Constitutionally protected hate

Recently, Ruth Malhorta of Georgia Tech took the University’s administration to court on grounds that its’ policies requiring tolerance of homosexuality prevent her from freely expressing her religious beliefs. Malhotra, a senior at Georgia Tech and president of the College Republicans on campus, believes that banning hate speech and requiring diversity-training programs violates the religious free exercise clause of the first amendment. Malhorta is not alone in her struggles; the movement has been backed by a group of judges and lawyers, appropriately named the Christian Legal Society, which seeks to overturn tolerance policies in court. Interestingly, Malhorta in particular is notorious for controversial demonstrations of intolerance. In the fall term of 2004, she wrote a letter to the gay/lesbian rights activist group Pride Alliance, citing the gay rights movement as a “sex club… that can’t even manage to be tasteful.” She accused openly homosexual people as putting the campus under “a constant barrage of homosexuality,” and asked that the group knock off its political propaganda if it expected to be tolerated. While an ACLU spokesman accused the Christian movement as trying to “develop a persecution complex,” the university added that it has encouraged open debate of the issue as long as the demonstrations do not encourage violence or harass anyone. At issue here, is how central hate speech against homosexuals is to the Evangelical Christian faith, versus how compelling the state’s interest is in preventing discrimination? Even though the Christian faith does not believe that homosexuality is morally right, the deliberately hateful letter written to the Pride Alliance will not advance her in the eyes of God. What happened to “love thy neighbor?” While the Christian movement claims that they only want to “model a virtuous lifestyle,” it operates on the false assumption that its view of a “virtuous lifestyle” is the only view, or the most pertinent. Meanwhile, the Pride Alliance (and the homosexual rights movement in general) wants only protection from discrimination and intolerance. Unfortunately, this has only been deployed through vehicles of harassment and violence. The US, and by extension any publicly funded institution, has a responsibility to promote tolerance, equality and moreover national unity, liberal principles upon which our country was founded. Similarly, the Constitution’s first amendment gives the state an obligation to protect the free-exercise of religious beliefs. As a result, despite the fact that Christians are the largest interest group in the US, religious or otherwise, as well as possessing one of the largest interest group bankrolls in America, the religious free-exercise clause still applies to them. However, offering a constitutional right meant to protect religious groups from having their view of a “virtuous lifestyle” protected, doesn’t necessitate exercising that right when it impedes on a fellow citizen’s lifestyle choice. The message is not that we should have a completely secular publicsphere, like in France where no expressions of religious belief are allowed in school and in public workplaces. Georgia Tech has taken a common stance among public institutions in America, to allow open debate so long as no one is harmed or harassed. Though it is unclear where the university will draw the line on what constitutes harassment, Malhotra’s case did not need such analysis as her letters and previous demonstrations were clearly hateful. The Christian group does support anti-discrimination laws protecting gender and racial equality, but homosexuality is a different case because it is seen as a lifestyle choice, rather than a genetic characteristic. While this infuriates groups like the Pride Alliance, who do not believe homosexuality is a choice at all, the question of choice, genetics or sociological influence do not matter. The constitution equips every citizen with the right to pursue his or her own conception of a morally good life Ruth’s case, that God requires her to speak out hatefully against homosexuals, is weak in terms of constitutional law, and in my opinion, weak in the eyes of God. Ruth, and more generally the Christian Civil Rights Movement, needs to understand that in order to have any credibility when framing a movement a “civil rights movement,” one must not only demonstrate civility with the manner in which one voices complaints, but must have policy prescriptions that provide for civic utility. By framing a movement that Ruth Malhotra claims is a “Civil Rights Movement,” the Christian community has damaged its own credibility. What is worse, they have taken the religious free exercise clause, meant mainly to protect minority religions from the scrutiny of the majority, and manipulated it in order to promote the intolerant agenda of the largest interest group in the US, at the expense of a peaceful minority group, that merely wants a constitutionally protected rights: tolerance and equality.