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DO SOME BIBLICAL PASSAGES QUALIFY AS HATE LITERATURE? IF SO, UNDER WHAT CIRCUMSTANCES?

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Quotation:

bullet"...the Biblical passage which suggest that if a man lies with a man they must be put to death exposes homosexuals to hatred." Justice J. Barclay, referring to Leviticus 20:13. 1
bullet"...demeaning and degrading." Description of some anti-gay posters containing Bible verses posted by Rich Peterson of Boise, ID. 2
bullet"The decision has raised questions about freedom of speech, and whether some quotations from the Bible can promote hatred." Joanne Laucius reporter at the Ottawa Citizen. 3

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Overview:

Two well publicized court decisions -- one during 2002 in Saskatchewan, Canada, and one during 2004 in Idaho -- have ruled that advertisements or posters can be regarded as hate literature or as "demeaning and degrading" even though they consist mainly of citations or texts from the Bible. These courts did not rule that the Bible verses themselves are hate literature. But they did determine that in certain circumstances,  Bible quotations or citations are not protected religious speech.

The two cases both involved conservative Protestants taking a negative view of homosexuality: Both cases involved references to Leviticus 20:13.

bulletIn the Canadian case, four Bible verses were cited -- one in Romans, two in Leviticus and one in 1 Corinthians. They were listed in a newspaper advertisement taken out by a conservative Christian in Saskatchewan.  Beside the citation was a symbol made up of two male stick figures holding hands within a circle and a diagonal slash. The circle and slash is an international symbol indicating that the action is forbidden. The conservative Christian and the newspaper were both fined.
bulletIn the American case, a conservative Christian objected to his employers diversity training program which promoted tolerance of gay and lesbian employees in the workplace. He created some posters which listed a Bible quotation from Leviticus. It orders that male, sexually active gays be executed. If the poster were show in in a church, it probably would have been protected speech. But the employee mounted the posters in his work cubicle in an attempt to oppose the diversity program. He was eventually fired from his job. A court ruled that his employer did not infringing upon his civil rights by terminating him. They determined that the posters in that environment did not contain protected religious speech. They determined that the employees religious freedom was not hampered.

There is a general belief that Canadian and American citizens are guaranteed almost complete religious freedom. They are free to believe in any religion or none. But their freedom to act on their religious beliefs is not necessarily guaranteed -- particularly if their actions hurt or denigrate others.

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Topics covered in this section:

bulletNo, The Bible does not contain hate literature
 
bulletYes. Some biblical passages match the current definition of hate literature
 
bulletRecent court decisions about hate passages in the Bible:
bulletSaskatchewan, Canada in 2002
bulletBoise, ID in 2004.

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References:

  1. The text of the ruling by Justice J. Barclay of the Court of Queen's Bench in  "Owens v. Saksatchewan (Human Rights Commission) QB02511" is online at: http://www.aloha.net/ and at: http://www.canlii.org/
  2. Stuart Shepard, "Court Upholds Firing over Bible Verses," Family News in Focus, 2004-JAN-8, at: http://www.family.org/
  3. Joanne Laucius,  "Bible: Decision raises questions about freedom of speech," Ottawa Citizen, 2001-JUN-29, Front page, at: http://www.eunacom.net/

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Site navigation: Home page >  Christianity > Bible & the world > here

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Originally written: 2003-MAY-20
Latest update: 2004-JUL-03
Author: B.A. Robinson

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