Christianists and Free Speech I

A new fight is breaking out - over Christianists' right to express intolerance of homosexuals. Money quote from the L.A. Times:

With her lawsuit, the 22-year-old student joins a growing campaign to force public schools, state colleges and private workplaces to eliminate policies protecting gays and lesbians from harassment. The religious right aims to overturn a broad range of common tolerance programs: diversity training that promotes acceptance of gays and lesbians, speech codes that ban harsh words against homosexuality, anti-discrimination policies that require college clubs to open their membership to all.

There are important distinctions here, it seems to me. Anti-discrimination policies in hiring are so interwoven into the legal fabric that singling out gay people as uniqely ineligible for protection is invidious. You can object to such laws on broad libertarian grounds, as I do, but you can't pick and choose who gets protected. Similarly, objecting to hate crime laws solely when it comes to protecting gays (Bush's position) is bigoted on its face. Even if you argue - preposterously - that homosexual orientation is a choice, religious affiliations are also included in hate crime laws, and nothing is more of a choice, in legal terms, than faith. I'd also say that efforts to inform students of the existence and nature of homosexual peers is simply part of a good education. These efforts should never degenerate into advocacy for any political program. But teaching kids that gay kids exist, and deserve respect and dignity, seems to me to be not only legit, but important.

Still, I'm distressed at the attempts to squelch the free speech of bigots and sincere Christianists and Christians alike. Speech codes that inhibit Christianists or even Christians from arguing that they believe gay people should remain celibate or be "cured" are inimical to freedom. Similarly, laws and codes that violate bigots' freedom of association are also deplorable. If Christianists are indeed prevented from speaking loudly and freely, then they are right to fight back. I'll happily defend their freedom in this regard, because my opponents' right to free speech is paramount - even if it amounts to arguing that I should have no civil rights at all. Their freedom of speech and association is mine. It is indissoluble.