Home Page -> Commentary -> 21 June 2000 (Baptists / Prayers/ Hate Crimes)

Comment of the Fortnight
21 June 2000

The Southern Baptists

I'm sorry; I just don't get it. The Southern Baptists, at their national convention, have declared that women should not be allowed to lead congregations as pastors. However, they're not going to remove those women who are currently pastors from their positions. This appears inconsistent at best.

Further, as I understand it, there is no national organization as such; that the individual churches are free to follow the resolutions passed at the national level as they wish. In that case, what's the point of having a national convention in the first place? 'Tis a puzzlement, to be sure.

School Prayer

In a recent ruling, the United States Supreme Court ruled that a prayer spoken over the public speaker system before football games in Texas was unconstitutional. Justice Stevens, in the majority opinion, wrote:

“School sponsorship of a religious message is impermissible [because it sends the] message to members of the audience who are non-adherents that they are outsiders, not full members of the political community, and an accompanying message to adherents that they are insiders, favored members of the political community.”

I couldn't have said it better myself. By the way, I was very surprised to find out that the suit against the school district was not filed by some atheist, or Jew, or Buddhist, or non-Christian, but by a Roman Catholic and a Mormon family. I wasn't suprised at all to find that the community in which the high school is located is strongly Baptist. Yes, the same Baptists who don't have to follow their own national organization would like you to hear their version of truth, whether you believe it or not. Isn't irony grand?

Hate Crimes

The Senate passed a bill adding sexual orientation to a list of groups protected by federal hate crime legislation. A local talk show host on KGO radio, Gene Burns, questioned whether such legislation was necessary or warranted. Here's the email I sent him:

Gene, let's take the following two cases:

Case 1

Fred "The Tagger" loves to spraypaint the sides of buildings to leave his mark. One night, he passes by a conveniently blank wall of a building, and is apprehended while leaving his tag, "Freddie241 was here" on it. It so happens that, unbeknownst to Fred, the wall is the wall of an African-American church. The charge is vandalism, which is a crime, and Fred is found guilty.

Case 2

On the other side of town, George "The Skinhead" seeks out another building which he knows to be an African-American church. He is apprehended while spraypainting "Filthy, rotten N-word s" on it. The charge is vandalism, which is a crime, and George is found guilty.

In this hypothetical jurisdiction, let us say that vandalism carries a minimum penalty of $100 and 100 hours of community service, and a maximum penalty of $5000 and a month in jail.

By sheer coincidence, both Fred and George are brought before Judge Gene Burns for sentencing. Given Judge Burns' opinions on the subject of hate crimes, I'm interested in knowing if he passes identical sentences on Fred and George. If so, why? If not, why not?

I put the same question to you readers: if you were the judge, what sentences would you pass, and why?

Let me know what you think.

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