Hate speech: Homosexuals, the Church and the First Amendment

There’s a very interesting article posted on RELEVANT’s website today. It discusses recent legislation passed in the United Kingdom which makes “comments inciting hatred against homosexuals” punishable by up to seven years in prison. It no doubt raises questions about the issues of free-speech and the freedom of religious expression for those of us on this side of the pond.

Could we here in the United States soon be approaching a time when Christians who publicly label homosexuality a “sin” run the risk of being prosecuted and imprisoned? What threat would such legislation pose on rights guaranteed by the First Amendment?

Is the church prepared to learn new ways of engaging in dialogue about the “homosexuality issue” without being accused of “inciting hatred?” Is it possible to hold a view supporting the authority, truth and validity of Scripture without being (or at least coming off as) anti-gay? How do you talk about this issue with your gay friends? Do you even have gay friends?

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22 thoughts on “Hate speech: Homosexuals, the Church and the First Amendment

  1. very good question. I’ve often been troubled by the fact that the only gay friend that I have lives way out in Portland. I guess my path just doesn’t cross with too many gay people. I don’t know.

  2. I don’t think I have any gay friends. Of course, I don’t quite run in the same circles of people or interests, though.
    It is a scary thought that we might not be allowed to disagree with anything publicly. But at the same time, if we’d been more loving and gentle about it in the beginning, there wouldn’t be an issue of the possibility of inciting hate either.
    Doomsday is coming my friend.

  3. i talk about this stuff all the time at our church…
    we absolutely suck, as a whole, in dealing with homosexual’s. most christian leaders are just too grossed out by it to even remotely sympathize with the people involved.

    i’ve come to this conclusion:
    as a christian in this post-post-post-post-modern (ect.) society, we have to have truth and love.
    Jesus brough the truth, heavy and hard, with deep levels of compassion and grace. That’s why (imho) people followed Him everywhere.
    here was a guy bringing truth IN love.

    today, we either focus on “loving” people without confronting them with truth…or we delight in pointing out sin without a shred of grace, all in the name of “truth”
    we suck.
    and we need to quit.

    ps…i have 1 gay friend and 1 guy attending our church who struggles with it.

  4. I have many gay friends, and we talk about faith much more often than any of my straight friends. My gay friends are filled with so much more love than the heterosexuals. I often think of what strong people they have to be to decide to still have faith while being gay. They have more faith than I do. I have a problem when people spout off about how God is love and then condemn homosexuality. It’s not their place. Let God judge and let my friends love.

  5. Homesexuality is a tough issue. The Bible is clear that homesexuality is a sin. Of course there are many other sins such as gossip or glutany that the church tends to ignore. It seems that there is a hierarchy of sins & some are worse than others. The Bible is clear that sin is sin period.

    We are also called to follow Christ’s example & minister to all. We are to love the sinner but hate the sin.

    Do I currently have gay friends? Don’t think so but I have had in the past. I have seen the pain and turmoil caused by a gay cousin. Like other family members we had hoped that one day the relationship would be restored.

  6. Tough issue – no doubt. I have a number of friends that live the gay lifestyle. One of them is my nephew who has decided he “is gay”. Yeah, you’ll notice my terminology and it’s on purpose. I am fat and have health issue because I chose to eat stupid and not exercise for way too long. Others chose to lie, steal, cheat, gossip, drink, etc. We all sin by choice with only ourselves to blame. Our environment (what we are surrounded by – by choice or not) helps contribute to those lifestyle choices.

    That being said, there are basically two approaches I look at in the lives of those living in the homosexual lifestyle. The love of God MUST govern our actions in all we deal with. There is a difference in the approach we take, though. For those that are willing to listen to God’s words on sin, accept them, and attempt to make a change (repent is the religious word) in their life, the approach would be vastly different than for those that are simply looking for validation.

    Again, it’s different but the heart of Christ must be the governing factor in all things. It’s hard, it sucks sometimes (I hate the fact my nephew has chosen this lifestyle out of rebellion), but I know the only way I get through each day is by trusting that God remains in control of all things – even when I can’t see it clearly down here.

  7. This has certainly generated quite a variety of responses, which is to be expected. Opinions on this issue vary pretty widely in the church. I know most of the people who have responded thus far personally, some are pastors, some are seminary educated, others are just “regular folk” in the church.

    I appreciate Stem’s leadership on this issue. I feel that when we begin to approach this whole thing from a position of humility, and in a spirit of repentance, we’re taking a giant step in the right direction. And to see pastors leading by example in that regard is very refreshing.

    The one question everyone seems to be gravitating toward is; “Do you even have gay friends?” Some have said they have at least one. Others, like Tiff, know people in the church who are wrestling with these issues. I appreciated her perspective on what it must be like being gay in the church. When it seems like you’re everyone’s number one issue.

    I asked that question because while I was in community college one of my best friends was a gay guy who lived in my building. We spent a lot of time together and it really challenged my perspective on things. It produced great deal of humility in me and led to some serious repentance on my part. It softened my heart toward the homosexual community, that’s for sure.

    Is it a problem that more people in the church don’t have honest to goodness friendships with people who are gay? Are walls being built that Jesus would want torn down? Why do we build these walls?

  8. Does anyone see the writing on the wall on this one? In a day when Political Correctness rules the land; laws against hate speach concerning homosexuality leads to laws about condemning homosexuality, leads to laws about literature condemning homosexuality (the Bible), leads to laws concerning those who read or distribute such literature (even those not making a profit; i.e. your local church).

  9. I am not a well-schooled theologian, but I have strong opinions on this topic. The “God” I was taught to know is a loving and forgiving “God”. And yes I use “” because so many of us are Christians with a “God” that has different views.

    I am entirely sick of churches/individuals that preach through fear and hatred. I met an interesting person this past summer at a community festival. She reinforced my previous statement.

    As we were all standing under the bandstand during a driving rainstorm, my sister and I struck up a conversation with a woman from a local church. We shared an inspirational statement that my sister had come up with earlier in the day. I don’t remember what it was but it went somewhere along the line of… people loving each other and working together for a more peaceful, loving and creative environment. This conversation went from how it was nice to see a community pull together and help pick up a mess (caused by the weather) to how AIDS is her “Gods” way of cleansing the sin. My sister stayed and argued her point; I walked away before I knocked the lady in her nose.

    So what I am saying is: if the Son of Sam can find “forgiveness”, then that should apply to any other person who seeks “forgiveness” as well. So, if you are dealing with my “God”, and you have lead a decent life; you have sinned and you believe; you are not on a one-way train to hell. Because, if your “God” accepts serial killers who ask for “forgiveness” before they fry, then my “God” can let homosexuals, glutens, adulterers, greedy, lustful, wrath filled, individuals in as well.

    I imagine that if there were a universal example that we should follow, it would be… by trying to help others, heal the sick, feed the hungry, and strive for peace…

    I don’t believe the government should in anyway come in and dictate what dialogues we should or should not have. Because, there is a deep need to address such issues in many communities.

  10. Katie: Do I know you? I know several Katie’s, just trying to put a face on it. Did we go to high school or college together?

    My biggest problem with the “God is using AIDS to wipe away sin” perspective – apart from how hateful it seems – is that it doesn’t account for the fact that AIDS has in fact NOT wiped away sexual sin. Not even close. So God’s “punishments” seem rather ineffective in accomplishing their goal.

    Could it be a consequence? Certainly. But let us also not forget that innocent children and married (monogomous) women are the fastest growing group of people infected with HIV/AIDS. God “gives” children and faithful wives AIDS to punish what now?

    Adam: A genuine and possibly realistic concern. But let’s not forget a couple of things.

    For one, this law is not in affect in the US. So we’re not baby steps away from the scenario you’ve proposed. It’s more like a quantum leap.

    Secondly, if Christians were better equipped to handle conversations about this issue without resorting to arguments or dialogue that would come anywhere near the line of “inciting hatred,” we might go a long way toward making sure your “worst case” scenario never comes to fruition.

  11. i have a whole huge problem with the “problem” in the church regarding gays and homos and marriage and all that crap. but please, don’t get me started. i have numerous gay friends and over half of them consider themselves christian and love god – which is more than i can say for myself.

    if you’re wondering if people should be arrested for mocking gays and lesbians, then no, i don’t think they should. i think people need to learn how to measure their words and consider others before themselves in certain situations, but free speech is free speech is free speech. half the things i say offend people, and half the things i hear offend me. am i going to run out and cry foul and sue because of it? hell no.

    if you’re wondering how “the church” can “deal with” homos without seeming “anti-gay” then i kinda gotta say fuck all ya’ll. who the hell are you to judge whether or not someone goes to hell simply because they like someone of the same sex? christianity as a whole is warped beyond belief, and people barely have an inkling of what god is really about, church leaders and preachers included. it’s not something that needs to be “dealt with”. it is something that needs to be accepted and embraced, not shunned and condemned; something i bet jesus himself would do.

    uh. sorry. i didn’t mean to go off, and (if you ever bother to read my blogs) you’ll learn that my thoughts never come out clear and proper. this is partly because i’m at work and distracted, and partly because i just can’t think straight half the time.

  12. I think Jane’s comments illustrate just how Christians have certainly had their part to play in how hostile the environment is that frames this “issue.” And, by large, all that is being heard form us is hellspeak, condemnation and judgement. Or at least it’s the loudest message being spoken.

    I’m hoping we can work to change that. To get us engaged in loving, compassionate dialogue – beginning with our own humility and repentance.

  13. We went to high school together. I love reading your blog because you have so many thought provoking stories that you post. I lurk, but don’t comment much…

  14. I really like parts of what Jane had to say. Frankly, I’d love it if we (Christ folowers) were never allowed to address homosexuality again. I think it would be fantastic if we just taught people to follow God, to seek Christ and let HIM be the one to reveal the rights and wrongs of/in their lives. God can convict far better than any person I know. No one has ever convinced me of anything, but the holy spirit has brought me to my knees.

  15. I’ve left my name off this post out of respect for my father, who is gay. When you have a family member who is gay, one as influential as your Dad, a title we hold up as a pillar of manhood, it causes you as a Christian to really take a look at this issue head on. The reality is, I need to everyday, honor my Father as the bible says, not excepting his sin as right, but forgiving him for leaving my Mom and loving him as Christ does. That’s my responsibility as his child. It’s not my responsibility to change my Dad, or anyone for that matter. WE CANNOT CHANGE PEOPLE!!! That is soooooo important and humbling as Christians. Only the spirit of Christ working in us and for us can people be changed. That frees you up to really just be like Christ. That’s how I love my Dad, by being Christ to him. I don’t burden myself with the expectation that I need to somehow “get him saved.”

    Also…a word of caution for those Christians who wish to fall on the other side and say, “I know X number of gay people” It can be seen as pride (gay pride…har har) on your part. It’s almost like the musical Guys and Dolls. “I guarantee you 1 dozen genuine sinners!” You’re quantifying your spirituality by placing a number on the amount of people you know who, “do this” or “live this way” . Do we go around saying, “I know 5 gossipers” or “I know 10 people who sleep with their girlfriend”? My father is first and foremost my Dad. He’s not my “gay Dad.” That is his personal struggle. I try so hard, and fail as we all do, to make sure I never see a person first as “gay” and somehow feel proud that I have a “gay friend”. I’m proud by just loving someone no matter who they are because Christ wants me too. Hope this all makes sense.

  16. Your last point…

    In helping me/us learn and grow – would you say my sharing a story about how my perspective was challenged by befriending a gay man in college would echo your concern? Meaning, is that bordering on bragging about my “gay friends?”

    Don’t worry – I’m not looking for validation. Just insight. 😆

  17. It’s a valid concern, and I guess I’ve never thought about it before.

    About my last point, I can probably speak more about myself being puffed up by my own, “goodness.” For instance, my internal dialog going something like, “Man…I’m so awesome, I’m having a conversation with this gay guy, and I’m not condemning him.” (even..though I’m so fixated on his sin) There’s just something wrong and kinda twisted when I’m thinking that.

    In terms of your question, where would we be without honest anecdotes about our struggles AND our accomplishments? Yet, I’d like to think, when we’re being totally like Christ that we become so unaware of our own goodness to the point that we’re not having this internal dialog anymore praising ourselves for how “good” we are. I’d like to think that when we’re being like Christ all we can do is recognize the good in others, always saying something like, “I noticed that John Doe Christian always manages to find that marginalize person and befriend them.” I’m not saying that’s the norm, nor is it something I can say I do often, but…just something I’m pondering.

  18. Europeans have always had different standards or beliefs concerning free speech than Americans do, so I really think that legislation passed in the UK is a non issue for our First Amendment rights.

    That said, I’ll play along. Government should not be telling anybody anywhere what to say. Period. That applies to everyone. The KKK, NAMBLA, Christians, Anti-war demonstrators — anyone. No matter how much we might hate what someone else says — we have no right to impose our views on others in a diverse, democratic society.

    But if that ever did happen, the Christians, the ones who are honest anyway, will have to admit in hindsight that the “this is what I believe so everyone else has to live the same way — even under threat of government force” will have been their own doing. Nobody likes to legislate other people’s morality more than the Christian right.

    God himself doesn’t do that. Free will is what makes us human. It’s what makes all our choices meaningful in a spiritual sense. In order for us to give ourselves to God, we had to HAVE SOMETHING first. And we had NOTHING. The Bible is clear about that. God wants to have a love affair with us. Nobody can have a love affair by force. That would be rape.

    So he gave us the incredible gift of freedom to decide whether or not to give ourselves to him. This is a moment-by-moment decision. Frankly, it’s enough to keep all of us busy without worrying who is sleeping with whom.

    So much of what passes as “ministry” today is veiled hatred and fear. Some Christians aren’t themselves sure, knowing their own sins, that God is good enough to forgive *them* — so they set up a standard for themselves, a rubric if you will, to convince themselves that they are okay with God. But if other people are different, it threatens their sense of their own salvation, so they have to “fix” it. It’s not even about the “lost” — it’s about their own insecurity. People who try to control others do so because they themselves are, or feel, out of control.

    This is not faith. It’s the opposite of faith, fear. When other people seem to actually be *happy* being themselves and not worried about going to “hell” (which I don’t believe in) it pisses Christians off, which leads to hatred. “Why do I have to be so riddled with torment about ‘right behavior’ when other people live much “worse” than I do and aren’t worried at all.”

    As far as the First Amendment goes, as well as all of our other rights, every one of us, Christian or not, needs to stay out of other people’s business. We have enough on our own plates, and we all die alone.

  19. i got a bunch of gay friends. they ask me sometimes what i think about it. in my “humble” opinion, it’s not for me to say what is wrong and right for two consenting adults to do together in the ol’ bedchamber. i mean, i’ve been blunt w/ male gay friends and said “dude i honestly think that’s repulsive”, but i have straight male friends who have some nasty habits, so whatevs. i was gonna write a blog about the whole thing about a month ago, but i didn’t want to upset anyone. i’ve read “alternative” interpretations of every passage that appears to refer to homosexuality, and think there is some validity to them. but i’m not going to speak for God. and being gay is between that person and God, not me or you or anyone else and them. i remember two kids at nyack getting kicked out for being gay. yeah, real christ like, i’m sure those two really learned a lot about christian love from that. BS. one thing i do know is that fred phelps and his followers are nothing but hate mongers, and if God hates anyone, it’s them.

  20. i m a gay…. but i m ashaming for that and i m cursing the God daily because god made me as a gay….. my parents are expecting that i should lead a life by marrying a woman….. how could i marry?
    really marrying a woman is not possible for me…
    but atleast for my parents i have to marry a woman….. for that i should giveup my gay attitude ….. i m also trying for that… but i couldnt….will any one help me to change my gay attitude i.e. tell me the ways for me to become an ordinary man…..plz…atleast for my parents….

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