Is expressing disapproval of policies which allow transgender people to use the bathroom of their choice a matter of hate speech?
Hate speech is speech that attacks a person or group on the basis of attributes such as gender, ethnic origin, religion, race, disability, or sexual orientation. In the law of some countries, hate speech is described as speech, gesture or conduct, writing, or display which is forbidden because it incites violence or prejudicial action against or by a protected individual or group, or because it disparages or intimidates a protected individual or group.
There are five aspects of the above definition which determine if a given statement is hate speech. When each of the five is considered it will be seen that comments which disapprove of transgender efforts are not necessarily instances of hate speech. The nature of such comments can be motivated entirely out of desire for the wellbeing of these people. As a parallel, a comparison will be made with the following. Let’s compare a pastor’s warning to his congregation that transgenderism in God’s eyes is sin with a situation where a person sees a friend at a busy intersection about to step into the street when a truck is barreling down upon them. Since the church has held for millennia that transgenderism is a sin, it is reasonable to hold that there are many, many Christian pastors who earnestly believe they must warn people about the error of that movement.
With this as background, let’s examine the four aspects which would qualify a given statement as hate speech.
attacks – warnings given by people who believe a person’s sexual identity is determined by God to be the same as their biological body are not necessarily attacks on the person or group. If the position held by the church for the last two thousand years is in fact a correct understanding of God’s view of this matter, then what is best for a given individual is to not strive to change one’s sexual identity. A person who makes a comment disapproving of efforts to change one’s gender could well be motivated by a sincere desire to do what is best for that individual. Attacks are by definition acts whose purpose it is to do the person harm. If a person shoves a friend hard so that they fall to the ground, the person shoved could be banged up, bruised. But if it is for the sake of getting them out of the way of an oncoming truck, it is in the person’s best interest. In the same way, a transgender person might experience hurt feelings, might feel attacked, but the pastor’s intent is not at all to injure, but to benefit the person. Therefore, disapproving comments can very well be made from a pulpit that are not attacks, they are not hate speech.
incites violence or prejudicial action – a comment by a bona fide Christian pastor would not be intended to incite violence or prejudicial action. The concern of true pastors is only the wellbeing of the people to whom they bring God’s Word. As with the threat of an approaching truck above, a pastor’s comments could very well not be intended to incite violence, but only seek the good of the other person. Again, these comments do not constitute hate speech.
prejudice -theOxford on-line definition of prejudice is: 1.1 Dislike, hostility or unjust behavior derived from preconceived and unjust opinions . . . 2. Law – Harm or injury that results or may result from some action or judgment.
When a pastor is striving to help someone avoid the harmful effects of sin, that is not “dislike” or “hostility” or “unjust behavior.” Therefore, definition 1.1 is not appropriate here. Likewise, with respect to the second definition from law, earnest pastors wish what is best for individuals, not harm or injury. Since neither of the two definitions above fit, a pastor’s warning, when given in a loving and considerate manner, cannot be considered prejudicial.
disparages . . . a protected individual or group – being convinced from God’s Word that seeking to be transgender will harm a given individual, a pastor would strive to reach such an individual with what is in his opinion a message that will benefit that person. Opposed to actions a transgender would take, such a pastor would make comments to dissuade such actions. However, those comments would be made in a way that would be intended to build up the relevant person, not belittle them in any way. It is perfectly reasonable to expect these comments to be made in a way that is not guilty of being hate speech. Genuine comments seeking to dissuade people from transgender activity are clearly not inherently hate speech.
intimidates a protected individual or group – a legitimate Christian pastor will be very sensitive to his congregation. Those convinced transgender efforts will hurt a given individual, not help them, will work hard to bring the truth to them in a considerate, Christ-like manner so that the individual will come to accept the truth, not be pushed away by the presentation of the message. Therefore, simply saying something which disapproves of transgender efforts is not, because it is disapproval, certain to be hate speech.
Conclusion According to the definition given in the Oxford on-line dictionary of hate speech, it can very reasonably be concluded that many, if not most, comments made by evangelical pastors disapproving of transgenderism are made out of concern for the people involved, and are not matters of hate speech. This principle would apply to many other subjects as well.
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