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Do you remember when “hate” meant “hate?” When I was a kid, my sisters and I weren’t even allowed to say the word hate, especially if it pertained to another person. Hate was considered such a strong word that it had, we were told, a very limited place in polite conversation.
My mother’s wisdom notwithstanding, have you noticed that during the past few years, and especially in the aftermath of the tragic shootings in Tucson, it seems everyone is talking about hate?
Pundits, political commentators and talk show hosts constantly talk about it, often in reference to the “hate speech” of this group or that. However, I’ve noticed that hate ain’t what it used to be.
It seems to me that in the current usage, “hate” no longer means “hate.” It means any speech with which I happen to disagree that I wish to silence.
This is a disturbing trend, particularly for its impact on religious freedom. Nowhere is this more evident than in the battle over the normalization of homosexual behavior and so-called “gay rights.”
For example, in the past when one thought of a “hate group,” most people would think of the Ku Klux Klan or the Neo Nazis or al Qaeda.
Now, however, in its recently-released Winter Intelligence Report, the Southern Poverty Law Center labels 18 Christian organizations (including the American Family Association, the National Organization for Marriage and the Family Research Council) as "anti-gay groups," and 13 of those will be added to the Center’s list of official “hate groups.”
So what was the hateful offense of these Christian groups?
If you said, “opposing gay marriage,” you win.
In the words of the SPLC, these groups were cited for “pumping out demonizing propaganda aimed at homosexuals and other sexual minorities."
If you know anything about the groups listed above, that seems to be an overly prejudicial description of their activities.
So, you may ask, why should anyone care what the SPLC thinks? Well, one reason is that their list is used by the both the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security (who sends it to police departments all over the United States) to help identify "potential domestic terrorists.”
To be branded a "hate group" by an organization so closely associated with the government gives the suspect designation a great deal more weight.
For example, almost immediately following the SPLC’s announcement, The Manhattan Declaration, an important document that affirms the sanctity of life, traditional marriage and religious freedom in very civil, respectful terms (and which is signed by hundreds of thousands of Christian leaders – including myself), was no longer available on iTunes as an Apple app.
The news report about its removal noted that "supporters of the declaration include Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council, a group recently labeled a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center." (italics mine)
When the Manhattan Declaration’s authors petitioned Apple to reinstate the app, the company responded that they couldn’t post the declaration to their store because it was “defamatory” and “mean-spirited” and contained “content that is likely to expose a group to harm."
As Chuck Colson, one of the document’s authors stated, “Seeing the Manhattan Declaration as ‘defamatory’ or ‘mean-spirited,’ never mind ‘likely to expose a group to harm’ requires a reality distortion field of epic proportions. Not only is the tone of the Manhattan Declaration civil and respectful, but its call to conscience is designed to lessen conflict, not promote it. But none of this seems to matter. For Apple, apparently, even civil and respectful disagreement is a kind of ‘harm.’”
But Colson then went even further, adding, “And don't think that gay-rights activists will be content with getting us removed from the App Store – their goal is to exclude us from the public square altogether. And the best way to achieve that goal is to convince people that simply holding a traditional view on marriage, family and human sexuality is a kind of ‘hate speech’ and incitement to violence.”
If you doubt this, consider what Federal Judge Vaughn Walker said back in August when he overturned California's Proposition 8: "...beliefs that gay and lesbian relationships are sinful or inferior to heterosexual relationships harm gays and lesbians."
Did you catch that? It is not actions, or even words, that are now considered harmful.
Now even what someone believes is subject to judicial scrutiny. To simply be a supporter of traditional marriage today is to be accused of hatred.
Mark Potok, director of SPLC's Intelligence Project, admitted as much when he said that labeling an organization as a “hate group” has “nothing to do with criminality… [or] potential for violence…"
Rather, he said, "It's all about ideology."
What a remarkable admission! It is no longer only what you do that is potentially ‘hateful’, what you think is now under attack as well.
This is, unfortunately, a view held by some in high places in our government.
Chai Feldblum, who, as commissioner of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is entrusted with deciding what is fair and legal in workplaces all across America, is on record as stating that “private beliefs” that do not affirm homosexual behavior should not be tolerated in American society.
According to Feldblum, people of faith are no longer free to believe, much less express, any religious convictions about this topic.
What that really means is that any employer who doesn’t share Feldblum’s beliefs about homosexual behavior can be prosecuted to the limits of the law.
If you still wonder what the practical effect of all this might be, Feldblum helps to clarify her position by stating that when religious liberty and what she calls “sexual identity liberty” conflict, “I’m having a hard time coming up with any case in which religious liberty should win.”
So much for the Constitution.
If you are a Christian and these things don’t alarm you, you’re simply not paying attention. Though it would have been unthinkable to my grandparents’ generation (and all those who came before), I believe that our religious liberties in America are quickly eroding, and the time is soon coming when publicly espousing Christianity will be outlawed as “hate speech.”
In fact, there are numerous examples I could point out if space permitted where this is already happening, but that will have to be another column for another day.
Chuck Souder is on staff at Shelby Christian Church. He can be reached at email@example.com.