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Jesus Supports "Hate Crime" Legislation? By: Mark D. Tooley
FrontPageMagazine.com | Friday, May 15, 2009

It may be one of the signs of the apocalypse: a group of evangelical clergy participated in a Capitol Hill rally to support hate crimes legislation, accuse traditional evangelicals of supporting violence, and claim that Jesus Christ would support a bill silencing those who believe transgenderism is not kosher.

The Human Rights Campaign convened a “Clergy Call” rally on Capitol Hill in May 4-5 to support federal hate crimes legislation pending before Congress.
Hate crime laws seek to criminalize thought and speech that the State, under pressure from interest groups, deems “hateful.” Potentially, clergy could be criminalized for defending traditional Jewish and Christian beliefs about marriage, which non-traditionalists deem offensive and “violent.” Orwellian as the concept is, the federal bill is worse, including not merely race, sex, and religion, but “sexual orientation” and now “sexual identity,” i.e., a preferred status for transsexuals. The HRC event was called to showcase clergy who side with the secular Left against their fellow ministers. (For a report by my colleague Jeff Walton, go here.) 

The usual Episcopalians, Unitarians, and other left-leaning quasi-religious dubbed those who believe one is born either as a man or a woman harbingers of violence. Rabbi Steven Jacobs of Temple Kol Tikvah in Los Angeles warned against an apparent new social disease, “transphobia,” which is “the fear of gender variance in society.” The rabbi lamented: “Gender rigidity impacts all of us, even if we are not transgender. That belief that there are only two ways to be human leads to violence and oppression.” (Emphasis added.)

Jacobs was preceded United Methodist minister Drew Phoenix, formerly Rev. Ann Gordon. Her female-to-male sex change operation in 2007 triggered controversy in the 7.9 million-member denomination. Formerly a Baltimore pastor, Phoenix now directs an environmental group in Anchorage, Alaska. “As religious leaders and people of faith, we cannot sit by while our transgender sisters and brothers, made in the image of the Divine, continue to be oppressed,” Phoenix pleaded

This latest Human Rights campaign, realizing that declining oldline Protestants and transsexual clergy carry little cache with the American people, so HRC shrewdly enlisted evangelical support. The Evangelical Left is determined to create a permanent political shift by crumbling evangelicals as the largest conservative voting bloc in America. At this Human Rights Campaign rally, evangelist Tony Campolo, best remembered as a spiritual counselor to Bill Clinton following his dalliance with Monica Lewinsky, was featured.

“Justice is love translated into social policy,” Campolo insisted at the Human Rights Campaign Clergy Call press conference. “This [legislation] is a chance to practice that love.” Previously expressing support for traditional marriage, and a popular speaker for evangelical conferences, Campolo appeared slightly uncomfortable surrounded by hard-line sexual identity activists, many of them seemingly post-operative transsexuals. Still, he soldiered on, asserting that supplementing federal hate crimes legislation with protection for “sexual orientation” would not threaten free speech among the clergy, “as long as [a sermon] does not promote violence.” Campolo declared:  “We evangelicals who have such a high view of scripture should want justice for gays, lesbians and transgendered persons.”

Campolo’s reassurances that clerical freedom is not threatened have been contradicted by hate crimes advocates. Representative Artur Davis, D-AL, admitted pastors could be charged with hate crimes based on their teaching and preaching. A Canadian and a Swedish pastor in recent years have been prosecuted for alleged “hate” speech. The natural trajectory for the hate crimes movement, with its goal of stigmatizing and criminalizing politically incorrect thought, would end with the silencing of orthodox faith in the public area. The secular Left could want nothing more. 

Still, the Evangelical Left prefers to ignore the potential infringement on religious liberty by the hate crimes movement, Christian ethicist David Gushee of Mercy University in Georgia, best known recently as an outspoken activist against the Bush administration’s “torture” policies, provided a statement distributed at the Human Rights Campaign Clergy Call on Capital Hill. “I am persuaded that the bill poses no threat whatsoever to any free speech right for religious communities or their leaders,” Gushee commented, offering no support for his contention. “Its passage will make for a safer and more secure environment in which we and all of our fellow Americans can live our lives.” Gushee even implied the Lord Himself is supporting “sexual orientation” hate crimes laws, just as his Lord opposes enhanced interrogation techniques for al-Qaeda operatives: “For me, the case for this bill is settled with these words from Jesus: ‘As you did it to one of the least of these, you did it to me.’”

His words were echoed by Florida megachurch pastor Joel Hunter, prominently involved in shifting evangelicals away from social conservatism and towards global warming activism. Hunter, too, insisted the bill “protects both the rights of conservative religious people to voice passionately their interpretations of their scriptures and protects their fellow citizens from physical attack.” Like Gushee, he offered no supporting argument. “I would think that the followers of Jesus would be first in line to protect any group from hate crimes,” he intoned. “He was the one who intervened against religious violence aimed at the woman caught in the act of adultery. He protected her while not condoning her behavior.”

When Jesus defended the adulteress from stoning, He probably did not realize in the process He was endorsing 2lst century “sexual orientation” legislation. Neither did most of His followers across two millennia. They, with traditional Jews, have developed social teachings more reflective of the Ten Commandments than the New York Times. Hence, the Catholic bishops and the Southern Baptist Convention oppose enshrining “sexual orientation” and “sexual identity” into protective federal statues, realizing the ultimate social and legal ramifications for the free practice of their own faith.

That the law already protects all classes of people from violent acts is irrelevant to the Hate Crimes activists, who seem to welcome the prospect of muzzling their more conservative brethren. As their ever-dwindling numbers prove, they cannot compete with them in the arena of faith. Most religious prefer tradition to lectures on “transphobia.”        

Mark D. Tooley is president of the Institute on Religion and Democracy. He is the author of Taking Back the United Methodist Church.

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