Monday, March 1, 2010

WE MUST REMOVE TAX-EXEMPT STATUS FROM HOMOPHOBIC CHURCHES

The province's highest court has overturned a Saskatchewan Human Rights Tribunal decision [in Canada] against a religious activist who distributed anti-gay pamphlets in Saskatoon and Regina in 2001 and 2002.

Bill Whatcott will not have to pay the $17,500 in compensation the tribunal awarded in 2005 to four people who had complained his flyers exposed them to hatred, three members of the Court of Appeal ruled in a Feb. 25 decision.

Whatcott's pamphlets -- one of which was entitled Sodomites in our Public Schools -- used crude and offensive language, but they were protected by freedom of expression provisions in the Saskatchewan Human Rights Code, the decision says.


[For the full article, see here.]

To in any way limit freedom of speech is a slippery slope, yet we know that speech can be deadly to those who are victimized by that speech, particularly when that speech is demeaning and/or hateful against one or more minority groups.

Indeed, in Britain, the European Convention on Human Rights says that "Everyone has the right to freedom of expression." Yet, "it adds that governments can restrict free speech for, among other reasons, in the interests of national security, preserving public safety and for the prevention of disorder or crime." (a See here.)

In the U.S., where freedom of speech is virtually limitless, there are also limitations. I came upon an interesting case, Korb v. Raytheon, where the Massachusetts Supreme Court ruled against the plaintiff, and its reason for so doing is instructive:

Although Korb has a secured right to speak out on matters of public concern, and he has a right to express views with which Raytheon disagrees, he has no right to do so at Raytheon's expense. Korb was hired to be an advocate for Raytheon. After he spoke, he lost his utility as Raytheon's advocate. Raytheon therefore determined that, in such circumstances, it would no longer pay him to be its advocate. That business decision was not an interference with any secured rights. Korb is free to express whatever opinions he wishes. Raytheon need not pay him to do so. (See here)

Notice that last sentence: "Raytheon need not pay him to do so."

When religious institutions are tax-exempt, the taxpayers are paying those religious institutions to do what they do; if they seek to deprive any group of equal rights, and/or defame any group, and/or in any way discriminate against any group, the taxpayers are helping to subsidize discriminatory rhetoric and acts.

So, when a pastor castigates Gay people from the pulpit, you and I are helping facilitate him/her to do so! When a denomination contributes multi-millions of dollars to prevent acquisition of equal rights for Gay people, you and I are helping them do so!

In 1940, in the case of Cantwell v. Connecticut, part of the U.S. Supreme Court decision reads as follows: "Under the constitutional guaranty, freedom of conscience and of religious belief is absolute; although freedom to act in the exercise of religion is subject to regulation for the protection of society. Such regulation, however, in attaining a permissible end, must not unduly infringe the protected freedom. Pp. 303-304 " (See here.)

"The protection of society" is crucial for the freedom of speech enjoyed by religious institutions; their tax-exempt status is largely contingent on their role in facilitating such protections. Building hospitals, building universities, helping the poor, and other such good works are desirable manifestations of the religious impulse and do help protect society. "The protection of society," however, is hardly consistent with hate-mongering rhetoric, discrimination, and advocacy of discrimination against any minority group in the civil arena.

Regulation of freedom of speech of religious institutions is only necessary to attain "a permissible end," and there is no justification to see hateful speech, discrimination, and advocacy of the denial of civil rights to Gay people as being anything other than an impermissible end and a clear threat to our society!

It's hard to imagine that the tax-exempt status of religious institutions and their right to free speech was ever envisioned to involve hate-mongering rhetoric and actions and, often, donations of huge sums of money, designed to limit or rescind any group's civil rights!

Indeed, regarding tax-exemption of religious institutions:

...In 1924, the [U.S. Supreme]Court noted that "[e]vidently the exemption is made in recognition of the benefit which the public derives from corporate activities of the class named, and is intended to aid them when not conducted for private gain." Many years later, the Court, in upholding the constitutionality of the tax exemption for religious organizations, observed that "[t]he State has an affirmative policy that considers these groups as beneficial and stabilizing influences in community life and finds this classification [tax exemption] useful, desirable,and in the public interest." (See here.)

Homophobic churches and pastors are clearly not "beneficial and stabilizing influences in community life!" They help create and facilitate discrimination, hate, and hate-mongering that can cause suicides, assaults, and murders of LGBT people which are clearly not "beneficial or stabilizing influences in community life" by any stretch of the imagination!

As I wrote in an article entitled, Why Every Church Must Be Open And Affirming:

Make no mistake, every drop of blood shed by GLBT people either through suicide, bashing, or murder, are on the hands of all those religious leaders, their followers, and their allies who spew forth their ignorance, prejudice, and hate against GLBT people and their relationships! These wolves in sheep’s clothing take the Bible, God’s love letter to His children, and selectively and perversely use it as a club to condemn others, and deny GLBT people full inclusion in the Church and in society.

For such churches and clergy to enjoy the benefits of tax-exemption, thereby indirectly benefiting from tax-payer monies to engage in their dastardly rhetoric and deeds in defaming and discriminating against Gay people; indirectly use our money to limit and prevent acquisition of equal civil rights to Gay people, is a gross offense!

There must be a concerted effort on the part of such organizations as the Human Rights Campaignand Lambda Legal to bring this issue before the courts so that homophobic religious institutions no longer benefit from tax-exempt status.
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2 comments:

DON CHARLES aka "STUFFED ANIMAL" said...

HRC and Lambda will never do it. They are scared sh*tless of the organized church and always have been. This will have to be a grass roots movement. Both you and I are trying to get it started, Jerry. Do you know of any other bloggers on the same page?

Jerry Maneker said...

Hi Don Charles: The only other one I can think of is Eruptions at the Foot of the Volcano There might be other ones out there, but I don't know of them. So many blogs are either entertainment oriented, frivolous, degrading, or actually traitorous to the quest for full civil rights for LGBT people. Best wishes, Jerry.