The Not Quite Adventures of a Professional Archaeologist and Aspiring Curmudgeon

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

No, I don't believe it either, but Fred Phelps seems to have a useful purpose...

I read this today and thought it was great. We often hear all manner of bullshit about how if laws favoring gay rights are passed then it will result in the rights of Christians being infringed on - with pastors being jailed for hate crimes being one of the usual claims.

However, Fred Phelps, the guy who began protesting the funerals of gay men, but who has moved on to protesting the funerals of dead soldiers claiming that they are dying because god is angry over the fact that the U.S. government is not being as harsh on gays as he thinks it should be. The guy is about as vile and disgusting an individual as you can get, even many of those who may actually agree with him about gay rights tend be be shocked and disgusted by his tactics and speech.

And he has engaged in these activities in places where hate crime legislation does include sexual minorities in the protected status.

And he's still free. No chance of him being arrested, in fact. You know why? Because what he is doing, as disgusting as it is, is protected by the U.S. Constitution. And the same will be true, as it has long been, for every other clergy man, regardless of the state of gay rights. Hell, you can still find perfectly legal racist churches that refuse to perform interracial weddings, allow non-white baptism, etc. etc., and these are perfectly legal.

In other words, when you see the NOM ad claiming that gay rights will lead to Christians being persecuted, just think of Fred Phelps and realize that these people are actively lying to you. They are not concerned about truth, they are pushing an agenda that they are aware will probably not stand on its own merits, so they are lying (just as they were a few months back when many of the same folks were opposed to Proposition 8). Fred Phelps continued freedom proves it.

Or, as the Slacktivist puts it:

"My freedom will be taken away," says one woman in the NOM ad.

How so? She doesn't say. But Fred Phelps' freedom hasn't been taken away, so we have to assume that this otherwise pleasant-seeming woman must be referring to her "freedom" to harass, slander and berate with greater intensity than anything Phelps has done.

It's hard to imagine just what it is that would entail. Phelps shows up at military funerals and celebrates the death of soldiers for defending America as a "fag-enabling" country. Perhaps this young lady wants to do the same, but also, I don't know, to fling feces at the honor guard.

And she's afraid that marriage equality might threaten her freedom to do that.

But the point here is that Fred Phelps is a free man. His only legal troubles stem from instances of direct physical assault -- not from the hateful content of his beliefs. So when the folks at NOM insist that their opposition to same-sex marriage is a matter of "religious liberty," the liberty they're talking about has to be the liberty to exceed the Fred Phelps standard -- the liberty not just to restrict membership on religious grounds, or just to preach against homosexuality as a sin, or to condemn and denounce homosexuals as people hated by God, but the liberty, apparently, to go beyond all that, beyond anything even Fred Phelps has imagined.

The same, by the way is true of other groups who have similar views. Although a few are held up as victims who had their rights to free speech trampled on (such as the "Philidelphia 11"), the truth is rather different than what has generally been portrayed. In fact, most of this campaign seems to be designed to utilize a persecution complex on the part of some folks in order to push an agenda that it's backers seem to fear won't stand on its own merit.

*Note: many people are opposed to laws that specifically target "hate crimes" as opposed to other crimes, and I am not taking a position on that one way or another here, merely pointing out that the thing that these particular anti-rights groups claim as their objection is bullshit.

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