Homophobes Say The Darndest Things: Where Hate Speech Meets Free Speech

The homophobes seem to be getting particularly mouthy of late. Here’s three news items from across North America:

*After paramedic Kevin Kennedy posted Web messages calling homosexuality a perversion and saying that two gay co-workers should “crawl back into the closet,” the Nashville Fire Department suspended him for two months.

*Fourteen-year-old Fort Worth student Dakota Ary told a friend in German class he thought homosexuality was wrong. The school suspended him for two days.

*During a weekly Mass service, Canadian priest Rev. Donat Gionet compared “evil” gay Pride parades to abortion and 9/11 and has been barred from performing future sermons.

Was the National Organization for Marriage right when they said that we’d start seeing people ousted from their jobs just for their anti-gay opinions?

  NEXT: A Firefighter feels the backdraft from his homophobic post


During his 20 years of service as a paramedic for the Nashville Fire Department, Kevin Kennedy had no prior disciplinary record and 20 years of “acceptable” performance. But he somehow posted his comments calling homosexuality a perversion and telling two gay co-workers to “crawl back into the closet” on his personal Facebook page and the Facebook page for the Nashville Fire Department Emergency Medical Services.

Deputy Chief Kim Lawson responded, “We have a diverse group of employees in the fire department who respond to the needs of a diverse community. This disrupts the order of discipline. We have an important job. These actions in no way are tolerated.”

They charged Kennedy with five counts of misconduct, including participation in a pattern of harassment toward a Metro employee and using threat of violence or intimidation toward others, suspended him for two months and required that he pay for anger management and diversity training before returning to work.

 NEXT: Anti-gay remarks in the classroom lead to suspension

Dakota Ary’s mother calls him an honors student who gets good grades, plays football and stays out of trouble. But when his German teacher, who had been discussing homosexuality, allegedly overheard Ary telling the friend behind him, “No gays allowed in Christianity,” the teacher began yelling and sent the Texas teen to the assistant principal, who suspended Ary for two days. (The suspension was reduced to one day after hearing Ary’s version of events.) “We were talking about religions in Germany,” Ary explained. “I said, ‘I’m a Christian. I think being a homosexual is wrong… I didn’t say it to be rude to anyone. I said it like how I believe about it.”

Ary’s mother hired Matt Krause, an attorney with the Liberty Counsel, who demanded that school administrators wipe the suspension off of Ary’s record and take no further actions against him. Krause said that Ary’s free-speech rights do not end when he comes to school. (The U.S. Supreme Court might agree with him.)


NEXT: Canadian priest causes a holy furor with his homophobic sermon


Late last month, Rev. Donat Gionet, 85, replaced the regular parish priest in Saint-Léolin, Canada. During Gionet’s weekend sermon he said:

“Today, it is we Catholics who are destroying our Catholic Church. We need only look at the number of abortions among Catholics, look at the homosexuals and ourselves. We are destroying our Church ourselves. We can add to that the practice of watching gay parades, we are encouraging this evil’ … What would you think of someone who seeing what was happening on 9/11/2001, the crumbling of the Towers, had begun clapping? We must not encourage evil, whatever form it takes.”

The openly gay mayor of Saint-Léolin, Joseph Lanteigne, supported the local Bishop’s decision to revoke Gionet’s rights to serve Mass and the diocese’s vicar general agreed, saying “Gionet’s teachings don’t meet the diocese’s goal of following Christ’s example of loving unconditionally.” Meanwhile Gionet quit the village parish’s pastoral committee, told his parishioners that he had been pulled from active duty and added that he still stood by his comments.

NEXT: So what do we do about it?

Certainly these three should be chastised for their comments—but do the punishments fit the crime?

Kennedy made direct attacks against co-workers on a work-sponsored Facebook page, so his actions definitely deserve a severe penalty. But Ary, barely in his teens, made a passing remark to a classmate. Maybe a trip to the principal’s office would’ve been enough? And though reprehensible, Gionet’s sermon wasn’t out of  line with what the Church says about gays and lesbians.  We’re surprised he didn’t get promoted to bishop.

The point is, the further we get with LGBT rights the more the haters are gonna get riled up. Setting aside speech that directly encourages violence, is fast and punitive punishment the right response? Or are we playing some P.C. game of victimhood where we need to run to Daddy when our feelings are hurt?

In some European nations, it’s actually illegal to make anti-gay remarks—offenders can face stiff fines or even jail  time. Is that the direction we want to head in? Would it even help solve the problem?

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