Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Freedom Vs. Freedom

Ok heres the situation as I understand it. My little town of Elmira, NY had a gay pride parade a little over a month ago. Now I'm all for equal marriage rights and just equal rights in general but as a straight guy I wasn't there, had some friend really wanted me to go I could have been talked into it but as things were I wasn't there so I really only have the same info as everyone else on this despite it happening in my town. Although I do have insight into the general attitude of the town. So there is a gay pride parade in the public park adjacent to the church I used to attend, not that it matter but the church considers itself "open and affirming" meaning they didn't care about sexual orientation or anything else like that and we definitely had at least one lesbian couple that regularly attended back in the day. Man I get side tracked easily.

Ok so gay pride celebration in the park and sadly the usual haters showed up to "pray for their sins" or some crap like that. Now the part I'm unsure about is if they tried to disrupt the celebration or simply stayed off to the side, and unfortunately thats a pretty important piece of the puzzle because these poor misinformed deranged folks absolutely had the right to counter protest. I should point out that the idea that they simply were off to the side praying for them comes from some uber-conservative news site, I had been looking for atheist/humanist organizations in town when I spotted this and it got me thinking. At first I laughed at the silly christian protesters that got arrested at the gay pride rally, but then I realized that as much as I enjoy reveling in the defeat of those I oppose, I can't celebrate the stepping on of the first amendment.

What matters is the exact actions that were taken, if these people did as the conservatives like to claim and stood on the other side of the street with signs and prayed, even if they did it loudly then fine, I disagree with them and had I been walking by I would have gone over and questioned them. But they have that right, without question they have that right, permit or no permit. On the other hand if they went into the park and were trying to disrupt the celebration then they deserve to get arrested and I hope the leader at least is fined accordingly, your rights end where mine begin, or the phrase I prefer, "your right to swing your arm ends where my nose begins. "

Unfortunately there is a large amount of gray area in between those two and thats when we are forced to rely on the police to make a judgment call on the spot and later for a judge to decide if the action was criminal or not. Personally I would prefer the police err on the side of freedom of speech but it seems that typically they would rather arrest an innocent person rather than risk something turning ugly then being blamed for not stopping it when they had the chance, AKA CYA (cover your ass). I can't be too upset with them because their job is to protect and serve, its the law makers job to protect our rights.

Oh here is how the Local News described the actual protest.

On June 23, the seven protesters, dressed in bright red T-shirts and carrying Bibles, walked through the crowd and to the front of the stage after Elmira Mayor John Tonello delivered a speech celebrating diversity.

Six of the protesters lay face-down in the grass and the seventh, Barry Keller, sat reading the Bible.

The T-shirts read "Liberated from Sin" on the front, around a white cross, and "By the Blood of Jesus" on the back.

Police officers in the park called for additional help and arrested the protesters.
(Here is the News article but they archive stuff quick so it won't be there for much longer, sorry.)

Ouch, thats still in the gray for me but its damn damn close to my being in agreement with the cops. It sounds like it was a quiet and non-violent protest which is why I'm not in total agreement, had they not done it right in front of the stage I would say they were ok, but I'm just not sure, I really would have had to been there to know for sure. Also by arresting them it has helped their cause considerably. Civil disobedience is still a great way to get your voice heard.

So this particular case, well I don't know, I wasn't there. But I think its good to look at cases like this, had it been the other way around my biases may sway me to say that the protesters absolutely had the right to be there but thats what makes these such a great tool for learning where your own boundaries lie. Unless of course you among the gay-bashers then its a pretty easy decision.

How often do you see the opposite? Have you ever seen "God loves gay" or "butt sex for jesus" protests in from of churches on sundays? I haven't, although I do know where you can get a Jesus is a Homo T-shirt, maybe it's because some people just have a little common decency, they know it would be rude to go out of their way to annoy those folks when they are trying to have a good time. If only the other side could agree to that then their would probably be a lot less trouble. Then again the other side thinks that the simple idea of having a gay pride rally is an attack on them, which its not. Then they claim that they don't have straight pride events, but these folks have never been a minority in their lives and don't realize that folks who are driven to the fringe by society like to get together to support each other, and they cna have a straight pride rally if they want, but I doubt many people would show up, and I bet it wouldn't be nearly as festive. Oh and if a group of gays came in with the previously mentioned shirts while reading from Gay Pride in the middle of it then they would probably be arrested too.

Hmm... I also just though about this description, "The protest leader, street pastor Julian Raven," street pastor. This sounds suspiciously similar to some christian protesters we had at a concert about a year ago. They refused to say what church they belonged to or even what denomination, by not having anything concrete as a group it makes it hard to fight them because they can always claim that, well that wasn't us "real" christians wouldn't do that, they can't be held accountable, except by judges.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

thank you for this i have recently met this person online and before i ask him about this i wanted to know more about this case