Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Prejudicial Activism

College student sues for right to harass gays

ATLANTARuth Malhotra went to court last month for the right to be intolerant.

Malhotra says her Christian faith compels her to speak out against homosexuality. But the Georgia Institute of Technology, where she's a senior, bans speech that puts down others because of their sexual orientation. Malhotra sees that as an unacceptable infringement on her right to religious expression. So she's demanding that Georgia Tech revoke its tolerance policy.

Decades down the road, when historians attempt to grasp the feel of this age and what kind of sociopolitical mores ruled the land in 2006, this lawsuit will undoubtedly be a textbook example. "Back in the zeros, all one had to do was cry 'religious infringement,' and you could get away with any manner of awful measures. Indeed, this line of reasoning helped to overturn most of the major laws of the 20th century."

The legal argument is straightforward: Policies intended to protect gays and lesbians from discrimination end up discriminating against conservative Christians. Evangelicals have been suspended for wearing anti-gay T-shirts to high school, fired for denouncing Gay Pride Month at work, reprimanded for refusing to attend diversity training. When they protest tolerance codes, they're labeled intolerant.

What kind of people revel in their bigotry, expect the rest of the nation to accept it and then hypocritically attempt to enact the very kind of decisions that they're decrying in the first place? What kind of people are so hateful in their beliefs that they have to revoke anti-discriminatory laws to express those beliefs? In a time when people get in trouble for wearing shirts that allude to peace, why would these jerks expect any different treatment for adorning clothing that deliberately insults a group of people?

As a child, I lived in a neighborhood with a high African-American population and had many black friends. They used the N-word quite a bit, because that's what they heard in their environment, both through entertainment and in real life. I learned early on that their use of it (however sad in itself) was very different than if I were to say it. On the rare occasions I ever said it, they made sure I regretted it. I don't think having said, "Well, I can say it because that's what I believe to be true," would have solved the problem any more than it did prior to 1861.

And they would be right to be angry. People DON'T have the right to go around and piss off other races by using derogatory terms. The only thing more cowardly than that is to cloak such epithets in religious justification.

If the court rules in this woman's favor, we'd be in for a dangerous slippery slope. It wouldn't take long for anyone to decide that hate crimes, racial favoritism, or any other variety of atrocity falls under personal religious beliefs. A couple of nanoseconds, perhaps...if that.

Christian activist Gregory S. Baylor responds to such criticism angrily. He says he supports policies that protect people from discrimination based on race and gender. But he draws a distinction that infuriates gay rights activists when he argues that sexual orientation is different — a lifestyle choice, not an inborn trait.

The inborn-versus-choice debate is completely irrelevant here. Note that Baylor opposes discrimination against race and gender specifically, but says nothing about religion or anything else that could be construed as a choice. Again, this seems to be an attempt to justify prejudice against those whose choices he disagrees with. And because he knows that no one can control their ethnicity or sex, he pounces on sexual orientation. That's one thing he and his brethren do wish to control.

By equating homosexuality with race, Baylor said, tolerance policies put conservative evangelicals in the same category as racists. He predicts the government will one day revoke the tax-exempt status of churches that preach homosexuality is sinful or that refuse to hire gays and lesbians.

Well, maybe sexual discrimination should be put in the same category as racism! After all, being gay ultimately matters as much as skin color as to whether someone can be a reasonably productive member of society. What should matter more than any outside factor is intelligence and qualifications. Not that it always does, of course, but ideally...

And don't even get me started on tax-exempt churches; this post is long enough! Suffice to say, I think churches should pay taxes just like any secular entity. They're as much a part of the community infrastructure as homes and businesses.

I'm not quite 26, but even I remember a time when social movements were about empowering groups of people, not about taking away their rights so that a more hateful group can feel better about their prejudices. The last thing we need these days is to reward ignorance.


Speechie said...

Mr. Reporter, you have just inspired what will be perhaps the longest post of my career.

I dare someone (it will probably be Jester) to post a comment going against what you have said.

Nothing infuriates me more than ignorant, beligerent fools.

I could sit here all day commenting to you on how I agree with you and how angry I am but that would defeat the point of my own post.

These are sad times. Dark times.

I think I'm going to puke.

Murph said...

"The inborn-versus-choice debate is completely irrelevant here. Note that Baylor opposes discrimination against race and gender specifically, but says nothing about religion or anything else that could be construed as a choice."

Good call, dude.

Mustang Bobby said...

Good job, Ian. I just wasted about a billion pixels commenting back and forth with a fundie at my site over the expulsion of a student at a college in Kentucky for being gay. None of the arguments worked, but I really didn't expect them to. It's like teaching quantum physics to a duck.

Phillip said...

i hadn't heard about this, thanks for writing of it.

"put conservative evangelicals in the same category as racists" if the shoe fits...

when someone is searching for personal identity and find it by being welcomed by an already large group of people (the "flock") they arbitrarily adopt that group's belief system, not necessarily because they hate the same things the group (or congregation) hates, but because they like to fit in, at least subconsciously. this is all just my theory. i don't, or don't want to, believe that people are this inherently ignorant and malevolent.

not to mention the rampant cognitive dissonance that accompanies "hating" gays (or "hating" anything) while subscribing to the teachings of the bible/jesus. it's like, hate today fond tomorrow.

T-Mac said...

Wow, nice work...well put, I agree 100%. RYC: she doesn't know where in LA yet, those more specific assignments come out later. Great blog, man.