Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Sorry for Losing My Patience, Preacher!

Okay, I'll admit it. There are times that I am particularly impatient with some people. Sunday was one of those times.

I had just concluded preaching the sermon at the church we are members of, when one of the associate ministers asked me, 'Have you heard about the law that congress is trying to pass, that would outlaw the preaching of the gospel?'.

When it comes to social and political issues, uninformed and ill informed clergy, can be a pet peeve of mine. I tried to suppress it (my impatience), but evidently I must have rolled my eyes, or something and said, 'That's probably not going to happen...'

I mean, really?! Outlaw the preaching of the Gospel? Are you serious?!

Nonetheless, I've been wondering where on earth something like that could come from? The immediate suspect was the Internet. I'm beginning to believe that there needs to be some filter for some people to use to see if they have enough discernment to actually use it. Those of you whose inbox or spam box gets stuffed with the latest conspiracy theories know what I mean.

But, this man seemed so sincere, I was wondering where on earth such nonsense could come from.

Then I found it!

The Democrats in congress have attached an amendment to the military appropriations bill - a federal hate crimes amendment. Its a bill named after Matthew Shepherd, the young man who was killed in Wyoming 10 years ago, brutalized and beaten to death because he was gay. It also is named after James Byrd, the African-American who was dragged behind a pick-up truck in Jasper, Texas and killed by two white men.

(Talk about uninformed clergy - I thought the bill had passed! I guess now I have to be irritated with me!)

At any rate, it appears that Republicans have been successful in defeating the measure everytime it has been introduced. Now, by voting for the military appropriations bill, they will be voting for a bill that protects the safety of homosexual and transgendered people.

Now this post doesn't have anything to do with how you feel about any of that. Remember the preacher who is concerned about preaching the Gospel being outlawed...

"The talking points being circulated among conservatives and repeated like video loops on talk shows are few but they are powerful -- and they are delivered with conviction: Pastors would be hounded out of their pulpits or even rounded up because a hate crimes law would "criminalize" speech and particularly sermons that quote scripture saying homosexuality is a sin."

Devastating right?! And untrue.

Read a little further...

""In June, 60 religious conservatives sent a letter asking senators to filibuster the bill, which they said "would criminalize preaching the Gospel and put preachers in the cross-hairs." The letter was signed by the likes of James Dobson of Focus On The Family, Don Wildmon of the American Family Association, and Wendy Wright of Concerned Women for America. Many Republicans, including Rep. Mike Pence of Indiana and Sen. Jim DeMint of South Carolina, agreed with them.After the House passed the bill on Oct. 8, Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council renewed the charges, saying the legislation is an Orwellian "thought-crimes bill" that would give "special rights" to homosexuals. Rep. John Kline of Minnesota echoed that, saying that "any pastor, preacher, priest, rabbi or imam who gives a sermon out of their moral traditions about sexual practices could be found guilty of a federal crime.""

"But the bill in fact expressly prohibits any such thing, and at several points reaffirms all First Amendment and other constitutional protections on free speech and religious freedom. Among other things it says:

""Nothing in this division, or an amendment made by this division, shall be construed or applied in a manner that infringes any rights under the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States. Nor shall anything in this division, or an amendment made by this division, be construed or applied in a manner that substantially burdens a person's exercise of religion (regardless of whether compelled by, or central to, a system of religious belief), speech, expression, or association..."[The full text of the bill can be found here, near the bottom of the National Defense Authorization Act.]""

Here's the problem (and maybe its my own idealism that's showing here): can't anyone argue policy on its own merits anymore? Is the only way to get legislation passed to try and see just how many citizens can be scared out of their wits?

Sorry, preacher! Looks like you're not the one with whom I should be losing my patience!

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