TOWN HALL: Religious bigotry is hateful business

WAYNE LAUGESEN Updated: September 14, 2012 at 12:00 am • Published: September 14, 2012

Hate, ignorance and intolerance cause the deaths of innocent men, women and children. This has been true throughout the ages. So it is no surprise that a hate-filled, anti-Islamic video, titled “Innocence of Muslims,” may have inspired or aggravated the deadly attack on the United States Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, and demonstrations in Egypt and Yemen. The U.S. State Department fears more unrest may result from segments of the amateurish film that are posted on YouTube.

President Barack Obama apologized for the flick before the attacks began. Since the violence, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has made every effort to ensure Muslims that our government does not condone the video. The Obama administration has even asked YouTube to consider whether the film violates its publishing guidelines, hoping the company might censor it.

“The United States government had absolutely nothing to do with this video. We absolutely reject its content and message... To us, to me personally, this video is disgusting and reprehensible. It appears to have a deeply cynical purpose: to denigrate a great religion and to provoke rage,” Clinton said.

We concur. Based on what members of The Gazette’s editorial board have seen, the film is a hateful, inaccurate and disrespectful portrayal of the Prophet Muhammad and his followers. It stoops to characterizing them as violent people who condone child molestation. While a small fraction of Muslim extremists have given Islam a horrible image, most of the world’s 2.2 billion Muslims are peaceful and productive. Disrespecting religious terrorists makes sense; disrespect for the world’s second-largest religion must be denounced by all reasonable governments and individuals.

As we applaud President Obama and Secretary Clinton’s response to the film, we wonder why so many government officials in the United States — local, federal and state — facilitate disrespect for Christianity.

Only last March, musician Tim Minchin took to the stage on federal property — within view of the White House and the Capitol on the National Mall — and performed an amplified song that maligned Pope Benedict XVI as no better than a “mother (expletive) rapist” and characterized all priests and other Catholics as facilitators of child molestation. The song contained more than 75 f-bombs directed at Catholics, the Pope and that which is sacred to them. It was part of the weekend-long Reason Rally, which presented a litany of speakers and performers who blasphemed Christianity with accusations and vulgarity. Legal? Absolutely, just as “Innocence of Muslims” is legal and shall remain so. Appropriate? No, and the hate festival on federal property should have been soundly condemned by President Obama and/or other top federal officials.

Let’s never forget “Piss Christ,” an art exhibit that portrayed a crucifix in a jar of the artist’s urine. Not only did federal government officials neglect to apologize for the insult, the government’s National Endowment for the Arts sponsored a contest that awarded the display.

Taxpayers subsidized the display of “Sensation” at the Brooklyn Museum of Art, which featured the Virgin Mary splattered with elephant dung and adorned with close-ups of female genitalia cut from pornographic magazines.

In Minnesota, the state government employs Professor PZ Myers — a man who desecrated the Catholic Eucharist on the Internet. Up the road in Loveland, the city government’s museum displayed a pornographic depiction of Jesus next to the word “orgasm” in 2010.

Countless YouTube videos feature desecrations of the Bible, the Eucharist and symbols sacred to Christians. To our knowledge, the federal government has never asked YouTube to review them for policy violations.

We could go on with examples of audio and visual assaults on Christianity that are at least as offensive as “Innocence of Muslims.” All religious bigotry, directed at any religion, is hateful and stupid.

It is likely that American officials apologize to insulted Muslims because they desire to maintain peace. That’s understandable, as a small percentage of Muslims respond to blasphemy with violence. But Christians should not be ignored by government leaders, in the wake of outrageous and insulting attacks on their faith, simply because they don’t stage deadly protests. Their governments certainly should not facilitate and fund the insults directed at them, while apologizing for private statements that insult another great religion.

That's our view, so what's yours? Please begin or contribute to a Facebook discussion below this article.

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