I’m possibly an odd one.  While I am opposed to hate speech, I don’t believe the solution is to stop someone from speaking hateful things.  Free Speech is just that Free Speech, and one of the prices we pay for it, is that everyone has a right to do it.

I think that the solution to hate speech is two-fold.  First to bear witness to it, and name it as hurtful to a meaningful society, and second, to counter it with a greater “voice.”  I don’t necessarily mean to drown it out- that could be a very fine line between taking away another’s voice by operpowering it, and simply standing as a counter to it.

On Tuesday November 25th, Pittsburgh will welcome (??) a very prolific speaker of hate, the infamous Fred Phelps of the Westboro Baptist Church. You may remember Fred.  His church (mostly made up of his family) are the folks who protest of funerals for AIDS victims, and carry signs that say things like “God Hates Fags.” Even a short perusal of his web site, godhatesfags.com wil leave most anyone with a mixture of revulsion and curiosity.  Seems that according to Fred, God Hates just about everyone!

My partner Brad has decided we need to counter Phelp’s vitriolic barrage of hate speech.  He started a FaceBook group called “Pittsburgh Says “No” to Hate.  He is looking for people to join him and bear witness; join him and counter hate by naming it unacceptable; contront hatred with a new voice of peace, love, acceptance.  That sounds too “new age” and if you know him, you know he is more of a realist than that, but you get the idea.

Seems to me Fred has appointed himself a prophet for God, in the true Hebrew Scripture sense of the title! And I suppose, if you think you are the mouthpiece for God, you don’t have any trouble saying what to some would seem outlandish things. So, I respect he has a right to his opinions, and I respect his felt need to give voice to that.  I just really wonder about his tactics.  Like protesting at a funeral.  That seems to be less about giving voice to a message from God, and more about causing hurt and irritation.  By inflicting more pain- not against the deceased (s/he can’t feel any more pain since pain is a body experience and thy are no longer in their body- but inflicting that pain on the deceased loved ones.  I’d call this cowardly if anything. And “respect” probably isn’t the most appropriate word to describe my sentiments.  I’ll have to think more about that one.  Maybe it is another blog post.

I also can’t figure out why Fred’s is a Baptist church, since his theology seems so heavily rooted in the Old Testament and not the Christian Gospels and other texts. Like didn’t Jesus bring a new covenant?

So check out Brad’s FaceBook group, and leave your comments here on my blog.  The answer to hate speech isn’t silencing the speakers.  The answer isn’t to belittle them or dismiss them.  The answer is to shed light in the darkness, shine light upon the hatred, so that the realness of it is seen and understood as the damaging power that it is. And the solution is to rise up voices of peace and all that counters hatred.

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