Can Sermons Be Considered Hate Speech?

Racial and sexual intolerance is unacceptable. But will a new expanded hate-crime amendment really help?

Later this month, the U.S. Senate will consider the Matthew Shepard Act, an amendment to federal hate-crime laws. The amendment would provide standard protection to blacks and Jews, but it would up the ante for gay and transgender America. James von Brunn’s recent racist rampage has put fire under our government, and the gay community wants something done now to protect all Americans against homegrown hatred. However, some Christian Americans feel the amendment would put pastors and their potential anti-gay sermons on the hot seat …

And, hopefully, in jail. (That slipped. Sorry.) Truth is, some churches build sermons around intolerance.

So here’s a question: Should we forget about the sermons? What about barbershops? A friend visits a barbershop in Brooklyn every week where the brothers are spouting “playful” misogyny and “vicious” homophobia on the regular. Should these brothers, who find sanctuary in a barber’s chair, be corralled and punished? Sounds like an “unsafe” place for many. 

Look, I’m in support of expanded hate-crime laws, and I certainly feel it’s time for America to become hyper-aware of the murderous potential of its intolerance. But can the new bill put an end to the craziness? Do you think our country needs to be forced into micro-scrutiny until we’ve evolved? My answer is yes. What’s yours?