The Quixotic Pastor

Friday, July 13, 2007

Baffled and Angry: Have They Forgotten How It Feels?

Don't mind a rant? Read on!

At a meeting last Thursday night, the Executive Director from one of the GLBT advocacy organizations for GLBT persons in the Land of God's Left Hand shared with me a flyer that had been faxed to their office from the Human Rights Campaign.

The flyer came from an organization called "High Impact Leadership Coalition." It features a picture of an African American pastor holding a Bible, with a piece of masking tape across his mouth, with the screaming headline "Don't Muzzle Our Pulpits!" and the statement "We Oppose S1105 -- "The Matthew Shepherd Act.""

Below that text, the flyer reads, "Don't allow misguided compassion to remove America's most basic freedoms of speech, conscience, and the free-exercise of religion."

There are 10 other pictures of African-American pastors, and 20 more names without pictures, as well as churches and organizations they represent, all endorsing the contents of this flyer. Two, I am sorry to say, are from the greater Detroit area: Pastor Marvin Winans of the Perfecting Church, and Bishop Keith A. Butler from Word of Faith Int'l Christian Center.

Here's the small print: "Christian clergymen and people of faith are making a stand for religious liberty. WE OPPOSE S1105, 'the Matthew Shepherd Act.' We believe prosecutors and anti-Christian groups will use loop holes in this proposed legislation to muzzle the church. Unnecessary law suits will bring a chilling affect to the free speech and religious liberty of our churches and our members.
"Expert legal counsel has assured us our concerns are constitutionally based, legally appropriate, and necessary given the litigation-prone society in which we live. Hate crimes statutes already exist in 45 states. Therefore , this legislation is unnecessary, unfair, indefinable, un-American, and constitutionally suspect. We are African Americans, though we represent thousands of Christian leaders of all races. We understand more clearly than most that racially motivated violence can be a form of internal terrorism.
"The Black community needs a free pulpit. Indeed, ALL Americans need free pulpits.
"We urge the Senate to avoid letting misguided compassion take away America's most basic freedoms --our freedom of speech, freedom of conscience, and the freedom to exercise religion.
"What can you do? We urge all concerned citizens to call their Senators ... and the President ... to express concern regarding S1105.
"We stand in unison AGAINST S 1105.
"Let's Keep Hope Alive!"

I am more baffled and angry about this flyer than others I have seen from other conservative organizations --why?

Because these are people I would have thought would show compassion for victims of hate crimes because of the experiences and history of their community.

Have they forgotten how it felt to have the churches of one's community burned and bombed? In 39 years of ministry, 18 MCC's have been arsoned --in one such arson, in New Orleans, in 1973, 29 people died, including the pastor and the associate pastor. People who remember that event recount how one victim stood at a barred window, trying in vain to get out ... and burned to death before their very eyes. The tragedy was further compounded when many churches and meeting places would not allow MCC to hold funerals and memorials for the victims in their facilities, because of the threat of arson to them. That's very understandable --see how hate crimes have so much potential for damage to a community? Don't Metropolitan Community Churches also deserve a free pulpit? Don't GLBT persons need free pulpits?

Have these pastors forgotten how it felt when someone discovered yet another lynching victim left on display to make clear who's in charge and who's in power? Matthew Shepherd was left on display, hung from a fence ...

Have these pastors forgotten how it feels to have Bible passages quoted in and out of context to justify the beliefs and behaviors of their oppressors? Pro-slavery proponents pointed to numerous Biblical texts that in their opinion supported owning slaves. Racists spoke of the curse of Ham, claiming that, since black people were Ham's children, white folk had the right and the duty to enslave them.

These pastors would say, "We have no choice regarding the color of our skin; we had no choice regarding the institution of slavery. LGBT people have a choice."

I respectfully disagree with them about my sexual orientation being a choice --and the US Constitution that these pastors have such a concern for ALLOWS me to do so, and protects all people of faith, even Christian faith, who hold to, preach and teach a different faith perspective from that of these pastors.

Do these pastors care as much about my religious freedom as they do their own?

Hate crimes committed against GLBT persons --or any representative person of any group --effectively remove these freedoms from the community, and that is exactly what perpetrators of hate crimes want. My right to free speech becomes pointless the moment some self-righteous SOB clocks me in the head with a rock when I speak out about who I am.

Opponents of S1105 would say to me, "In that case, your assailant would be tried for assault. He'd probably be found guilty and do jail time." But nothing would be said against the hatred which motivated the crime --and other perpetrators would continue to feel their actions are justified in some evil sort of way. Kind of like the time in Dallas, 1988, when Judge Jack Hampton sentenced a young murderer to 30 years for a double homicide, the minimum, instead of life in prison, the maximum, because the murderer's victims were gay men. After the hearing, Judge Hampton explained the light sentence with the statement "I don't care much for queers cruising the streets picking up teenage boys. I put prostitutes and gays at about the same level. If these boys had picked up two prostitutes and taken them to the woods and killed them, I'd consider that a similar case. And I'd be hard put to give somebody life for killing a prostitute."

The threat of being the victim of a hate crime also muzzles speech ... and I am sorry to say that I suspect these pastors feel justified in standing against S1105 because they desire to muzzle the speech of GLBT persons, whom they perceive to be sinners as well as a threat to society and thus undeserving of constitutional freedoms.

Sorry this is such a long rant --but it's something I needed to write.



  • At 1:59 PM , Blogger Rainbow Pastor said...

    Preach it, RDQ!

    I echo every word of your rant!

  • At 9:19 AM , Blogger Mother Laura said...

    Yes, indeed. Sorry to hear that this happened and glad you are speaking out.

    On a related topic, I wanted to let you know that Kate of When I Was a Boy has been expelled from RGBP for being polyamorous, which is deemed unChristian and liable to taint people by association. (Her header uses this term and her blog makes it crystal clear that there is no swinging involved, simply a faithful and committed relationship with two men instead of one). She is pretty traumatized and could use prayers as well as comments of support and/or a mention of concern on your blog if that feels right to you. She is not well known yet so I am letting a few people know that are concerned about these issues.

    Thanks so much,


  • At 12:29 PM , Blogger Reverend Dona Quixote said...

    ML, I was not aware of what happened with Kate until I saw your comment. Thank you for telling me.

  • At 6:29 PM , Blogger mamaS said...

    Perhaps this explains the comment of one of my parishoners recently. He said to me that 'the government' was trying pass a law that would make it illegal for me to "preach the gospel against homosexuals." (I've not been here all that long, and apparently he assumes he knows my views. He doesn't.) I could not for the life of me figure out what he was talking about. He couldn't clarify his statement except to say that "they" were persecuting the gospel. sigh

    I am so frustrated when we cannot hear a respectful (or even not so respectful) disagreement. Incidentally, free speech is already limited in the church (at least in the pulpit and official publications) in some matters political, if one wishes to remain a tax-exempt organization.

  • At 6:08 AM , Blogger Reverend Dona Quixote said...


    There are other flyers being circulated which feature a picture of Jesus, wearing a crown of thorns, designed like an old-style west wanted poster. It says: Wanted For A Hate Crime and alludes to the idea that Jesus would be tried for a hate crime if the Matt Shepherd law passed.

    Bet that is exactly what your parishioner is thinking about.

    And yes, you are certainly right about a church's tax exempt status and how that impacts how we speak in the pulpit. Sometimes I wonder if the church gives up too much in order to remain tax exempt ... but that's another subject for another day.


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