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 email@example.com.
Editorial on 05/10/2015
Print Headline: Hate speech?