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Posts for July, 2009

Demand Honesty – Sometimes You’ll Get It

Timothy Kincaid

July 16th, 2009

The Illinois Family Institute is decidedly anti-gay. They believe that your “lifestyle” is inherently evil and they know no limits in their fight against “militant homosexual activists.” IFI is one of only 12 Anti-Gay Hate Groups listed by the Southern Poverty Law Center.

But even those persons at IFI who have dedicated their lives to anti-gay activism are approachable. And recent events demonstrated this to me.

At this time yesterday, the IFI had a flyer on their website which they were encouraging their followers to pass out at church (it was conveniently sized to fit in a church bulletin). “Urgent!” it warned and then listed just why Illinoisans should fear Senate Bill 909, the Matthew Sheppard Hate Crimes Bill.

As its second bulletin point it declared:

It Infringes on Freedom of Speech and Religion.

Miss California , Carrie Prejean, could have been charged with a “hate crime” for her views on same-sex marriage if S. 909 was already law. What could constitute a “hate crime” under this bill is a homosexual man or woman claiming they were discriminated against and hurt by what was said.

Now, those who read here know that this is complete nonsense.

The bill says nothing about “claims” or “hurt by what was said.” Instead it provides states with federal assistance for a crime that

(A) constitutes a crime of violence;
(B) constitutes a felony under the State, local, or tribal laws; and
(C) is motivated by prejudice based on the actual or perceived race, color, religion, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability of the victim, or is a violation of the State, local, or tribal hate crime laws.

And I think we all know that Carrie’s babbling about “opposite marriage” was not a violent felony. Indeed, if hate crimes legislation could lead to Carrie’s arrest, it would have; Nevada has hate crimes protections in place.

So I contacted the Illinois Family Institute and had a lengthy email exchange with David E. Smith, its Executive Director. Smith was not quick to agree that his claims were baseless. He decidedly did not want to admit that his claim was hyperbolic, dishonest, and a flat-out attempt to lie to those who use IFI as a resource a claim based more in desire to influence belief about the bill than in any real possible scenario. *

But I appealed to Smith’s integrity and the commands of his (and my) faith not to lie, and ultimately Smith had to admit – mostly to himself – that his flyer was not truthful.

And he changed it. And I commend him for making that change.

It’s not now a glowing endorsement of the bill, but at least it reads a bit more honestly:

It Infringes on Freedom of Speech and Religion.

To see where “hate crime” laws lead, we can look to other countries where such laws have been passed, and also to our nation’s public universities. More than 230 public universities have so-called “speech codes” that are being used to restrict Christian speech. The majority of these speech codes censor any speech that challenges homosexual behavior.

Now I don’t think that S. 909 will lead to “speech codes”. But, unlike the false claims about Carrie Prejean, this slippery sloap is at least a legitimate concern and a credible issue over which reasonable people can disagree.

I am sure that our readers will continue to see false, offensive, or inflamatory statements in the many anti-gay writings of IFI. But that is not why I tell this story.

I want to let this serve as a reminder that the most effective strategy is not always to go in with guns blazing and call an opponent a homophobic lying bigot. Even if you think they are.

Now some folks have no interest whatsoever in the truth. They lie because that’s what lying liars do. But some – even those most extreme – don’t want to think of themselves as liars. They want desperately to “win”, but perhaps not at the cost of their immortal soul.

And I think that we could have a more reasoned debate, tear down a few walls, find some common ground, if we insist that all of us – those who agree and those who disagree – speak the truth, hold ourselves with honor, and demand honesty.

Sometime you’ll get it.

* The Illinois Family Institute objected to my characterization of their efforts as “a flat-out lie”. As I cannot state for certain what went on in their heads, I will concede that perhaps they were so confused by their own rhetoric as to actually believe that Carrie Prejean could have been arrested for saying that she supported “opposite marriage”.