Thursday, February 22, 2001

A Christian's Right to Harass

Mayor Giuliani has decided Renée Cox's depiction of the Crucifixion with her on the cross instead of Jesus is "anti-Catholic," among other things (disgusting, outrageous…)

Anti-Catholic? Well, so what? So blinkin' what! Who says anybody has to be pro-catholic? What does he think Brooklyn is (the photographic exhibit is in Brooklyn), the goddam Vatican Embassy?

It's America, for chrissakes. US of goddam home-of-the-brave America! We get to be anti-catholic if we feel like it! So long as nobody steps in and tells the good catholic people of America they can't build churches, schools, hospitals and bingo parlors to do their (sometimes very good) things in, it's none of Giuliani's friggin business if Renée Cox wants to take a picture of herself on a cross.

Meanwhile, across town in Pennsylvania, a Pennsylvania appeals court says that a school district policy must not interfere with conservative Christian school children's right to harass. "We have found no categorical rule," says Judge Alioto, "that divests 'harassing' speech, as defined by federal anti-discrimination statutes, of First Amendment protection."

That makes David W. Saxe very happy indeed. He had lost the case he brought to the lower court, claiming that the two children under his care have a Christian right to "bear witness" to their faith, and that includes letting homosexuals on the playground hear loud and clear that they are living in sin. Leave aside, for the moment, that two 4th grade boys in my experience seldom practice anal sex with each other in front of others at recess, and that what we're really talking about here is terrorizing some boyish girl or girlish boy for simply being.

Gay activists are up in arms. They see a parallel with other examples of violence of the mouth. How would you feel, they ask, if you were a minority Jew and some skinheads exercised their First Amendment right to say to you, "I'm glad your mother died at Auschwitz. I wish you had, too." Or a minority black surrounded by some white thugs saying things like, "Go back to Africa, junglebunny." The difference, say the religionists, is religion. Skinheads and thugs have no constitutional right to thuggery, but Christians have a right to express their religion. Never mind that these creeps once exercised that same religious right to preach the children of Ham were in slavery with God's express approval.

One of the most challenging responsibilities of maintaining our civil liberties is maintaining the willingness to "fight to the death" for the right of racist, religious, or other bigots to speak their mind. I'm going to part ways with my gay friends seeking to get the law to shut these "Christians" up. I'm going to say, as much as the picture of a witness-bearing thug having at some confused and vulnerable young man in the schoolyard wrenches my gut like little else does, that he has the right to speak his mind so long as it doesn't lead to physical violence.

Someday, I want to tell these gay youngsters, you will grow up and know the ecstasy of defending Maria Callas against people who complain her voice is second rate. Or live with other women who, like yourself, agree that dinner party menus are balanced when they contain both wholegrain salads and potato chips. Until that great day, I regret all I can suggest is growing a thicker skin.

And, of course, turning the other cheek.

February 22, 2001

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