Sheila S. Kennedy

The Invaluable Snopes.com

Filed By Sheila S. Kennedy | June 24, 2007 2:54 PM | comments

Filed in: Fundie Watch, Media, Politics
Tags: AFA, George Will, hate speech, Matthew Shepard Act, Snopes.com

My first reaction to George Will's column in this morning's Indianapolis Star was something along the lines of "George, you like to posture as a sophisticated, world-weary intellectual--and you've been taken in by another urban legend!"

The gist of Will's complaint was that pro-gay political correctness was turning opinions into "hate speech." Now, I'm no fan of laws against hate speech. In a free country, everyone is entitled to his/her opinions, and entitled to express them, no matter how stupid, scurrilous or unwise I might think those opinions are. But Will had his facts wrong. Worse, he was more or less parrotting part of an "Action Alert" issued by the notoriously anti-factual American Family Association.

Which is where the invaluable Snopes.com comes in.

Snopes sets out the entire "Action Alert," which purports to describe the pending Hate Crimes Prevention Act as a measure that "would make it a hate crime for pastors and churches to speak out against homosexuality." The "Alert" references the same California lawsuit described by Will in his (equally inaccurate) column, as well as other "evidence" of increasing "censorship" of religious speech.

Snopes characterizes the AFA's descriptions--politely--as "gross and misleading distortions."

The case that both Will and the AFA mischaracterized involved a woman who complained about anti-gay materials posted on the bulletin board at her place of work. The employer removed it, and the person who posted it sued, saying his free speech rights had been violated. The court dismissed the complaint and upheld the right of an employer to remove materials in the workplace that cause dissension among employees or distract from the work environment.

The AFA clearly depends upon a widespread constitutional ignorance among those who receive its "Alerts." Anyone with even a passing familiarity with constitutional principles would see right through this one. The First Amendment's Free Exercise Clause absolutely protects religious speech and belief--against government suppression. The Bill of Rights is a list of things that government cannot do.

As I used to tell my children, the government can't tell you what not to say--but your mother sure can. And so can your employer.

Next time, George, check Snopes.


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I've said it before and I'll say it again: George Will is a total douche. He puts on his little bow tie and talks slowly and pretends like he knows everything, but when he opens his mouth all that comes out are truth-deprived right-wing talking points. And he's all about the "I'm the middle ground" rhetorical power grab that he uses solely to silence those around him.

I really don't like him, and I'm very much not surprised that he's just photocopying AFA Action Alerts now.

A. J. Lopp | June 24, 2007 5:26 PM

Let's not be surprised that the AFA wishes to prey upon, and encourage, "widespread constitutional ignorance" --- they are ultra-right quasi-Christian theocrats, and if they do not plan explicitly to rescind the First Amendment, they certainly wish to undermine the proper interpretation of it.

A. J. Lopp | June 24, 2007 5:30 PM

Forgot to add: And as for my take on George Will, Alex already nailed it.

The homobigots are really flogging this lie - even ones who ought to know better. It's particularly saddening to see black preachers, people who have known this same kind of hatred in their lives, being suckered by the hatemongers of the pCm far right.

There are a couple threads at Pandagon lamenting this, as well.

Zach Adamson | June 26, 2007 8:31 AM

As usual, well said Sheila.. I didnt see the article, but from reading here, its seems that the understanding of the hate crimes bill that Will has, he is not alone. And the AFA has a major hand in that.