April 12, 2006

 

Civil Rights in the 21st Century

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Stolen from Beelers:

Christians Sue for Right Not to Tolerate Policies
Many codes intended to protect gays from harassment are illegal, conservatives argue.

By Stephanie Simon, L.A. Times Staff Writer
April 10, 2006

ATLANTA — Ruth 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.

With her lawsuit, the 22-year-old student joins a growing campaign to force public schools, state colleges and private workplaces to eliminate policies protecting gays and lesbians from harassment. The religious right aims to overturn a broad range of common tolerance programs: diversity training that promotes acceptance of gays and lesbians, speech codes that ban harsh words against homosexuality, anti-discrimination policies that require college clubs to open their membership to all.

The Rev. Rick Scarborough, a leading evangelical, frames the movement as the civil rights struggle of the 21st century. "Christians," he said, "are going to have to take a stand for the right to be Christian."

In that spirit, the Christian Legal Society, an association of judges and lawyers, has formed a national group to challenge tolerance policies in federal court. Several nonprofit law firms — backed by major ministries such as Focus on the Family and Campus Crusade for Christ — already take on such cases for free.

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.

A recent survey by the Anti-Defamation League found that 64% of American adults — including 80% of evangelical Christians — agreed with the statement "Religion is under attack in this country."

The message is, you're free to worship as you like, but don't you dare talk about it outside the four walls of your church," said Stephen Crampton, chief counsel for the American Family Assn. Center for Law and Policy, which represents Christians who feel harassed.


(Short version. Long story HERE)

Is it just me, or is there white-hot irony in the Rev. Rick Scarborough's proclamation that this is the civil rights struggle of the 21st century? From where I sit, it looks like the struggle is the onus of the homosexual community. I'm a left-of-center, live and let live kind of guy, and I think in most cases this will come down to (Dear Heavenly, Most Benificent and All-Seeing Father) separation of church and state. Public funded facility? Play nice kids. Private Institution? Spew the vitriol to your heart's content! I know that's overly simplistic but what a great way to illustrate a point, don't you think? I really don't see what the church ladies are all a-twitter about. Religion under attack? Hmmm. This is obviously not the same 64 percent of Americans who think Bush is doing a shitty job.

Anyway, here's some food for thought from FIRE (Foundation for Individual Rights in Education):

Georgia Tech’s speech code has some serious constitutional problems. For instance, “acts of intolerance” such as “denigrating written/verbal communications (including the use of telephones, emails and computers) directed toward an individual because of their characteristics or beliefs” can result in disciplinary action. Such a rule is far too vague to be consistently enforced and in any case would ban a great deal of constitutionally protected speech.

The lawsuit, Sklar (& Malhotra - ed.) v. Clough, also alleges an interesting charge of establishment of religion. According to the complaint, Georgia takes an explicit religious view on homosexual behavior in violation of their constitutional obligation to be neutral with regard to religion. Georgia Tech’s allocation of student fees is also challenged in the suit. Its policies provide that “Partisan Political Activities” and “Religious Activities” may not be funded with student fees. This would appear to violate both Rosenberger v. Rectors of the University of Virginia, a Supreme Court case in which the Court determined that a student newspaper could not be denied funding because of its “religious” views, and Board of Regents of the University of Wisconsin v. Southworth, in which the Supreme Court determined that mandatory student fees must be allocated on a “viewpoint neutral” basis. It’s hardly “viewpoint neutral” to determine that political and religious views, but not other views, should be denied funding. As FIRE has said before, students whose main interest lies with golf should not be treated better than those interested in Judaism.

Georgia Tech is not above the Constitution. Since it apparently didn’t realize that before, the odds are good that it will be forced to do so now. The lawsuit serves as just another reminder to colleges and universities that our fundamental freedoms extend to the public college campus.


I believe everyone should have the right to speak their mind, hopefully within the bounds of respect and tolerance (as opposed to acceptance) but certainly not to specifically harrass individuals or groups. Yah, big gray area there, I know. But gray areas are good because they keep people on their toes. Celebrate diversity, dammit. In closing, I must say I concur with Webster's definitions of tolerate: "to recognize and respect other's beliefs, practices, etc. with out sharing (i.e. accepting - ed.) them."

And that does indeed work both ways.

Comments:
About that 64%... sounds like cherry picking to me. They didn't happen to provide details about how the survey was taken, like the newspapers do, did they?
 
Excuse my vehemence here, but all these fucking pseudo-christians can go to hell. God willing, they will. If you're fighting for the right to harass, ridicule and denegrate someone simply because of their sexual orientation, you are drifting about as far from the teachings of Christ as you can get.
 
Honestly, I don't understand why everybody today feels that it is their God given right to go around insulting people whom they disagree with at the top of their lungs. I don't condemn Evangelicals for their beliefs, it's their right to believe whatever they want, but going around and provoking is wrong. I can't stand them or Act UP. "We're queer, we're here, and we're in your face!" What ever happened to civility and respect?
 
Regarding civility and respect,as my friend Diane and I would say "I am tellin' ya!"
 
I don't think I could put it any better than Jeff has.
 
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