The state legislature of Montana recently “killed a bill that would have expanded Montana’s hate crimes law to include people targeted because of sexual orientation and other selected characteristics.” Unsurprisingly, conservatives were behind the smothering of the bill but, in a twist, were now claiming to push against the stifling of free speech. They went so far as to caution that such a law “could even prevent clergy from speaking out against homosexuality in their sermons.” Now, would it be a terrible thing if some ministers thought twice before blaming gays for the September 11th attacks and Hitler? Or took a second consideration before purporting that homosexuals are trying to get pedophiles recognized “as the ‘prophets’ of a new sexual order”?
But what is perhaps more maddening than the subtle assertion that churches are (and ought to be) the last bastion of hate speech is seeing just how determined conservatives are to hijack the pulpits. And when preaching their perverse moral righteousness, they desperately try to hide the fact that the progressive movement has a long and proud history in the religious community. But in their effort to steal our heroes and block our message, they continue to put themselves in a precarious position: fighting tolerance and inclusion.