Yesterday, I posted about the story of the Westboro Baptist Church’s protest at the funeral of a soldier, and the father of the soldier sued. On repeal, he lost and was to pay Westboro’s court costs. The story is a mix of things, but at the heart of it, is a matter of Free Speech, and the collision of Westboro’s rights and the rights of the father surrounding the funeral. This linked story, is also a story about the collision of Rights, and may also turn on the notion of Free Speech.

But Russell said his bill had been misinterpreted. He said he was concerned that pastors who preached against homosexuality could be prosecuted if someone, as a result, took action against a gay person. “In my view, this is not the end of it,” Russell said. “We need protections in state law.” Speech needs to be protected unless it is directly related to a crime, he said.”

The initial stories I had heard said that the point of the bill was to allow the state to deny sharing any evidence with Federal officials if those officials wanted to investigate a crime as a hate crime. This would essentially stop the ability for there to be any Federal Hate Crimes investigation in Oklahoma, and make OK, excluded from the recently passed Matthew Shephard and James Byrd Hate Crimes law.

The easy blog post, is to simply write about how wrong that would be, and paint, yet again, lesbians and gays as the victims of an unjust system. For real: this bill was all about homosexuality and exclusion. But I think there is a more important issue to be considered here, and one that is coming up over and over. In the general sense, I’d call it “Religious Liberty,” but it is very specific, in that it is all about religious speech. What is the relationship between religious speech and protected free speech? That is the real issue involved here.

Look at the quote I pulled from the article. “We need protections in state law.” Speech needs to be protected unless it is directly related to a crime.” Is this the crux of the issue at hand? Does Speech need to be protected (because it currently isn’t)? Can a sermon preached really be considered as connected to or the cause of a crime? And lastly, is anything said by a preacher, acceptable? Are there any limits of what can be said under the guise of preaching, or is anything said in the pulpit considered as “religious” and acceptable?

OK, one more question, what happens if we start to limit speech? What are the bigger implications for all speech? My friend, Andy Hoover at the ACLU PA has an answer to this one. He wrote on Facebook:

Tom, what I tell my friends in the LGBT community, Af-Am comm, et al is this: Do you want powerful people deciding who does and does not get to speak?

For me, it is an easy answer. Of course not.

But let’s focus on the other questions.

“We need protections in state law.” Speech needs to be protected unless it is directly related to a crime.”

I have actually written a fair amount about this both here on this blog, as well as on my other blog, Queer Look at the Bible. Some seek to pit homosexuality itself against the whole of religion. As if it were Religion, or accept homosexuality, as two exclusive opposites. Yet, I think a different motivation is at work here. This isn’t so much pitting homosexuality against religion, but a desire to protect the right to attack gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgenders from the pulpit.

I really dislike talking about “homosexuality.” That is a part of the problem- the language our oppressors choose to frame the issue and to other, real people. If we talk about gay and lesbian people, we are talking about people- real people. People talking about people. But if we talk about homosexuality, we are talking about something else- and the longer our real lives are labeled and considered as a “something else” we can be treated as outside of the norm, outside the realm that includes all real people.

via Oklahoma House Kills Hate Crimes Exclusion Bill – Towleroad, More than gay news. More gay men.

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