LGBT · October 31, 2008

Will oppressed Christian leaders be jailed for their words if Prop 8 fails?

Proposition 8 will amend the California Constitution. The entire text of Prop 8 is:

Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California

Supporters of Proposition 8 have said many times that failure to pass Prop 8 will result in the ability to charge preachers with a hate crime, merely for teaching the bible in the pulpit. Passing this proposition will prevent that.

This is some pretty obvious bullshit.

First, let’s take a look at the text that the religious right is so afraid will get them jailed if they talk about it from the pulpit. (Oh boy, Atheist bible study!)

There are two bits of Biblical text that deal with homosexuality and seem to be causing concern. The first bit is Old Testament – Leviticus 20:13: (New English Translation)

If a man has sexual intercourse with a male as one has sexual intercourse with a woman, 10 the two of them have committed an abomination. They must be put to death; their blood guilt is on themselves.

The next part is in the New Testament – Romans 1:18-32 (New English Translation)

1:18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of people who suppress the truth by their unrighteousness, 1:19 because what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. 1:20 For since the creation of the world his invisible attributes – his eternal power and divine nature – have been clearly seen, because they are understood through what has been made. So people are without excuse. 1:21 For although they knew God, they did not glorify him as God or give him thanks, but they became futile in their thoughts and their senseless hearts were darkened. 1:22 Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools 1:23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for an image resembling mortal human beings or birds or four-footed animals or reptiles.

1:24 Therefore God gave them over in the desires of their hearts to impurity, to dishonor their bodies among themselves. 1:25 They exchanged the truth of God for a lie and worshiped and served the creation rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.

1:26 For this reason God gave them over to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged the natural sexual relations for unnatural ones, 1:27 and likewise the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed in their passions for one another. Men committed shameless acts with men and received in themselves the due penalty for their error.

1:28 And just as they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what should not be done. 1:29 they are filled with every kind of unrighteousness, wickedness, covetousness, malice. They are rife with envy, murder, strife, deceit, hostility. They are gossips, 1:30 slanderers, haters of God, insolent, arrogant, boastful, contrivers of all sorts of evil, disobedient to parents, 1:31 senseless, covenant-breakers, heartless, ruthless. 1:32 although they fully know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but also approve of those who practice them.

Before I go further, I’ve got a couple of things to say about this.

First, let’s talk about Leviticus. When I bring it up some of my Christian friends just shrug and say, “That’s Old Testament stuff – much of it doesn’t apply any longer.” This particular bit in Leviticus is part of the prohibitions laid down from God to Moses, and might only apply to the Israelites. But even if it applied more generally, the coming of Jesus supposedly overturned most of these prohibitions, (and their associated punishments, which were usually death!)

It doesn’t matter if Leviticus is overturned by Jesus, because Romans certainly was not!

“Romans” was Paul’s letter to the Romans Which he used to tell the Romans that he was traveling there to plant churches. He also told them what to expect from him, and he took them to task for their ways. For example, there were Jewish Christians in Rome who believed in Jesus but followed Jewish traditions, such as animal sacrifice. Paul was going to change that.

Paul was not one of Jesus’ disciples. He was originally named “Saul”, and as Saul he worked to persecute the Church of Jerusalem. Although he never met Jesus in life, Jesus supposedly came to Saul in a vision while he was on the road to Damascus, and temporarily struck him blind. After the scales fell from his eyes he took up the name “Paul” and became a new man.

Paul’s writings were the most influential in Christian history – perhaps more influential than the core gospel books. They certainly influenced Martin Luther’s 95 Thesis and the start of the Protestant movement, and they heavily influenced the formation of the Methodist religion.

Romans 1:26 is the only clear condemnation of lesbians in the entire bible. Lesbian sex is not mentioned anywhere else.

But what does this have to do with sending preachers to jail?

Proposition 8 proponents have said in commercials that failure to pass Prop 8 will allow preachers to be thrown in jail merely for speaking the words of the Bible. Their speech would supposedly become “hate speech” under California law, and would therefore be actionable.

But this isn’t true. Scroll back up to the top and re-read the words to Prop. 8. You’ll notice that nothing in there gives any sort of protection for speech.

Here is what the California penal code says about hate crimes and hate speech – from the California Penal Code section 422.6:

422.6. (a) No person, whether or not acting under color of law,
shall by force or threat of force, willfully injure, intimidate,
interfere with, oppress, or threaten any other person in the free
exercise or enjoyment of any right or privilege secured to him or her
by the Constitution or laws of this state or by the Constitution or
laws of the United States in whole or in part because of one or more
of the actual or perceived characteristics of the victim listed in
subdivision (a) of Section 422.55.

(b) No person, whether or not acting under color of law, shall
knowingly deface, damage, or destroy the real or personal property of
any other person for the purpose of intimidating or interfering with
the free exercise or enjoyment of any right or privilege secured to
the other person by the Constitution or laws of this state or by the
Constitution or laws of the United States, in whole or in part
because of one or more of the actual or perceived characteristics of
the victim listed in subdivision (a) of Section 422.55.

(c) Any person convicted of violating subdivision (a) or (b) shall
be punished by imprisonment in a county jail not to exceed one year,
or by a fine not to exceed five thousand dollars ($5,000), or by
both the above imprisonment and fine, and the court shall order the
defendant to perform a minimum of community service, not to exceed
400 hours, to be performed over a period not to exceed 350 days,
during a time other than his or her hours of employment or school
attendance. However, no person may be convicted of violating
subdivision (a) based upon speech alone, except upon a showing that
the speech itself threatened violence against a specific person or
group of persons and that the defendant had the apparent ability to
carry out the threat.

(d) Conduct that violates this and any other provision of law,
including, but not limited to, an offense described in Article 4.5
(commencing with Section 11410) of Chapter 3 of Title 1 of Part 4,
may be charged under all applicable provisions. However, an act or
omission punishable in different ways by this section and other
provisions of law shall not be punished under more than one
provision, and the penalty to be imposed shall be determined as set
forth in Section 654.

There are plenty of hateful groups in California that say mean things about different classes of people. White Supremacy groups come to mind. A supremacy group that teaches Hitler’s ideals and says that Jews are sub-human or that homosexuals are worthy of death are merely practicing free speech.

However, if someone were to use Hitler’s words to encourage an audience to go out and beat up Jewish people in downtown Fresno next Saturday night – that would be unlawful.

It would be just as unlawful for a minister to encourage his congregation that they should bring rocks to the next Fresno Gay Pride parade.

This is how the “Yes on 8” campaign is lying. It doesn’t matter if Proposition 8 passes or fails, inciting violence will remain unlawful, and hateful speech that doesn’t incite will remain lawful.

The moral here is, if you want to stay out of jail, don’t use your religious position to encourage violence against others.