Religious Groups and the Gay Rights Movement: Recognizing Common Ground

By Brammer, J. Brady | Brigham Young University Law Review, July 1, 2006 | Go to article overview

Religious Groups and the Gay Rights Movement: Recognizing Common Ground


Brammer, J. Brady, Brigham Young University Law Review


I. INTRODUCTION

Some within the gay rights movement are similar to Will Roper, who, exasperated with the law's inability to deal with "bad men," declared that he would "cut down every law in England" to get after the Devil.1 In response, Thomas More exclaimed, "And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned round on you-where would you hide. . . the laws all being flat?"2 This Comment considers tensions between the gay rights movement and religious speech condemning homosexuality and draws two conclusions: First, it is possible for the gay rights movement to advance their goals through the legal suppression of religious speech opposing homosexuality. second, such a strategy would injure religious groups and gay rights activists by eroding fundamental freedoms of conscience that both groups rely upon.

In 2003, a trial court in Sweden convicted Reverend Ake Green3 of hate speech.4 During a sermon, Green characterized gay relationships as "sexual abnormalities" that were a "cancerous tumor [on] society."5 He warned that because of the tolerance of gays and lesbians in Sweden, the country risked divinely caused disasters.6 Furthermore, he asserted that AIDS "came into existence" because of homosexuality.7

During the trial, prosecutors characterized Green's comments as the equivalent of racist Nazi propaganda.8 Public prosecutor Kjell Yngvesson reportedly explained the conviction as follows: "One may have whatever religion one wishes, but [the sermon] is an attack on all fronts against homosexuals. Collecting Bible [verses] on this topic as he does makes this hate speech."9

Åke Green's story highlights the vulnerability of the right of free speech,10 a vulnerability that many agree must not be exploited. Justice Jackson placed free speech at the center of Americans' fundamental rights when he proclaimed:

If there is any fixed star in our constitutional constellation, it is that no official, high or petty, can prescribe what shall be orthodox in politics, nationalism, religion, or other matters of opinion or force citizens to confess by word or act their faith therein. If there are any circumstances which permit an exception, they do not now occur to us.11

Jackson's "fixed star" of free speech is what is typically classified as a liberty-"that sphere of activity within which the law is content to leave me alone."12

When advocates of any group seek equality for specific groups by denying basic free speech liberties, dangers arise that often go unseen until the loss of liberty at the hands of equality is irreversible.13 Describing the need to recognize the danger in this shift, Alexis de Tocqueville stated:

[N]one but attentive and clear-sighted men perceive the perils with which equality threatens us, and they commonly avoid pointing them out. They know that the calamities they apprehend are remote and flatter themselves that they will only fall upon future generations, for which the present generation takes but little thought .... The evils that extreme equality may produce are slowly disclosed; they creep gradually into the social frame; they are seen only at intervals; and at the moment at which they become most violent, habit already causes them to be no longer felt.14

While recognizing that equality is certainly a bedrock value of fundamental importance,15 this Comment also demonstrates that unwary emphasis on equality can have a deleterious effect on liberty-another essential value of American society.16 As one article pointed out, "we cannot forget that an equal right to non-freedom is a nugatory right."17

Equality is not, of course, inherently bad, but when equality chips away at liberty, everyone is left with equal but diminished liberty. Kurt Vonnegut began his short story Harrison Bergeron with this characterization of a nugatory right: "The year was 2081, and everybody was finally equal. They weren't only equal before God and the law. They were equal every which way. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Religious Groups and the Gay Rights Movement: Recognizing Common Ground
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Author Advanced search

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.