From Iceland — Reykjavík City: Hate Speech Is Not A ‘Human Right’

Reykjavík City: Hate Speech Is Not A ‘Human Right’

Published October 18, 2011

Reykjavík City: Hate Speech Is Not A ‘Human Right’

Local newspaper Fréttablaðið recently reported that The City of Reykjavík had cancelled a subsidy earmarked for the Ice-landic Church of Christ (a small independent Lutheran congregation) due to its hostile views towards homosexuals. The story started in June, when the city’s church-construction fund agreed to grant subsidies to various projects, thereof 700.000 ISK to the Church of Christ. Fréttablaðið says the city’s executive committee later decided to stop the funding and send the matter to the city’s human rights officer, Anna Kristinsdóttir, for examination. The reason? Suspicions re-garding the congregation’s preaching, and whether they violated Reykjavík’s human rights policy. Suspicions that were later proved true. According to Fréttablaðið, the officer ruled that the congregation’s preaching were contradictory to the city’s policy and recommended the funding to be withdrawn. Which was done. Now, how did the congregation violate the city’s human rights policy?
Fréttablaðið cites the officer, who said the congregation’s website was swarming with examples of leader Friðrik Schram’s hostile views towards homosexuals. According to the officer, Friðrik’s articles preach that homosexuality is an unnatural thing, a sin, and is comparable to theft and lies. The officer cites an article where the leader says that “young vulner-able souls must be protected from being seduced into homosexuality and/or debauchery.”
Friðrik, on the other hand, complains about the withdrawal. He says the city is punishing him for saying that ‘homo-sexuality isn’t good and healthy for us.’ A view he says the Christian church has held for two thousand years. Friðrik reiterates this view in Fréttablaðið on September 20, but denies to have referred to homosexual people as ‘sinners.’ Ap-parently, he was merely talking about the act of homosexual intercourse. He claims that many homosexuals do not have sex at all and that one should make a distinction between sexuality and sexual acts. He then goes on to emphasise that homo-sexual relationships are wrong, claiming to speak for the majority of the Christian world. He concludes by presenting himself as a victim of suppression of opinion and that he now is being discriminated against.
Not for one second does it occur to me to discuss LGBT rights on the premises of a fundamentalist’s understanding of a two thousand years old religious scripture he chooses to live by. However, I am going to analyse Friðrik’s choice of words and criticise his impertinent methods. When doing so there are mainly three points in his speech I stumble over. Firstly, there is the classical approach of today’s Christian fundamentalists ‘hating the sin, but loving the sinner,’ which of course has its roots in The Bible. A similar theme has been prominent in many Western countries’ ‘sodomy laws’ through the ages. The focus is allegedly on the act, not the person. By making this distinction people have tried to mask their hate and condemnation as fatherly care and love. This is however of no difference to homosexuals, who experience no less hatred or condemnation, fully knowing that love and sex will not that easily be separated. We all want to experience love, and it so happens that sex plays a huge role in that experience. Sexual drive is simply an integrated part human nature and should be allowed to thrive. This, of course, should be a well known fact to Friðrik. The problem is that he only wants people to experience this on his own terms.
Secondly, Friðrik dresses up as an ‘ordinary’ victim of power, while simultaneously trying to belittle the human rights office and push its policy to the fringe. This he does by accusing the office of ‘creating its own rules and imposing them on everyone else.’ That is to say, he creates a terrifying monster whose sole purpose is to force ‘ordinary’ people into living by its strange and alien policy. An attack like this can best be tackled by pointing out that the human rights office doesn’t float around in some kind of a vacuum. It bases its mandate on Icelandic law and constitution, as well as the many international conventions Iceland has committed itself to, e.g. within the United Nations and the Coun-cil of Europe. These documents are the results of decades of work on the advancement of human rights and are in fact the offspring of a philosophical debate that goes back many centuries and revolves around the dignity and goodness of man-kind. One therefore has to ask: who’s the monster here?
Thirdly, Friðrik goes to the extreme and tries to make a martyr of himself. We witness the theatrical entrance of a white, heterosexual, Christian male, who turns everything upside down and compares his situation to that of LGBT people that for centuries have been the subject of hatred and persecution, torture and death. And what is he complaining about? He’s complaining about the ‘injustice’ heterosexual people, who express their antipathy against homosexual people’s sex-ual behaviour, now must suffer. ‘Where is the tolerance?’ Friðrik asks. This question really has one answer only: You must be joking! Honestly, this is no different from the bully that starts whining when stopped from harassing the minors on the playground. But it’s a well known and popular theme nonetheless. Recently used by a bunch of white, straight, right winged, males, whimpering and feeling persecuted by the homosexual pop star Páll Óskar and his comments at this year’s Reykjavík Gay Pride. Typical reaction of the ruling power that automatically takes on the role of a persecuted minority whenever the real minorities dare to take their minor steps towards equality.
No. Reykjavík City’s recent actions are just the right reaction in just the right moment. They send a clear message about how prejudice and injustice will not be tolerated on the watch of those currently controlling City Hall. They encourage future councillors and they clearly signal the fact that Reykjavík City’s Human Rights Policy is not a meaningless docu-ment for ornamental use only. That bigotry can cost you money. That the concept of human rights doesn’t embody the right to trample on the rights of others. That hate speech does not deserve public funding.

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Enough. Stop. Now.


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