by Peter Sprigg
October 21, 2011
Two acts of vandalism were committed in recent days against facilities associated with the debates over homosexualityone on each side of the issue.
In Arlington Heights, Illinois, bricks were thrown through the glass doors and windows of the Christian Liberty Academy. That night, the Christian school was to host a banquet put on by Americans for Truth about Homosexuality (AFTAH), a pro-family organization led by Peter LaBarbera. The banquet was to feature presentation of an award to Scott Lively, another pro-family activist who heads Abiding Truth Ministries.
In the other incident, an office door and two display cases of the GLBT Center at North Carolina State University in Raleigh were defaced with spray paint, including an anti-gay epithet.
Both acts of vandalism were contemptible, and Family Research Council (FRC) condemns them both equally. The debates over homosexuality, however emotional they may become, should be carried on peacefully by those on both sides. Physical attacks on people or property are never justified. (Will liberal groups join us in equally denouncing both acts? The Southern Poverty Law Center, which is quick to accuse conservatives of hate, chose to blame the victims, criticizing the attackers in Illinois primarily for [a]dding fuel to a fire started and stoked by anti-gay activists.)
So are there any differences between these two incidents? Yes. There is not the slightest evidence that the spray paint attack at NC State had any connection with any religious or political organization or public policy issue, or that it was perpetrated by anyone other than a lone thug.
In the attack on the Christian Liberty Academy, however, the vandals made clear that their attack was directed specifically at the work of AFTAH and Lively. A note accompanying one of the bricks said, This is just a sample of what we will do if you dont shut down Scott Lively and AFTAH. It followed with obscenities (edited here): F*** Scott Lively and Quit the homophobic s***! The other brick had written directly on it, Shut down Lively.
If that werent bad enough, an anonymous person posted a detailed claim of credit for the attack on the left-wing Chicago Independent Media Center website. It included this declaration:
These chunks of concrete were thrown through these windows and doors for two reasons: to show that there is a consequence for hatred and homophobia in our community and to directly cause this event to be shut down.
(It is bizarre that anyone could think throwing bricks through school windows could be considered a way of combating hatred.)
Were either or both of these incidents hate crimes? In a generic sense, as the term hate crime is typically used, both were hate crimes. Both involved criminal acts, and both were motivated by characteristics of the victims (in the one case, sexual orientation, and in the other, religion, or more specifically religious beliefs in opposition to homosexual conduct).
In the legal sense, however, neither of these fit under the definition of hate crimes that merit federal intervention, according to the 2009 law passed by Congress and signed by President Obama. The new federal hate crimes bill applies only to cases where a person willfully causes bodily injury or attempts to cause bodily injury, so crimes of vandalism directed only at property are not covered.
Some states have their own hate crime laws featuring broader definitions than the federal statute. North Carolina, however, does not include sexual orientation as one of the protected categories in its hate crime law.
Illinois, on the other hand, has a hate crime law that does cover religion as a protected category. It also states explicitly that even an act of misdemeanor criminal damage to property will be treated as a Class 3 felony if it is motivated by bias and takes places on property used for religious purposes (such as the Christian Liberty Academy).
Thus, under current state laws, the North Carolina incident would appear not to be a hate crime, but the Illinois one would be. However, police treatment of the two cases appears to be diametrically opposite of what the law would suggest. Authorities in North Carolina say they are investigating the spray paint attack as a hate incident, while those in Illinois say there was no hate crime because Lively was targeted for his views, not his religion.
While Christian moral teachings are not the only reason to oppose homosexual conduct, does anyone seriously believe that if an African American church were targeted for supporting civil rights protections, or a Jewish synagogue were targeted for giving aid to Israel, it would not be considered a hate crime?
Family Research Council opposes the entire concept of hate crimes, because we believe that criminal laws should punish actions alone, not the personal opinions of those who commit those actions. We hope that both the Illinois and North Carolina incidents will be thoroughly investigated, solved, and prosecuted on that basis.
Nevertheless, the selective application of the hate crime law in Illinois shows that such laws are actually not applied on a neutral basis, but are used primarily when they will advance a politically correct cause, such as the affirmation of homosexual conduct.
While both the Illinois and North Carolina incidents were hateful on their face, there is another factor at work in the attack on Christian Liberty Academy. Those who claimed credit for the attack online said it had a specific goalto directly cause this event [the AFTAH banquet that night] to be shut down (in this they failedthe program went forward as scheduled). They also warned of similar attacks in the future: If this event is not shut down, and the homophobic day trainings [a reference to AFTAHs Truth Academy educational programs] do not end, the Christian liberty academy will continue to be under constant attack.
There is a word for the use of violence to deter others from opposing your political agenda. That word is not just hate, but terrorism.
Some who posted comments under the claim of credit for the Illinois attack condemned it: As a gay man, I cannot condone your actions. Violence is never acceptable. Shockingly, though, a number of the comments actually praised this act of pro-gay terrorism.
Some were mild in their endorsementThese kinds of actions may have their place, and It should be respected. Others, however were downright gleeful: lol those homophobes got served maybe they think twice before bringing fascists to our town again; and, I only wish I could have been there with a truckload of concrete blocks for smashing. Let’s STONE those haters for the criminals they are.
There is such a thing as anti-gay hate. The attack on the GLBT Center at NC State is an example of it, and FRC does not hesitate to condemn it.
Peaceful opposition to demands for official affirmation of homosexual conduct, however, is not hate.
And the terrorism at the Christian Liberty Academy shows that it may be those making such pro-homosexual demands who are guilty of the most hatred toward their opponents.