Under the Sun
Common decency dies as mean spirits emerge
WILL there ever come a time when homosexual couples and their children attend the White House Easter egg roll and aren't subjects of note?
When they won't be interviewed about why they are there and have to give the obvious explanation -- that their kids, like other children, want to have fun?
When they won't have to put up with the resentment of a non-gay couple, who chides the press about taking pictures of "a normal family" as well?
Sometimes I wonder. Because just when you think that people can't get any more vicious, along comes another revelation that leaves you shaking your head.
Members of the Westboro Baptist Church, a Kansas fundamentalist group unaffiliated with the Baptist denomination, have been criss-crossing the country to protest at funerals of soldiers who have died in Afghanistan and Iraq, inserting their vile brand of intolerance into the wound of war.
It's not the conflicts they object to. It's homosexuality. But they have mixed the issues into a nasty concoction, claiming that God is punishing America's acceptance of gays and lesbians by killing its service members.
They show up at funerals waving signs that read "Thank God for Dead Soldiers," or "Thank God for I.E.Ds."
"God is punishing this nation with a grievous, smiting blow, killing our children, sending them home dead, to help you connect the dots," the group's spokeswoman told the New York Times. "This is a nation that has forgotten God and leads a filthy manner of life."
What happens to people that they end up with such crazy beliefs and hold them so dearly that they will spend time, money and energy to inflict them on others? Church members falsely attribute their foul mission to the Bible, saying God strikes down the wicked, ignorant of the evil they themselves are doing.
It would be easy to ignore this congregation of hate, but the group's cruelty has sparked legislation in nine states to restrict protests at funerals, with 23 others considering similar bills. Congress also might do the same.
Though the laws are meant to protect the grieving and are structured to minimize First Amendment constraints, they do cut away at free speech.
That issue has come up in a lawsuit filed by a misguided Georgia Institute of Technology student who claims her Christian beliefs require her to aggressively counter homosexuality and that the school's ban of harassing speech and actions against gays and lesbians infringes on her constitutional rights.
She wants the school to eliminate its policy of tolerance and anti-discrimination and she has the support of the religious right, which has launched a national campaign to challenge similar policies in colleges, public schools and workplaces.
Comparing the initiative to the civil rights movement, the evangelical Rev. Rick Scarborough said, "Christians are going to have to take a stand for the right to be Christian."
Where did this sense of persecution come from? Is there a crusade to smother religion, Christianity in particular, in this country? Or is it that widening Americans' embrace of differences and diversity somehow threatens a segment of the population?
Religion, much less Christianity, isn't under fire. Since 2001, the federal government has distributed more than $2.1 billion annually to faith-based groups like synagogues and churches, many of whom do humane work helping drug addicts recover, finding jobs and training for ex-convicts and caring for the poor.
Many don't need government grants to fulfill their mission. Kawaiahao and Central Union churches have been feeding and housing the homeless people who were expelled from Ala Moana Beach with grace and compassion.
As for laws and policies extremists find unacceptable, none of them can regulate common decency.
has been on the staff of the Star-Bulletin since 1976. She can be reached at email@example.com