Column: A Religion (or Culture?) of Hate

Guest Contributor —  October 3, 2014 — 64 Comments

[From time to time, we invite guest writers to share their thoughts about issues making news in our communities. Today’s guest is Lisa Roling, a licensed clinical social worker, a member of Covenant of the Goddess, and the co-priestess of Inanna’s Well. She lives in the valleys of Eastern Pennsylvania, where she is loving her pregnant wife and spinning yarn. If you enjoy the diversity of opinions and the new voices that come through our guest posts and through our monthly columnists, please support our Fall Fund Drive. You make it possible for us to continue this work. Consider making a donation today.Thank you.]

Thirteen years ago, on September 11, our country shook as we faced the devastation that hate can inflict. Regardless of our religion, race, sexual orientation, or any other socially-recognized division, we stood together as a people; held our loved ones more closely; grieved for our losses; and vowed to stand together in pride. On this September 11, two gay men were savagely beaten on the streets of Philadelphia, the “City of Brotherly Love.”

Philadelphia Sky Line [Photo Credit: Jeffrey M. Vinocur. cc lic Wikimedia Commons]

Philadelphia Sky Line [Photo Credit: Jeffrey M. Vinocur. cc lic Wikimedia Commons]

News reports quickly highlighted a similarity shared by each of the 12 people who had confronted the couple, including the three who had physically attacked the men. All were graduates of Archbishop Wood, a local Catholic high school. A coach was also present. However reports differ on what, if any, role he played in the attack. He has since resigned his position, and the school has renounced the actions taken by the mob of former students. Three individuals have been arrested and subsequently released on bail.

The LGBT community is understandably furious, especially since they are now reminded that sexual orientation is not covered by the state’s hate-crime laws. Some members of the LGBT community have found renewed energy and determination in lobbying for the creation of legislation to include sexual orientation and gender expression in the list of protected groups.Several hundred residents of Philadelphia recently gathered in Philadelphia’s Love Park to show their support for the severely beaten couple and to speak out for the protection of the LGBT community by the Commonwealth’s hate crime laws.

"LOVE Park Philly" [Photo Credit: Smallbones. Public Domain lic. via Wikimedia]

“LOVE Park Philly” [Photo Credit: Smallbones. Public Domain lic. via Wikimedia]

Others have directed their anger and outrage into the public shaming of the assailants. On the Internet, there has been a particular interest in the female defendant, who has been widely criticized as being a promiscuous, binge-drinking homophobe. There is also no shortage of hate speech pointed in the general direction of the Catholic Church. It is understandable how easy it could be to look to the Church considering its stance on homosexuality.

But are the acts of a small group of people a reflection on the teachings of the Catholic Church?

Soon after it was learned that individuals involved were graduates of the Catholic high school, the Archdiocese of Philadelphia released a statement in response, stating:

…Catholic schools are centers of learning where students are expected to treat each other in a Christ-like manner at all times and that everyone deserves to be treated with respect and dignity. The actions of those who took part in the attack are reprehensible and entirely unacceptable. They are not an accurate reflection of our Catholic values…

Many people have rolled their eyes at this statement and, with heavy sarcasm, laughed it away. Notwithstanding the new voice of Pope Francis, the Catholic Church has had a long history of speaking out against gay marriage and teaching that homosexuality is “sinful.” The general stance on the subject has not wavered. However the Church has attempted to repackage it to fit the current cultural context by saying, “love the sinner, hate the sin.”

The assumption in this statement is that homosexuality is simply a behavior, just like wearing clothing of mixed fibers, burning bulls to please the Lord, and eating shellfish. While Catholicism does not rail against eating shellfish in this day and age, they have maintained their stance on homosexuality. Clearly this institutional belief and teaching does not endorse violence. Howevever, it does reinforce that LGBT individuals are different and, therefore, not deserving of the respect and dignity of which the Archdiocese speaks.

The Catholic Church, however, does not have the corner market on the intolerance of “difference.” Generally speaking,  we humans, do not like people who are different. Regardless of religious belief, or lack of religious belief, we innately distrust anyone who is different from ourselves. Learning to look past differences, see similarities, and ultimately accept people for everything that they are is a learned behavior. Our biology is such that we are easily convinced to distance ourselves from people who are different from us. If this distrust is a natural human instinct, can we hold a religion accountable for violent and reprehensible actions conducted by an individual member of that religion?

There are certainly many Christians who distance themselves from the likes of the Westboro Baptist Church and Muslims who distance themselves from the ISIL. There have also been countless times that individuals have committed cruel and unforgivable acts, stating that it was part of their Pagan identity. In such cases, members of the Pagan community, have responded by denouncing the person and the act: “This is not a value of our religion!” or “This person isn’t really a Witch!” But the truth is that every religious group, every racial and ethnic group, every conceivable “type” of person we can lump people together as a group, will contain individuals of whom we are not proud; people we want to distance ourselves from because they are clearly not like “us.”

Robert L. Schreiwer

Robert L. Schreiwer

Portraying the entire religious group in that manner, however, is often inaccurate. Rob Schreiwer is a resident of Philadelphia, the manager of Heathens Against Hate, a Chaplain of In-Reach Heathen Prison Service, President of Distelfink Sippschaft, Assistant Steer of The Troth, and organizer of the Delaware Valley Pagan Network. He says:

I want to be careful not to pin the actions of a few adherents of another religion on the religion itself… We Heathens, in particular, know what it is like to be tarred by the brush of vile actions perpetrated by others in the name of our religion, so we must be extra vigilant not to engage in a rush to judgment ourselves.

While the Catholic Church does have a institutional violent streak in its past, the individuals that acted in this particular case appear to be just that: individuals. They did not say they were acting on behalf of their religion. According to media reports, they were simply acting on their own accord; only on behalf of their own intolerant and volatile nature. Unfortunately, as Schreiwer notes, “Such forces are destructive, not only to their victims, but also to entire communities and even to the perpetrators.”

How do religious communities heal from situations like this? How does the LGBT community heal and move forward? Certainly not by ostracizing and shaming the assailants. For as much as our self-righteous indignation enjoys that in the moment, many members of Pagan and Heathen communities know the pain and suffering that come from being on the receiving end of that very same indignation. Schreiwer says that the Heathen community has responded to such actions by taking a more proactive stance. They are “helping to educate at-risk Heathen populations as well as institutional administrators and the general public about what Heathenry is and what Heathenry is not.” He adds, “While there must always be freedom of consciousness and thought, each community has a right and a need to stand against the devolution of our society and the disintegration of law and order.”

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  • Baruch Dreamstalker

    One action the BGLT community can take is to organize for an expansion of the PA hate crime law to protect sexual orientation and gender identity. Yes, there is controversy over hate crime laws in general, but this is no time for that debate. This is an obvious rallying point for hurt people who feel a need to do something.

    • Franklin_Evans

      There must always be time for the debate over hate crime legislation. It is (in my personal view of course) a false panacea offered to identity groups whose members are past and present victims of crimes that are perpetrated against everyone regardless of their identity. Proportions aside — and that’s an important issue itself, the disproportionate victimization of certain identity groups — the crimes are already serious and do not need to be “enhanced” as an emotional sop to the victims.

      My view is very unpopular. I already know that, having had this debate with my LGBT friends. In the meantime, any call to bulldoze over fundamental social issues is a call to continue the cycle of violence by those in power against those not in power, the only difference being who is in each place. As LGBT (and minority identity groups in general) gain this power of hate crimes, who is going to moderate their emotional drive for revenge?

      • Crystal Hope Kendrick

        As a woman, I am considered a protected class. Has there been any “emotional drive for revenge” on the part of women that you know of? How about people of color? That seems an unlikely scenario.

        • Franklin_Evans

          As a feminist man raised by three feminist women (two older sisters), I would reject any notion that discrimination against women in the past or present could remotely be categorized as a hate crime. The logic works somewhat better for people of color, as I have personally witnessed throughout my life amongst a default racism in my region about which I’m sure you can find many stories.

          • Crystal Hope Kendrick

            And have you witnessed an “emotional drive for revenge” from people of color?

          • Franklin_Evans

            Please see my reply to NeoWayland below, and please forgive my lack of further response. I really am too tired to write coherently right now.

        • Franklin_Evans

          Permit me first to acknowledge that my point so far has been rather vaguely put. Your challenging me is right and proper. I trust your intentions.

          I am engaged in on-going arguments with a group of conservative Christians at The American Conservative blog site. I spend most of my time there at Rod Dreher’s blog. The annoying Charles Cosimano learned of TWH from me when I referenced a TWH article in a thread there. I’m not the only pro-LGBT person there by a long shot, just one of the more prolific posters. I perhaps at least a bit arrogantly claim to understand their motivations, and as I hasten to remind them on many occasions understanding is never necessarily agreement.

          They are ignorant. They are angry. They are afraid. Adding that they hate to the mix is almost redundant, but focusing on hate ignores the other motivations to the point that they may as well not exist. That, I argue, would be a criminal avoidance by us of their true motivations, and would prevent any possibility of healing.

          They fear retribution. They don’t need to be right about that — I join others in rejecting their use of the term “we are persecuted” — but they point to examples that prove their decision to be afraid. The examples don’t need to be objectively correct. But the do point to an historical fact:

          The cycle of history clearly shows that the formerly oppressed coming to power usually as their first act move to oppress their former oppressors. The cycle transcends religion, ideology and political philosophy.

          You and I will not agree with the usage, but they already have proof that revenge is being taken. The CEO who makes offhandedly bigoted remarks about SSM or LGBT people, whose company has never shown itself to be bigoted in its operations any more than any other company can be shown, suddenly must be fired because the politically correct world will punish the company until he is fired. Is that not worthy of the label of revenge? I think it could be.

          I’ll stop there. I’ll regret in advance that you may see this as lecturing. It’s the way I talk, no patronizing intended.

          • Baruch Dreamstalker

            The CEO who makes offhandedly bigoted remarks about SSM or LGBT people, whose company has never shown itself to be bigoted in its operations any more than any other company can be shown, suddenly must be fired because the politically correct world will punish the company until he is fired.The question here is whether there should be social penalties for such remarks befitting the power of the one making it. I tend to think so, and I don’t weep for the company because the alternative is to make CEOs exempt.You might persuade me otherwise, but not with loaded language like “revenge.” That puts a rhetorical thumb on one side of the scale, which I find anything but persuasive.

          • Franklin_Evans

            My rhetorical intention was a consequence mandated and enforced by law. I agree with you completely that social “penalties” are appropriate, and the use of “revenge” is perhaps exaggerated but fits the original point I was trying to make. It’s not loaded when those in power oppress others, and later those others come to power and oppress the former holders of power in their turn. If you have a more accurate term for that than “revenge”, please suggest it.

          • Baruch Dreamstalker

            I decline to parse “revenge” but I will note the entire criminal justice system can be tarred as institutionalized vengeance on the same logic.

          • Franklin_Evans

            Yeah, no argument from me on that one.

      • Baruch Dreamstalker

        Hate crime sentence enhancers take into account the economy of policing and prosecution, which are more determined to secure a conviction for higher-sentence crimes. I don’t defend this; I merely observe it.Hate crime enhancers also set a useful marker that violence across certain divisions in society are historical dynamite and will be punished more severely. It’s a way of articulating moral priorities at the concrete level.If it needs to be said, I’ll add that I’m only talking about enhancement to the sentence of what is already a crime. Not penalizing hate speech or any other infringement on the First Amendment.Cycle of violence? How many women are raped, and how few take any kind of vengeance?

        • NeoWayland

          This is what I meant.

          I can’t convince a bunch of Christian conservatives that gays deserve equal treatment under the law when there are people shouting loudly that certain classes of people deserve special treatment.

          “All animals are equal, but some are more equal than others.”

          • kenofken

            Gays aren’t getting any “special treatment” that these Christian conservatives don’t have already or won’t get under hate crimes and civil rights laws. If someone goes out and beats down a Catholic because of their religion, that’s a hate crime. If we have laws defining sexual orientation as a category of hate crime/civil rights law, that door swings both ways (so to speak). If a bunch of angry gay men attacks a hetero couple in boystown and singles them out as “breeders” etc. for their orientation, they get the same protection in law as the classic example of straight-on-gay violence.

          • NeoWayland

            Assault is already a crime.

          • Baruch Dreamstalker

            Nobody is asking for special treatment. They are asking to be treated like everyone else — in the instance, to be safe in society. “Special treatment” is what folks say who already do get treated like everyone else.

          • NeoWayland

            Pardon, but that isn’t what you said, Emphasis added.

            “Hate crime enhancers also set a useful marker that violence across certain divisions in society are historical dynamite and will be punished more severely.

          • Baruch Dreamstalker

            This is not special treatment of anyone, because the penalty is bilateral. That is, if a gang of BGLTs beats up a straight person for being straight, they get the hate crime specification, too. Everyone is equal; the crime is a crime for everyone.That’s why the specification wording says “sexual orientation” rather than “gay or lesbian.” It’s a way of making the law reflect our actual social history without embedding that history in the law in detail. It is, of course, rare for the violence itself to be bilateral in this way, but the law must apply equally to all.This comment has already been made on this thread.

          • NeoWayland

            I must admit, I prefer my version.

            If a gang beats up a person, they are charged with a crime.

            If nothing else, it saves time typing it. Fewer details embedded in the law, that sort of thing.

          • Baruch Dreamstalker

            Yes, your preference is clear. I just do not find it persuasive.

          • Friday

            Hate crimes are about more than the person beat up: they’re about terrorizing and making ‘lesser’ entire groups of people.

            They are worse crimes because they have more *victims* and because they degrade civil rights and liberties and freedoms for both whole groups, and anyone else around.

            Targeted groups like LGBT people and minority religions (Or even majority ones: hate crimes laws are not ‘special treatment’ just because majorities are rarely targeted for hate crimes.) are also individuals who have to take the same risks as any other individuals, *plus* additional, random, and usually far more violent ones just for being who we are. And these target more victims than a simple dispute between people.

            Simple fact is that in a mugging, the target is your money, in a bashing, the target is your and everyone like you’s *life.*

  • g75401

    While it is nice to say we don’t want to shame and ostracize the perpetrators, the fact remains that, just like society avoids outsiders and perceived outsiders, shame and ostracism are methods used by society to isolate and extinguish undesirable behavior. Just 30 years ago, the victims of this attack would have been shamed. Now we shame the perpetrators. It is a sign that values are shifting, how ever ugly that sign may be.

  • Franklin_Evans

    Ms. Roling wrote an overall balanced piece. As a lifelong resident of this region I do insist on some clarifications.

    The Catholic religion has nothing to do with the culture of bullying. That culture is ubiquitous, substitute a variety of labels for “Catholic”, and LGBT people are the targets in every single one of them.

    I love my home town — Upper Darby, on the western border of Philadelphia — I love my resident neighborhoods in Philadelphia, and my observation of four generations of people in those areas is very simple: they partake in the Great American Game of Power, they identify and use scapegoats to their advantage in that game, and LGBT is just the more recent choice of scapegoat for them, being slowly replaced in the region by immigrants from Viet Nam (amongst other sources). Jews still surface on that list periodically. The now near-majority African-American population produces examples on both sides of the power game, in-power and scapegoats.

    The defendants in the beating are typical of still significant outliers of the city, places where bigots of previous generations went to protect their bigotry and preserve their “right” to bully others of any description, as in anyone not them. Not only are they not representative of Catholicism, they are not representative of the City of Philadelphia… where we have a separate axe to grind, namely the utter lack of witnesses stepping forward to intervene during the incident. I find that much more disturbing than the issues around the religion controversy.

    • kenofken

      “The Catholic religion has nothing to do with the culture of bullying.”…

      With all due respect, I’m not having it. The letter of their theology has a lovely nuance to it “hate the sin, not the sinner”, but the culture of the Catholic Church, up to its highest leadership, is seething with hatred toward LGBT folks. The last two popes, and most of the bishops they appointed, have carried on an unrelenting culture war of dehumanizing rhetoric toward gays, lesbians and trans people.

      For many of the past 20 years, they have talked about this to the virtual exclusion of any other topic. Here in Chicago, Cardinal George spent his entire teunure insulting and provoking and demeaning the gay community at every turn. It was a weekly, even daily drumbeat with him. Among his gems were a comment likening gay activists to the KKK. It was over a fight that didn’t even exist, something to do with the logistics of the pride parade and the traffic impact on a church on its route. Georgie jumped right into the issue, assuming the gays were marching to terrorize the church like klasmen, because, really, that’s what gays are about… He was not at all an anomaly in this regard. He was playing Rome’s message.

      The bishops and Rome also blamed the abuse crisis primarily on homosexuality, not on the culture of criminal leadership and secrecy. They missed no opportunity to draw parallels and inferences between homosexuality and bestiality and rape. They ascribed to the gay movement a motive of pure evil and aggression. Their party line, down to the present, has been that the entire gay rights movement is just a pretext for destroying Christianity. The last pope called same sex marriage a “threat to humanity.” George predicted gay marriage would lead to a gulag state and martyrdom for his successors. Their whole message has been “GAY NAZIS WILL DESTROY YOUR FAMILY” in 10-foot high type, with an asterisk and 3-point font saying “but we’re called to love the gay person.” You don’t see any connection between propaganda casting gays as an existential threat and the violence and discrimination that happens in the street?

      • Franklin_Evans

        Perhaps I need to rephrase, since you seem to be responding to a sentence out of context.

        You cannot claim that Catholicism by itself is the sole source and proprietor of the culture of bullying. My personal, anecdotal evidence is having grown up in a community that was 80% Catholic.There were plenty of bullies from every faith and tradition.

        I could accept an argument that Christianity (the general tradition) in the US promotes the bully to a certain legitimacy. I’d enjoy that discussion better after recovering from an exhausting day and week, so please don’t take my brevity here as anything else.

        • kenofken

          I would agree fully that Catholicism is not the sole source of bullying, even on this issue (though I would argue they have a solid slice of the market).

        • Lēoht “Sceadusawol” Steren

          Not just Christianity, either. Muslims are not renowned for their tolerance of homosexuality, not are (Orthodox) Jews.

          When it is explicitly referenced in their scripture as an abomination, can we really expect them to be approving of it, without degrading their religion?

  • NeoWayland

    I never have agreed with “hate” crimes.

    Theft is wrong. Murder is wrong. Assault is wrong.

    How are these things worse because of “hate?”

    How are they worse because of skin color or sexual orientation or creed or even because the victim wore red socks?

    You don’t have rights because you’re pagan or gay or a woman or because of your ancestors. You have rights because you are human. It’s not a right unless the other guy has it too. Anything more is privilege.

    When we protect a group, what we’re really saying is that they aren’t good enough without help. We’re implying that they will never be good enough no matter what. We’re making them perpetual victims.

    I want allies. I want them strong. I want them waving their fingers in my face and yelling if I do something wrong. I want them honest enough to tell the truth.

    And if I can’t convince people to stand up for what’s right without holding a gun to their head and threatening them, I’m doing it wrong.

    • Franklin_Evans

      Very well said.

      There is a distinction some fail to grasp. For crimes or criminal activities already covered by existing statutes, the only way to “enhance” them is with hate crime legislation. For actions not covered by statute — like the form of discrimination practiced by employers, that being an area with which I have some familiarity — laws are needed to specify both the crime and the status of the victims. Discrimination laws are a very poor comparison point for hate crime law proponents.

      So, my point here is that Affirmative Action and subsequent anti-discrimination laws created recourse for the already powerless, who would still be “perpetual victims” due to circumstances and not whether or not they were, are or will ever be “good enough”.

    • Northern_Light_27

      These things aren’t worse because of “hate”, they’re worse because of terrorism.

      Scenario 1: Joe is angry at his neighbor Joe grabs his gun and shoots his neighbor. Joe’s intent is personal, focused on a specific individual. Joe isn’t intending to terrorize anyone but the one person he has an animus against, though I’d be worried if he moved in next door.

      Scenario 2: Joe is angry that there are so many openly gay people in his neighborhood, he wants them to go away and stop “flaunting” their relationships where he can see them. He goes out and beats two of them. Joe’s message here? Gay people, stop being openly gay in my neighborhood. If you won’t stop, you’ll be beaten. Joe’s actions terrorize and intimidate a large class of people, Joe doesn’t care about these gay people, Joe cares about gay people as a group.

      Joe is hateful in both instances, but in only one of them is Joe intending to use his crime to send a very broad message that terrorizes a class of people as a class of people, and it will work on them whether or not they know Joe personally. Joe is committing a more disturbing breach of the peace in 2, because 1 is unlikely to inspire other people to emulate him, as there aren’t broad swathes of people with animus against his neighbor. There are broad swathes of people with animus against gay people, so the stronger sentence is intended to act as a deterrent to those who would follow in Joe’s footsteps. I think calling minor domestic terrorism a “hate crime” is a misnomer and a distraction.

      • NeoWayland

        I disagree, but you knew that.

        I don’t think hate makes someone more dead.

        • kenofken

          If dead is dead, why does ISIS make a point of beheading any westerner it finds, and videotaping it for release? Why did the old KKK insist on public lynchings? These acts are designed to the last detail to terrorize and enslave populations far beyond the victim. Clearly the perpetrators of hate crime see that hate crime is not “just” crime. Why do we work so hard to blind ourselves to that fact?

          • NeoWayland

            Because the fear gives the nasties power over.

            It is not one action, it is at least two.

            Stiffer penalties won’t stop the fear, and it won’t make people safer. That battle can’t be won by becoming the bigger monsters.

          • kenofken

            You don’t think the Civil Rights Act and the culture of federal enforcement around it made life any better for black Americans in the South?

          • NeoWayland

            No law required people to march in protest. No law demanded a sit-in at Woolworth’s lunch counter. The changes were happening before the act was passed.

            I’d say that in many ways the 1964 act froze that change. People weren’t responsible any more, it was government’s job. Add a changing civil rights movement leadership that put guilt politics and special privilege over equal rights, and you get one big gooey mess.

            It’s been 50 years since the Civil Rights Act was passed. Do we still need it because we locked people into a lower social class? When will those who benefit from the 1964 act not need it anymore?

          • kenofken

            Its true the law didn’t do the work of social change. It’s also true that none of it could have happened without the laws and the law enforcement breakage of a century long tradition of violence enabled by absolute impunity. When will those who benefit from the 1964 act no longer need it? I suppose when we become such an enlightened species and society that such discrimination would be unthinkable. I also don’t buy the argument that “those who benefit” are some permanent underclass. The 64 act was of particular benefit to black Americans at the time, but we all benefit from laws which prohibit institutionalized oppression and the creation of formal second class citizenship.

          • Franklin_Evans

            Your exchange with NeoWayland is balanced and together you both express what I would have if I weren’t using my exhaustion as an excuse here. The short version from my POV: as soon as you surrender the social contract obligation to establish and enforce humane treatment of each other to the law, you make it possible to perpetuate inhumane treatment by those in power over law enforcement. The Civil Rights Act was an action in the opposite direction, using law to reduce the power of local law enforcement’s ability to oppress those not in power.

            I’m making this my last post tonight before my growing incoherence gets me into more trouble. 😀

          • kenofken

            Christians, or more properly the anti-SSM movement, has constructed the narrative which says that making them follow the same laws everyone else has to constitutes oppression. Needless to say, that narrative doesn’t hold much water with me. The fact that many in the gay rights movement might be gloating a bit over this change of fortunes does not render the enforcement of public accommodations laws an act of oppression. They’re butthurt about their loss of privilege and power to do the oppressing. I’m not gonna shed a lot of tears over that, nor about their ideas rapid drop in value in the marketplace of ideas.

            If the anti-gay movement wants to forestall the cycle of retribution they fear coming on, they might try dishing out a little bit of humane treatment themselves. They’re still pushing the hate and provocation as hard as they can, even as the tide is turning rapidly against them. Fighting a no-quarter-given war when you’re in full retreat with nowhere to go is pretty stupid when your side is also demanding generous terms of surrender.

          • Franklin_Evans

            I missed this post before now. I completely agree with you in principle, and I’ve use my own phrasing of your second paragraph many times… to little avail.

          • NeoWayland

            The laws didn’t make the change. The laws were in reaction to the change already taking place.

            The cynic in me adds “and so the politicos could take credit.”

            I think that since the 1964 Act recognized the inequality, it also entrenched it in law. The mere suggestion that it might be unnecessary brings controversy.

            True story. During my Corporate Clone days a young “black” lady threatened to sue me for racial discrimination. When she arrived with her lawyer, I didn’t say a word. I just took them into the back office. They left and I never heard from them again.

            The office was in a town next to the Navajo Reservation, you see.

          • Northern_Light_27

            I don’t think it’s monstrous, and I’m not sure I completely see why you do. Things like this, IMO, are never completely about what they’re about. By which I mean that people who beat gay people do have a problem with gay people, but they’ve probably got a lot of other reasons that motivated them to do the rather extraordinary thing of getting up off their couches, finding a target, and beating the crap out of that target. It’s a complex stew of resentment and insecurity that motivates something as impersonal as this. And the trouble is that it can be contagious– it’s not that uncommon for impersonal violence to become mob violence. “Here’s a target for everything going wrong in your life” translates better when it’s “this group you already dislike” than it does when it’s “this guy you don’t know who’s a jerk toward me”. I think of enhanced sentences as idk, traffic calming measures of mass murder– putting a speed bump in there that might make you think twice about copying the guy you read about in the paper. So I think it’s less directly aimed at calming fear and more intended to stop the contagion before it has a chance to spread– and we have ample evidence that it can do just that.

          • NeoWayland

            I will focus on the act and not the thought.

            I don’t care what they think and feel so long they don’t act on it. Then I think it should be treated as a crime. Not because someone attacked a gay man or a woman, but because they attacked a human.

          • Franklin_Evans

            There’s so many important and valid points being made in this tangent, I almost have to randomly pick the post to reply to. All of you are erudite and thought provoking. I must preface the rest of this and qualify my previous posts with “I am not a lawyer”.

            The law, as I’ve been taught by those who should know as well as learned as a jury member in civil and criminal trials, does in fact distinguish intent. The lines are very clearly drawn. Proof cannot be circumstantial only. The gradations of homicide are the most vivid example, but it applies to other crimes as well BUT with important differences.

            I argue that the “hate crime” attribute already existed in that limited fashion. First-degree homicide includes intention prior to the circumstances of the act. So too does felony assault. In the Philly case, I expect the prosecutors to not have sufficient evidence to prove that prior intent in the defendants, though they no doubt will try.

            Hate crimes create a further link. It debases prior intention for the specific attributes of the victim. It says, in effect, that we must now have something even more serious than first-degree murder or felony assault for what look to me like politically correct reasons. It begs the question: the murder of a young black man who refuses to join a gang (another Philly example) is somehow less serious than a crazed Christian hunting down gay men and killing them.

            That’s not a spurious juggling act. It’s a grieving demand by the mother of that black man to the LGBT-supporting community to be with her, not over her.

            It must be noted and emphasized that the foundation of American criminal justice is not and never has been prevention. The trial establishes guilt after an act and assigns punishment. The designation of “hate” is a half-step backwards, violating innocent until proven guilty by assigning guilt for thoughts and feelings prior to the act.

          • Baruch Dreamstalker

            Thank you for citing the intent-based gradations of homicide law from negligent manslaughter to premeditated murder, since it saves me the trouble. That was honorable of you, as it is a point in favor of hate-crime enhancers. I guess the question is whether we want the criminal justice system to assist in patrolling these boundaries. I do; YMMV.BTW, it is perfectly possible to develop a sentence enhancer for gang-related felonies, and your tragic example would fit perfectly.

          • Franklin_Evans

            I find myself being accused by both sides of straddling the fence with this topic. I thank you for acknowledging my commitment to it, e.g. citing arguments the “other” side might use seems to me to be a requirement of the topic, because we are dealing with two very different mindsets: the harsh and emotionless process of the law; the intensely emotional consequences of being the victim of a crime or the surviving loved one of a victim.

            Those two mindsets are natural enemies in this debate. Standing fast on the side of the criminal justice system is just inhumane. Approaching it solely from the emotional side leads to mob violence and vigilantism. I find hate crimes to be primarily a response to the emotional argument, and I am not consoled by its purported application to everyone when the motivation for creating them is from a specific identity group.

            I don’t know if they’re still on the books, though I’ve not heard of them being cited for several years, but some local jurisdictions — Philly, LA as I recall, NYC — do have gang-related enhancers in their criminal statutes. I also recall some debate citing the fact that they were not measurably deterrent.

          • Baruch Dreamstalker

            Approaching it solely from the emotional side leads to mob violence and vigilantism.Hate crime penalties are neither, being part of the law. You are offering basically a slippery-slope argument that (to mix metaphors) does not hold water. [T]he motivation for creating them is from a specific identity group. Laws against bank robbery specifically benefit banks. I know of no one scandalized by this. …not measurably deterrent.That criticism can be made about the whole penal system.

          • Franklin_Evans

            I’ll see your slippery slope and raise you a false analogy. Banks are not people. A bank is not traumatized by an armed robber, takes no injury from the bullets, is not the subject of a memorial or funeral.

            I detect a chicken-egg problem here. If a law is motivated by emotional pressures, how exactly does it lose that component when it is applied and enforced?

            I concede that the deterrence remark was invalid. I will note that increased penalties resulting from gang-related enhancers had the sole effect of making the convict wait a few weeks or months longer before getting parole according to some arguments and articles I read.

          • Baruch Dreamstalker

            Your remarks about banks suggest they deserve less protection that people. I’m sure you didn’t mean that. Laws and other rules never lose a basic emotional component. We follow and enforce them because we want legally mustered force to produce certain outcomes.I don’t know what the typical hate crime adds to a convict’s sentence.

          • Franklin_Evans

            C’mon, Baruch. I’m itching to call your last post disingenuous. I’m sure you don’t mean to put thoughts into my head.

            The law makes distinctions. Some of them are objectively validated. Some of them are ridiculous. Some of the former were emotionally motivated. Some of the latter were of the best intentions to the common good.

            We will get nowhere fast if we get stuck on specific examples.

            Seriously though: protection implies prevention. The law says nothing about either one. It says everything about an incident or event after it happens. We may ascribe such attributes to the effects of the law, but never validly to its construction or intent.

            I have a personal example to share. Please take it at face value. It is meaningful to me in this context.

            I am an angry driver*. I am that way because I encounter many other drivers who blithely put me and others at risk of maiming and death. Friends of mine, when I complain that they drive that way, sometimes cite statistics to me, that my “chances of being hurt or killed” are some small percentage. I have one response: I may have “only” X% chance of being killed, but when it happens I’m 100% dead. My point to our exchange is that quite clearly traffic laws do not prevent a damned thing from the POV of the person dead or dying in a twisted mass of metal and glass.

            I should add, to complete my disclosure with that first example, that I will make my dying act my dragging my bloody body over to that other driver and snuffing his (or her) life out with my bare hands. Aggressive driving is a death threat, and the law is zero protection.

            * I have taken steps. I no longer use highways unless forced to do so, on the notion that I’m more likely to survive the death threat at 35-40mph than at 65-70mph. Besides, since making that decision my commute to and from work is on some beautiful stretches of local roads.

          • Baruch Dreamstalker

            I’m glad you’ve taken precautions. I had to stop driving altogether: I could not do so safely on sunny days. Other than that I don’t see how your comment responds to mine, so I don’t know how to reply.

          • Franklin_Evans

            It looks like the only way I can clarify that for you is to present an argument by analogy. I disdain that, find it distasteful even when I do it, observe that it tends to make more confusion rather than less, so I’ll just try this…

            The law provides definitions and penalties. If a law is not clear to the general case, it cannot be “clarified” by “enhancing” it with a growing list of specifics. Either they should rewrite the law to cover the general case properly, or abandon the law as unenforceable or even unconstitutional.

            For those laws which already clearly define the general case AND how intent modifies the degree of seriousness and level of punishment, hate crime definitions have no logical connection to them. That is my support for the assertion that hate crime definitions are a response to emotional issues and not legal issues.

          • Baruch Dreamstalker

            Hate crime definitions certainly respond to social as well as legal issues. Assault is a breach of the social contract, howsoever motivated. Again, the question is whether or not one wants the criminal justice system to help patrol the painful boundaries in society. I do, you don’t.We’re beginning to repeat ourselves.

          • NeoWayland

            I accept that the law does recognize intent and it is the least objectionable distinction.

            I still think the notion of “hate crimes” goes too far. Perhaps because I’ve had too many arguments against political correctness and I see this as just one more where one “class” demands special privilege over all others.

            I absolutely agree with you that the designation of “hate” is a half step backwards.

          • Lēoht “Sceadusawol” Steren

            Publicity?

            Beheading their captives makes great television. Imagine how much they would realistically achieve if they just sat around griping?

            The media loves sensationalism, and so these terrorist organisations perform acts that are likely to gain media hits.

            Much of the “West” is supposedly horrified and outraged by the concept of something as barbaric as beheading someone, but we should probably pause for a moment and remember that the last person to be executed by guillotine in France was as recently as 1977. Then, there is that traditional American ally, Saudi Arabia, who beheaded “…at least 19 people…from 4 to 20 August” ( source ).

            Considering that beheading is a standard form of capital punishment in middle eastern cultures, and numerous interpretations of their scripture has called for this action against “unbelievers”, is beheading actually that sensationalist a practice, in context?

    • Baruch Dreamstalker

      Please see my reply to Franklin above.

  • I would never presume to paint all Christians with the same brush, based on their extremists and “bad apples.” But do I think Christianity – as a religion – gets part of the blame? Sorry, but yes, I do.

    The foundational text of their religion, seen as the “word of their god” (whether taken literally or not), supports this kind of behavior: gays are an abomination, women are to be subjugated, non-Christians and those not willing to live by Christian tenets are to be ostracized at best and murdered at worst, etc. It’s in the text! Just because there’s some pretty and inspirational parts in the Bible doesn’t excuse the atrocities it supports and/or encourages.

    Yes, there are good Christians out there, who choose to take and live out the good parts of their faith. I’m fortunate to know many of those. But the bad stuff still exists in the religion itself, even if good people choose to ignore it. There are good and bad people in all religions, but not all religions contain teachings that can be used to “justify” the behavior of the “bad apples.” Sometimes the religion is part of the problem, and we ignore that at our peril.

    • Finnchuill

      Exactly. And it’s a text-based religion, focused on that one text. Prejudice agaisnt LGBTQ people doesn’t just fall out of the air or isn’t lodged in genes. Specific verses are continually used to assault LGBTQ people. Certain stories in the book are constantly used to instill ideas that women are of less importance than men. This book has had more influence on American society than any other; of course Christianity has to share some of the blame (regardless of the non-discriminatory Christians).

    • Lēoht “Sceadusawol” Steren

      If you think about it, The “good” Christians are actually the bad Christians – they reject part of the teachings of their scripture.

    • Friday

      Not just that, but that Church’s dogma states that LGBT people are ‘objectively-disordered’ *people* unless we ‘stop being who we are.’ That’s not just reducing us to certain sexual behaviors they don’t like (despite straight people doing them just as often anyway,) ….but implying there’s something mentally wrong with LGBT people for …being as we are. That not being anti-LGBT even if you are one means you ‘can’t be objective,’ …ie not even to be listened to.

      If you don’t think that affects how Catholics (And especially their institutions, schools, hospitals, and political lobbies) treat people, you’re fooling yourself. In fact it is very much used by the Bishops and those political lobbies to *lie about where Catholic people stand as voters,* when claiming to represent them politically.

      Not to mention them claiming their ‘religious freedom’ is at stake in LGBT people having the same civil rights as anyone else *because* they teach those hateful things about us ….in order to justify the legalized oppression.

  • Robert Hager

    Whenever I hear a person say of a wrong-doer,”that person really isn’t a witch/Pagan/Christian” I hear the voice of a weak person who is afraid someone else’s negative actions will reflect on speaker or the religion. This is not strength.

    Pagans have recently made some unpleasant news. I do not deny their Pagan faith as their actions have no reflection on mine. They are simply Pagans that did bad things. We cannot pretend that because they did something bad, they do not have aspire to Pagan connections and values. We simply have to say they did a bad thing. We cannot fear a reflection on our faith.

    • Northern_Light_27

      Exactly. No True Scotsman is convenient but cowardly. Also, sometimes bad actions actually are a reflection on a group/culture/religion– a friend of mine liked to say that all groups have a failure state. If members of a given religion keep doing the same bad action, I don’t think it inappropriate for people to say “our religion keeps breaking in this one place, why?” It doesn’t mean the religion is bad, it doesn’t mean the weak spot is intentional, it should be a reason to dive deeper.

  • Very good article. Jason, bring her viewpoint in again, please?

    I followed the link to the article on the “us vs. other” issue. I’m doing my best to remove the passive racist assumptions or beliefs I might not realize I have. I can certainly see enough of the “white privilege” many whites can’t see. I’m sure a lot of MtFs see just what male privilege is not working for them anymore…and I try to list all the spiritual traditions in a string when I’m talking about all of us who read this news-blog. Having been left out of a number of things in my life, I hate leaving out any entity that might fit in this puzzle we’re all in.

  • Amy “Spearbreaker” Kincheloe

    Hail! I enjoyed all of this article. In Heathenry we believe many things, one of the most prevaliant sayings is “We are our Deeds” so the choices of the individual is what is to be judged, however as a society (at least in the USA) We are taught to judge in ways as was mentioned above.
    I strive to believe in the individual, and judging what really matters in that individual, the deeds, honor, and renoun. Judging someone solely based on sex, sexual preference, color of skin, race, belief system reflects small mindedness and petty behavior.
    Hail to those who are trying to change the world into a better place, and thank you for this article.

  • NeoWayland

    This will be my last post on this thread.

    I would like people to notice that no one here is disagreeing that the assault was wrong and is a crime.

    We disagree on the graduations of guilt.

    We’ve not discussed it yet, but I suspect we wouldn’t disagree on the severity of punishment.

    It’s just about how guilty the perpetrator is.