The Easterner responds

This week’s edition of the Loudoun Easterner, one of the local newspapers that published the offensive “church” ad targeting the GLBT community, contains an editorial addressing the public outrage it generated.

The editor reveals an interesting piece of information, referring to the ad as being placed by the national AGI organization the American Family Association, rather than by the local organization, “The Church of the Valley.” We presume that the editor knows who wrote the check to his newspaper. Has the AFA also paid for the numerous other full page ads placed by this church?

While not acknowledging that the ad’s targeting of a segment of the community served by his paper violates community standards, Mr. Casey does expose the misrepresentations it contains and expresses strong disagreement with the AFA opposition to a bill that would assist in the prosecution of hate crimes.

While the text of the ad may reflect the view of the American Family Association, a fair reading of the cited companion bills themselves is that passage would not block free speech or religious practice, and would not make it a crime to express a viewpoint about homosexuality…

…As written, the bill would authorize the U.S. Attorney General to assist states or localities in prosecuting hate crimes. Hate crimes are defined as crimes of “willful bodily injury” motivated by “prejudice based on actual or perceived race, color, religion, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability.”

Preachers speaking from the pulpit do not commit crimes of bodily injury. In addition, the bills state that “Nothing in the Act … shall be construed to prohibit expressive conduct “¦ protected by the First Amendment.” The First Amendment of course provides us each with freedom of religion (which is mentioned first by our founding fathers) as well as of speech, press, peaceable assembly and to petition the government.

While we disagree that this particular ad should have been approved – the opinions therein could have been expressed in a letter to the editor, and even letters to the editor should be subject to basic fact-checking to guard against libel – we appreciate Mr. Casey calling attention to the facts about the Matthew Shepard Act, and his view that opposition to this bill is wrong.

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