August 23, 2007

LA Times Editorial: Hate Crimes' Bill Threat to Preaching the Gospel "Ridiculous"

An op-ed piece in the LA Times, written by an expert on the subject of free speech, effectively skewers evangelicals' objection to the hate crimes legislation on deck for consideration by the U. S. Senate (it has already passed in the House).

A coalition of conservative African American pastors has aggressively lobbied against this legislation on the premise that it would make it unlawful for them to preach that homosexuality is a sin. Bishop Harry R. Jackson Jr., pastor of the Hope Christian Church in College Park, Md., for example, has asserted that the act would "keep the church from preaching the Gospel."

This objection to the legislation is fanciful.

the legislation expressly provides that "nothing in this act . . . shall be construed to prohibit any expressive conduct protected" by the 1st Amendment. In other words -- indeed, in the most explicit words possible -- the act could not be applied to the pastors unless their sermons are unprotected by the 1st Amendment, a concept that is impossible to imagine.

The 1st Amendment protects the right of Nazis to march in Skokie, the right of racists to assert that blacks are inferior, the right of atheists to denounce Christianity and the right of homophobes to condemn homosexuality. The argument of the pastors that the proposed legislation in any way threatens their right to preach their version of the Gospel is, to be frank, ridiculous.

Beyond leaders of the church using misinformation and outright lies to try and defeat this bill, I want to raise another point here.

Bishop Jackson has invested a lot of effort into gaining publicity for his opposition to this legislation. He has a right to do that. I wonder, though, how he could have used that time differently tending to his congregation and community. I am very familiar with the area Bishop Jackson's church is located in. There are a LOT of needs in the community and, I suspect, his congregation, that a church could help meet. They appear to have numerous initiatives already existing, but there are still many people whose needs, both spiritual and material, that are not being met.

Of course, that wouldn't be as effective to help sell the inventory of books listed on the church's website, nor would it book passengers on the 3-day Bahamas cruise the church is advertising.

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