The Real Right-Wing Conspiracy
Matthew Shepard was "healed" last Monday. The purgatory to which he went cleansed him of his sin all right. Unfortunately, the cleansing worked a bit too well.
By now, most have probably heard about how two men kidnapped Shepard, a University of Wyoming freshman, from a bar, drove him out to a remote ranch, beat him up severely, and left him to die while tied to a fence in near-freezing temperatures. It took nearly 18 hours for a passerby to discover Shepard's unconscious body dangling from the fence post, and another five days - until last Monday - for him to die.
Who do I blame for this senseless death? While full responsibility for the death lies directly in the hands of the two men who committed the crime, Ialso blame conservative organizations and conservative Republican leaders in America today. That means the Christian Coalition, the Family Research Council, and their puppets in Congress such as Trent Lott and others. These organizations have created an atmosphere in which such heinous hate crimes such as these can take place in the first place.
It's just hard to believe that in America there can exist opinions so polarized on the topic of homosexuality. The ultra-conservatives have made it their silent agenda to exterminate homosexuality through Biblical healing, while another group, of which I'm part of, could care less whether a person is homosexual or not. "Cured" or "healed," which are the usual words used by the Coalition or the FRC, imply the homosexuality is some sort of disease, a disease that can be fixed by discovering the Bible and its true meaning. Trent Lott went as far as to liken homosexuality to kleptomania, a psychological disorder.
These right-wing organizations and their moralizing agenda - their central purpose is to present the Bible as the center of government, to proselytize the entire mammalian population and more with their Biblical rants - this is the true right-wing conspiracy that is plaguing Republican leadership today. By espousing such a ridiculous view and then foisting that view on top of the country, conservative organizations are creating an atmosphere of intolerance against homosexuals. What's worse is that no Republican can take a definitive stance against this moralizing demon of lobbying without wreaking havoc on his or her political career. The majority of America is not made up of Biblical zealots; yet the majority of America must suffer under the political force of these zealots.
The Bible is a great text - don't get me wrong. Historically, it is perhaps the single-most influential text in Western culture. But the Bible is just that - a document, a text, whose influence on national law should end there. Church and state should be separate entities, but with the Christian Coalition and the Family Research Council breathing down the necks of half the Republican leadership, it hardly seems that church is separate from state. Rational thought, which is the center of any government, should not be suffused with , uncorroborated, irrational religious rants.
Personally, I think that Trent Lott should be forced to live with a homosexual with the rest of his life. And, if I wasn't such a big fan of the First Amendment, I'd have the Christian Coalition shut up in a closet and silenced ad infinitum for their sheer idiocy.
That being said, I hope our Congress will take this auspicious opportunity to enact the federal Hate Crimes Protection Act, which would expand hate crimes to include those crimes based on sex, disability, and sexual orientation. This bill is backed by President Clinton and most Democrats in Congress - the only holdouts are right-wing Republicans backed by ultra-conservative organizations.
For 21 states, such an enacting would mean nothing different because 21 states already have hate-crime laws based on race, religion, color, national origin, and sexual orientation. And for 19 other states, enacting Federal hate-crime laws won't be such a big step because those 19 states already have hate-crime laws based on race, national origin, religion, and color. For those 19 states, it makes sense that if there are already civil protections for people based on race and religion that there should also be protection based on sexual orientation.
It's the other 10 states that have no hate-crime laws that will pose the problem. One of those 10 states, incidentally, is Wyoming, which has resisted passing hate-crime legislation three times since 1994.
Opponents of hate-crime laws, namely Christian conservatives, claim that such laws would infringe on their freedom of speech, that it would silence opposition to the homosexual agenda. How ironic that those whose unstated goal is to exterminate homosexuality through "curing" are now fearing being silenced by hate-crime legislation! But the truth of the matter is that hate-crime laws will do nothing to hamper freedom of speech. Christian conservatives can still rant however much they want about the holiness of a sound family. If a Christian conservative or another person, however, decides to murder someone because he or she is a homosexual, then prosecutors will have another weapon in hate-crime laws.
In the case of the Matthew Shepard murder, robbery was stated as the primary motive by the police, and Shepard's homosexuality was given as a possible second motive. In Shepard's case, hate-crime laws would have done little, because the defendants already are charged with robbery, kidnapping, and murder. Indeed, in most cases, hate-crimes laws would have little effect if there are more severe crimes committed.
However, hate-crime laws could prove to be valuable deterrents. By enacting hate-crime laws, the United States can send the message that it will not tolerate violence against homosexuals - or against any group of people. By enacting hate-crime laws, the country can foster a positive attitude of tolerance towards homosexuals. It would help reverse the current attitude brought to us from the Bible by Christian conservatives - that homosexuality is a sin and people should be punished for it. Only Christian conservatives, those of an era bygone who can't accept the world for what it is, who fear the ever-increasing diversity of America, will have reason to worry with federal hate-crime legislation. But their reason for worrying, like most of their other views, are simply unfounded.