the times when gays fearfully hid in the closets, while being attacked by purveyors of junk science during Congressional hearings or had the quality of their lives reduced to fevered sexual fantasies on a day-to-day basis.
    Sodomy laws weren't repealed until 2003.
    Gays couldn't serve openly in the military until 2011.
    Remember how homosexuals can be fired from their jobs, refused services, living accommodations, et cetera, just for the suspicion of being gay...and Arkansas just passed a law to prevent cities from addressing this.
    Last summer, the Texas Republican Party's platform endorsed "gay conversion therapy," a procedure viewed as harmful and useless by psychology experts. In the last six months, a pastor in Arizona published videos suggesting the way to deal with AIDS/HIV under the Bible is to kill gays and lesbians.
    If you think the haters promoting all this haven't been using biblical scripture quotes IN CONJUNCTION with the hate speech and hate actions listed here, you are as stupid as a rock.

  • kdc72701
    May 10, 2015 at 10:35 a.m.

    The bible, especially the Old Testament contains much that we would condemn and find reprehensible -- see comments about women. If we simply kept Christ's teachings we might be on solid ground. Christ was a revolutionary who taught love and tolerance and understanding. It is truly sad that a religion bearing his name teaches so differently. Alas.
    Jake is right when he says : "Are we to speak out against jihadist who turn Islam into a message of hate and not stand against people who do the same with Christ's message of love?"
    There is a reason our President always points out that Islam is not about hate and that no religion is about hate. He is saying this is a perversion. He is encouraging religious tolerance without encouraging tolerance of hate. He is trying to separate religion from the hateful actions of some people who profess that religion (in this case Islam, though the same could be said for any religion). Why can't we separate these as well?
    And thanks s well to WGT who points out that we have a form of government that is not tied to any religion.

  • Boboben
    May 10, 2015 at 3:04 p.m.

    Will someone please tell me when we criminalized "hate speech"? As far as I can tell, speech that does not incite imminent violence or threaten immediate harm is protected by the first amendment. One may say whatever they wish, so long as it does not threaten imminent violence. This has been strongly supported by a string of Supreme Court cases, the most notable recent example being Snyder v. Phelps (of the Westboro Baptist Church). If the Westboro Baptists are permitted to voice their opinions in public, everyone is. What they, and any other group, are not permitted to do is to threaten violence. For example, Mr. Masterson may quote Leviticus all he wishes, but that speech may not be protected if he is also holding a large rock and menacing a group of LGTBQ activists. I don't think Mr. Masterson would ever do something like that, which is precisely why he doesn't need to worry about this. Those of us on the side of LGTBQ equality may continue to disagree with Mr. Masterson's opinion, even vehemently so, but that is part of our public discourse. Both sides have a right to voice their opinion, neither has the right to threaten violence.
    Oh, and one side having a firmer footing in scientific fact, legal standing, and the compassion of the Man who started the Christian faith doesn't mean the other side is being "silenced."