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When 'Hate' Loses Its Meaning

Friday, 01 September 2017 -

I met Jonathan Alexandre last legislative session on a frigid February afternoon. My first impressions of Jonathan: sharply dressed, thoughtful, intelligent. Jonathan, who serves as the Director of Public Policy for Liberty Counsel, had been invited to Nebraska to provide expert testimony on LB173, a legislative bill which would create additional protected classes for sexual orientation and gender identity in Nebraska’s antidiscrimination laws.

That day, Jonathan offered incisive testimony in opposition to LB173. Appealing to his African-American heritage, Jonathan countered the claim that the plight of those who identify with a same-sex attraction or as the opposite gender is similar to the plight of the African-American community and their experience of slavery and the Jim Crow South. Jonathan dismantled this false analogy as “intellectually dishonest” and an affront to the experience of the African-American people.

Jonathan also explained how LB173 denies fundamental, biological differences between women and men and how the bill would infringe on legal rights, such as the right to privacy in intimate spaces like locker rooms, bathrooms, and shower spaces. He further noted that laws like LB173 undermine the religious liberty interests of people of faith and their views on marriage and human sexuality.

Jonathan’s testimony was powerful. It was delivered with disciplined reason and charity. (If interested, you can find Jonathan’s testimony by searching “Jonathan Alexandre and Liberty Counsel” on YouTube—it is worth your time). Jonathan epitomized the type of advocacy that should be exemplified in our public discourse.

Jonathan’s example left a lasting impression on my conscience that day.

Jonathan’s example was also one of my first considerations after reading in the news that the Southern Poverty Law Center (“SPLC”) recently issued their “Hate Map”—a list of 917 “hate groups” located across the United States, of which Liberty Counsel is one. Baffled, I wondered if anybody at SPLC had even met this brilliant African-American man who, as far as I can tell, does not have one ounce of hate within him.

According to the SPLC’s website, the “Hate Map” is intended to identify “all hate groups [that] have beliefs or practices that attack or malign an entire class of people, typically for their immutable characteristics.” Some of the groups identified on the map are neo-Nazi, white nationalists, and the Ku Klux Klan.

Also included are groups whose “[o]pposition to equal rights for LGBT people has been a central theme[.]” This criterion has led SPLC to list organizations such as Family Research Council, Ruth Institute, and Alliance Defending Freedom (“ADF”).

To provide context, let’s review the work of ADF.

Alliance Defending Freedom’s mission statement is “[t]o keep the doors open for the Gospel by advocating for religious liberty, the sanctity of life, and marriage and family.” ADF is one of the most renowned Christian legal organizations in the country. They win 80% of their cases and have played a role in 52 victories at the United States Supreme Court. Most recently, they won a landmark religious liberty case, Trinity Lutheran v. Comer, which held that states may not deny generally available playground safety funding to organizations simply because of their religious affiliation. This next year, they will argue on behalf of Jack Phillips, a baker and creative professional seeking to run his family business consistent with his faith beliefs.

These organizations are not third-rate, fringe groups, filled with vile rhetoric and inhumane principles. They are top-notch research and advocacy organizations that hold reasonable (and true) views on marriage, family, and human sexuality.

The inclusion of reputable Christian policy and legal organizations on such a list raises serious questions about the social and political rhetoric of our day. As Ryan Anderson, senior research fellow with the Heritage Foundation, notes: “When we refer to good groups that we happen to disagree with as hate groups, we slander them, weaken the label, and trivialize real hate.” This is a trend to avoid like the plague—it is the enemy to healthy public discourse. If George Orwell’s novel, 1984, has any lesson it is this: words have meaning, but their meaning and force quickly fades when they are misused to achieve personal political gain. Let’s try to be more like Jonathan Alexandre, equipped with truth and charity ready to stand courageously for the common good.

Posted on Tue, September 5, 2017 by Tom Venzor

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