Michael Hamar

The Newest Christianist Lie: Fear of Harrassment

Filed By Michael Hamar | June 21, 2010 4:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Fundie Watch, Marriage Equality, The Movement
Tags: anti-gay bigotry, Christianists, gay rights, Perry v. Schwarzenegger, Prop. 8

The windbags of the Christian Right often claim that Christians are being persecuted as part of their demagoguery used to shake down money from the ignorant and uninformed. Sadly, the news media generally gives these professional Christians a pass and never challenges their experts or asks hard questions that, if asked, would cause the Christianist story line to begin to unravel. Fortunately, the same rules do not apply in litigation in court cases and the experts cannot avoid cross-examination that can readily expose their lies and/or demonstrate that their claims boil down to nothing more than religious based bigotry and animus.

Instead, today's Christian extremists if they have their way would plot, scheme and work to take away the civil legal rights of others hidden behind a veil of secrecy. Unfortunately, a new Newsweek article plays to the Christianists advantage by yet again mouthing their lies with little serious challenge.

While the article does quote Justice Antonin Scalia's statements that democracy requires some courage, the piece fails to rise to serious reporting. Here are some highlights:

One of the hot new trends in litigation this year is fear. Witnesses in important gay-rights cases have claimed they were too afraid to testify because they feared they would be subject to reprisals for their views. It's one thing to hear this kind of talk from eyewitnesses in gang shootings. But now it has become a common complaint among opponents of gay rights who say they are afraid to take part in civic life.

The conservative majority of the [U.S. Supreme] court sympathized with the anti-gay-marriage witnesses even though, as Justice Stephen Breyer pointed out in dissent, these terrified witnesses were "experts or advocates who have either already appeared on television or Internet broadcasts." The trial went dark.

In mid-January, when the supporters of Prop 8 cut their witness list from six to just two, they again said that their witnesses were too afraid to testify.

This spring the Supreme Court heard another case involving frightened citizens in Washington state. They had successfully campaigned to put a referendum on the ballot that would have allowed voters to reverse a state law granting certain benefits to domestic partners. After the measure was defeated, the group that pushed for it asked the Supreme Court to keep the 138,000 signatures on the ballot petitions private. Their argument was based heavily on the harassment suffered by proponents of California's Proposition 8. James Bopp, who argued for the ballot signatories, warned the court that gay-rights activists planned to post the names of anyone who had signed a petition on the Internet.

While he acknowledged that threats of violence and hate mail can be scary, Justice Antonin Scalia dismissed concerns that one's political opponents are just a mouseclick away from hunting you down as "touchy-feely, oh-so-sensitive" and warned that "you can't run a democracy this way, with everybody being afraid of having his political positions known."

The same folks who oppose making signatures public are waging a war to do away with campaign-finance rules that would require disclosing the names of campaign donors. They argue that all such moves expose contributors to intimidation. Justice Clarence Thomas agreed in a concurring opinion in the court's blockbuster campaign-finance case: "I cannot endorse a view of the First Amendment that subjects citizens of this Nation to death threats, ruined careers, damaged or defaced property, or pre-emptive and threatening warning letters as the price for engaging in 'core political speech,'" he wrote.

It's pretty sad that those who would readily denigrate the lives of others, take away constitutional rights of others and spread hatred in general are being coddled as if they were the victims. It is also a very frightening development for the political future of the nation if groups are allowed to secretly conspire and inject religion into the civil laws without having to every reveal their identities.

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The article was cross-posted on Slate online magazine, which I follow. I know this is all very long, but FWIW, I attached my comment, the responses to my comment, and my comment to those, below:


Ms. Lithwick, I didn’t want to say this in comments, but I cant find any way to send a private comment (no email link, and your Twitter doesn’t seem to accept private messages, maybe get too much mail?).
I have always had such high respect for you, and loved the common-sense, rational, even-handed approach you take to topics. However, I am deeply hurt by what you write here, to the point of tears.
Yes, intimidation is wrong, period. Addresses of people who sign petitions should probably be kept private. However, though 'concern about witness intimidation' was the *reason* given for closing the proceedings (though likely not necessarily the actual reason), and many of the other court actions you cite, to me it seems ridiculous that these people who hate gays are really in any danger of bodily harm from gay people. The violence and persecution is vastly in the other direction.
To me it seems that you are supporting and abetting people who want to discriminate against other people based on (generally) religious beliefs. Is that really your position, is that these people should be able to hide from any social consequences of their politics? If they hate gay people, fine, that is their right. But when they actively work against the rights of gay people, it becomes a social issue, not a private issue. As people mentioned below, what if these people were against people of different ethnic backgrounds, or religions, or heights (seems silly, but prolly so will hate based on sexual orientation/gender identity eventually)? Most haters hide behind anonymity, and it takes having the light shined on their ugly prejudices to stop them from ruining other people's lives. I think the Klan, mentioned below, is a good example, as it seems you are supporting a 'virtual' hood for these people.
I just never thought I would see such an article from you...and in Newsweek, too, with the title 'Why Antigay Activists Are Afraid To Testify,' which legitimizes the anti-gay crusaders, and vilifies the whole gay community. I rather expect that you would write something different if the 'scared' people were anti-abortion supports, and the 'scary' people were women going to clinics or people who work in clinics. In that case, you might be glad to see the 'scared' group of people pushed back a bit (though of course not supporting any actual intimidation!)

Though I know such people may be out there, I personally don't know a single gay person who has ever threatened any anti-gay person, and I haven't either (not giving business to such people is another thing). I *do* know lots of people who threaten gay people on a regular basis, many of them very personally.
Today, 3:05:01 PM–

TOBY, in response to me (I'm just stupid. obvs):

Did you read the same article I did?
e.g. from the conclusion; "It's not clear that the video blackout of the Prop 8 trial made anyone safer."
Her point seems pretty clear to me,
Today, 3:20:48 PM

JESSICA, in response to me (she is helping me 'understand' the article, being very nice, prolly smiling that she has helped some stupid person understand educated discourse and society):

I'm inclined to agree with Toby. I think perhaps you missed the point of the article. The question she was asking was not 'are the anti-gay rights folks correct in their anti-gay rights sentiment' but, 'is it legitimate to be afraid to defend what you believe in, especially in a democracy?' And while she (I think fairly) considered and granted some of the legitimate fears of these people (so there were some extreme examples of retaliation given), she also did a fine job of putting those fears in perspective. For instance, raising the question of the legitimacy of these 'threats' and pointing to the over-arching issue of having the courage to stand up for what you believe, even if it means some sacrifice to yourself.

Maybe what bothered you is that she is discussing this in relation to people who's position on gay rights is considered questionable (at best) by many. The thing is, I don't think that their position on the issue is what the article is considering. It's a question of democratic engagement (and the associated risks and responsibilities), not the rationality of the arguments engaged therein.

And again, I believe she did a good job discussing the finer points of that particular issue.

Carol, maybe read it again more closely? :)
Today, 3:58:23 PM–

ME, replying to Jessica:

You are of course entitled to your own conclusions.
However, when Miss Lithwick uses the same-sex marriage controversies as the defining example, and perhaps as the definitive example, and titles her article in Newsweek, 'Why ANTIGAY ACTIVISTS Are Afraid To Testify', rather than 'The Fear Factor', as here, it seems to relate more specifically to those 'dangerous gays' than to a general discussion of civic participation.
I have to say, too, that your response sounds much like what I hear from a lot of white ppl toward people of color, that they are 'being too sensitive' and 'taking things the wrong way', that it is just a nice philosophical dicscussion, not at all about racsim....`
...but perhaps I am being too sensitive.
Today, 5:06:55 PM

Tony Soprano | June 21, 2010 10:54 PM

> "Addresses of people who sign petitions should be kept private".


The "people who sign petitions" CERTIFY that they are registered voters. This is public information.

ANYONE - especially opposition - is entitled, and obligated, to VERIFY that ANYONE who signed a petition is a registered, ALIVE, voter.

Nobody twisted that person's arm to sign a petition. If they did not understand the rules, then that person should have never regiested to vote, nor should they have ever signed any petition.

As a Christian I am deeply saddened when a person has such little faith that they would cower from public knowledge of support for one position or another. Where is the faith of Daniel? Where is the faith of so many others including Jesus of Nazareth? Or Paul? IMHO it is a lie that a true Christian would be afraid to have his or her identity known publicly. In fact I think any judge who would bother to read the Bible would have to conclude that one could not profess Christianity and fear of reprisal simultaneously. The judge would have to conclude it more likely that a hate mongering atheist attempting to disguise themselves as a Christian are those who seek the shield of secrecy. There should be a name for those like maybe Christvestites.


I agree with your analysis - the trust of the argument seemed to be on the side of the Christianists who want to take away the rights of others as they remain anonymous. It also fails to look at the fact that the Prop 8 witnesses were torn to shreds by Boises in cross examination. I suspect the goal is to build an excuse if Prop 8 is struck down. They want to be able to claim "we would have won if our witnesses had not been affraid to testify."

Michael Hamar

We also need to stop calling our rights gay rights. We are seeking equal rights. the same rights. Not special rights. If we call equal rights gay rights, its sounds like something new. that is what is scaring the morons, Sorry Mormons and christian demonetization. Equal rights are not special or new rights. they are the same rights recognized by the constitution of the USA>

The general public tends to side with the persecuted. If the religious right can rebrand their image into the aggrieved party, they're hope to win the PR and propaganda war.

Yes, that was a lot of my point in my comment on teh Slate website: Although the article was ostensibly about ppl not participating in civic activities b/c they didn't have the strength of their convictions, to me it really supported how these poor little gay haters are shivering in their houses because of the ominous gays (in another comment on the article, someone of course mentioned 'the gay mafia wins again').

So it looks like these ppl who want to deny us humanity, no even just equal rights, are the underdogs and cant even get their day in court, so it brings out the American sense of fairness on their side, even though it is yet another one of the Repubs 'up is down' tricks. In fact, as *we* all know, the whole system is rigged for them and against us, and the religious orgs are far more powerful (even a single one, such as the Mormon Church) than all the gays put together, even if we stopped fighting each other and pulled together.

Did the courts block the names of petitions to make interracial marriage legal? Did they protect people who tried to win equal rights for women? Or minorities in other cases? Why then do we have to suddenly protect people that are trying to force their religious beliefs on others by removing their rights?

I don't remember MLK Jr. asking for his identity to be protected on petitions. If you believe in what you're doing, you should be willing to put your name to it in a public forum. If not, then you don't deserve to have your belief enforced on others.

Did the courts block the names of petitions to make interracial marriage legal? Did they protect people who tried to win equal rights for women? Or minorities in other cases? Why then do we have to suddenly protect people that are trying to force their religious beliefs on others by removing their rights?

I don't remember MLK Jr. asking for his identity to be protected on petitions. If you believe in what you're doing, you should be willing to put your name to it in a public forum. If not, then you don't deserve to have your belief enforced on others.

Ah, those poor persecuted ones. It always amazes me that people think that they can act like vile a**holes and not be taken to task for it.