Hate speech should not be tolerated

On Oct. 10, the Daily published Lindsay Brown’s column, “Bible clearly forbids homosexuality.” Usually, such opinions focus on “hate the sin, but love the sinner.” This one was different.

I don’t care to debate the biblical content of the article, but rather its hateful language toward gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people. Homosexuals are damned to hell. “They shall surely be put to death” (Leviticus 20:13). Brown says, “God’s character does not change; his hatred of homosexuality does not waiver.” “God ├ľ promises wrath.” The article notes attitudes changed between Old Testament and New Testament times. If we still lived in Old Testament times, it would be OK to stone homosexuals.

I was surprised this article was printed. I believe in free speech and freedom of the press. I also believe in religious freedom and freedom from persecuting religious expression. But I do not believe in hate. Distinguishing between free speech and disrespectful language that judges, condemns or incites hate and violence can be difficult. Damning a group of people to a wrathful death by a God who hates them is hate.

People often ask us to respond to something they don’t like in the Daily. Usually, we encourage them to directly contact the paper. This way the impact is greater. So when it came to this column, I thought the response would be overwhelming. The number of calls we got certainly was. But there wasn’t an outcry in the paper. There was not much of a response at all. Why didn’t people respond? Many faiths and denominations are welcoming and affirming of GLBT people, yet no one spoke out. We did not hear about a loving God who embraces all his children.

If this piece said women, people of color, the disabled or non-Christian faiths were condemned and unworthy to live, the response would have been swift. We would not tolerate this hateful language and threat toward a group of people. People would rally. The article likely would not have been printed.

But saying it about GLBT people apparently is OK. It is OK to hate GLBT people. The silence we heard communicated that it is OK. It also said to GLBT people that, at times, it still remains an unsafe and unwelcoming environment. Which is why GLBT people did not respond either – it was not safe because there was no visible support.

In 1993, 78 percent of GLBT-identified students experienced discrimination or harassment because of their sexual orientation and gender identification. In 2002, it was 23 percent. While a significant improvement, still one-fourth of GLBT students are being treated unfairly and inhumanely. Most incidents have involved religious intolerance and hate.

I don’t believe in a hateful or vengeful God, and I certainly don’t believe in the God portrayed by Brown. But it troubles me that such hate happens in the name of religion, and it frightens me even more that others silently let it happen.

B. David Galt is the director of the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender Programs Office, which welcomes comments at [email protected]