On Hate Speech and Concentration Camps for Gay People

Pastor Charles Worley of Maiden, NC took to the pulpit to advocate placing gays and lesbians in concentration camps last Sunday.  His speech was absolutely one of the most horrific things that I have ever heard. 

The following video comes with an extreme trigger warning for violence against gays and lesbians.

Of our president getting up and saying that it was alright for two women to marry or two men to marry. I will tell you right now I was disappointed bad but I’ll tell you right there it’s as sorry as you can get.  The bible is against it, God is against it, I’m against it, and if you’ve got any sense, you’re against it.  I figured a way out – a way to get rid of all the lesbians and queers but I couldn’t get it pass the congress. Build a great big large fence 50 or 100 mile long, put all the lesbians in there and fly over and drop some food. Do the same thing with the queers and the homosexuals and have that fence electrified so they can’t get out – feed ’em.  And you know what?  In a few year they will all die out. Do you know why? The can’t reproduce. If a man ever has a youngin, praise God, it will be the first one. You might as well say amen ’cause I’m going to preach the hell out of all of them.  If someone say right now who are you going to vote for?  I ain’t going to vote for a baby killer and a homosexual lover. You said, “did you mean to say that?”  You better believe I did. God have mercy, it makes me puking sick think about. I don’t even know whether you ought to say this on the pulpit or not. Could you imagine kissing some man?

This speech highlights the problem with U.S. speech laws.  No one should be able to publicly stand up and advocate concentration camps for a minority section of the population.  We have already seen first hand what happens when the world turns its head on this hateful rhetoric.  GLBT people have already worn the pink triangle once, and I cannot imagine how triggering this would be to survivors.  We cannot for one moment afford to dismiss Pastor Charles Worley’s speech as fringe and therefore harmless.

I have watched the conversations across the web of people attacking what he proposed, while at the same time defending his right to say it. As a Canadian, I have to say that this confuses the hell out of me.  How can you defend someone’s right to be hateful? Listening as the audience encouraged him to continue with his hateful tirade by saying amen, was as horrifying to me, as the statements themselves.  To be clear, a pastor, even an evil one like Worley, is in a position of power and this means he influences the ideas of others.  The fact that he is using religion to justify his statements will only add a sense of legitimacy to his point of view in the eyes of many. He is charismatic and filled with what he believes to be righteous rage and to my outside view, he might as well have been chanting Sieg Heil.

I know that Americans have the stubborn belief that there is no difference between hate speech and free speech, but I will be honest, as both a marginalized person and a Canadian, I simply cannot understand or accept the lack of distinction.  You can be critical of the world around you, or the government, or the political policy, without descending to this kind of hate speech.  It makes perfect sense to me to punish advocating for genocide, especially when we have seen throughout the course of human history that allowing such speech has led to death of millions repeatedly.  It seems to me that Worley’s right to speech should end when it begins to effect the lives of others to the point of death. 

Another thing that continues to shock me is the insistence in giving churches who preach this sort of message a tax exempt status.  What he had to say was clearly political and had absolutely nothing to do with communing with God.  The moment he brought Obama into his so-called sermon, he became a political agent.  This is something I know which happens in church after church and yet it is ignored.  If I were a GLBT American, I would be horrified to know that my tax dollars were going to subsidize the hateful rhetoric of man who wished to see me dead.  Imagine the horror of knowing that you were paying your oppressor to attack you week after week.

I really debated posting this piece, not because I believe a single word of what Worley has to say, but because of the consequences of Canadian speech laws.  In the end, remembering the words of Martin Niemöller settled the issue for me.

    First they came for the communists,
    and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a communist.

    Then they came for the trade unionists,
    and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a trade unionist.

    Then they came for the Jews,
    and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a Jew.

    Then they came for me
    and there was no one left to speak out for me.

This isn’t just a GLBT issue, though the target of Worley’s attack was the GLBT community.  As marginalized people, we are all under attack and it is important that we stick together in the face of hatred.  One day, men like Worley could well decide to come for you, and what will you do then?

On a final note, I would just like to say, shame on the so-called Christians who shook their head in affirmation while saying amen.  Shame on them for later publicly agreeing with Worley.  He is no man of God and if anything I would call him a false prophet.  Men like him are the reason I no longer attend church and they almost cost me my faith.  Jesus came to earth to offer us a new covenant with God and he had not one word to say about homosexuality. You would think that if it were such a pressing issue to God that in his 33 years, Jesus might have gotten around to mentioning it.

Matthew 7:15

Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. 

If you happen to be a Christian, think about that passage as you reflect upon what Worley had to say.

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