In Monty Python's "Monty Python and the Holy Grail", a group of angry peasants drags a young woman into the town square and demands that she be burned at the stake because she is a witch. When the local authority questions their rationale, the villagers reply that they know their victim is a witch because "she looks like one." It is later revealed that the costume and disgustingly long nose that the "witch" apparently possesses were placed on her by the villagers to artificially fortify their case.
This scene is naturally supposed to be comedic, for the obvious miscarriage of justice depicted is too absurd to be otherwise. However, California is currently witnessing a similar miscarriage of justice against innocent people for no crime other than that their religious affiliation or even their skin color looks politically unfriendly. As in the case of the Monty Python sketch, this appearance has more to do with the bigotries and cruelty of the persecutors than with the actual innocence or guilt of the accused.
I refer to the disgraceful behavior of the protesters of Proposition 8. As the long-time readers of this Web site know, I am no friend of this measure, and I have made as much clear. But the behavior of the protesters against Proposition 8 is more embarrassing and wrongheaded than the proposition itself could ever be. This behavior includes blatant religious bigotry and racism, neither of which are justified by anything other than arguably tenuous connections between the proposition and those attacked.
There have been numerous demonstrations all around the state at Mormon churches, not to mention the airing of several anti-Mormon ads which do nothing but tar Mormons as vandals and bigots. The protesters claim this behavior is not about religion; it is used solely as an attack on a politically engaged entity – namely, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. This argument is inconsistent with both the principles of justice and of logic. It is true that the LDS church has contributed support to Proposition 8, but to condemn every Mormon for being a member of that church is equivalent to condemning every Muslim for being a terrorist. It is a fallacy of composition to claim that just because a large population of a church believes something, therefore the entire church believes it. There are theological disagreements in any religious community, the Mormons included, and to target this group specifically evinces a predatory desire to construct one's opposition by stepping on the backs of the least politically popular proponents of a policy.
But even if one excuses the abuse of the LDS church as a response to high-profile political advocacy, there is no excuse for the racism. Pam's House Blend, a blog that covers lesbian issues, has detailed some of the more vile incidences:
"It was like being at a Klan rally except the Klansman were wearing Abercrombie polos and Birkenstocks. 'You n*****r,' one man shouted at men. 'If your people want to call me a F****t, I will call you a n*****r.'"
Several liberal media organizations, such as Truth Wins Out and People for the American Way have denounced this behavior in unequivocal terms. Truth Wins Out issued a statement condemning "those in the LGBT community who have emulated our bigoted opponents by scapegoating minorities," while Kathryn Kolbert of People for the American Way has written that "responding to [Proposition 8's passage] by lashing out at African Americans is deeply wrong and offensive - not to mention destructive to the goal of advancing equality." To their credit, even the organizers of protests against Proposition 8 have made a few timid noises disavowing their intention to stir this level of cruelty.
It is disturbing indeed that in a debate where level-headed argument about the purpose of constitutional amendments should prevail, this sort of irrationality is occurring. In what world do these protesters live, where unless you are gay and secular-progressive, you deserve no respect, no pity, no mercy? And to make matters worse, because the opponents of Proposition 8 cannot stand to see their ideas rejected on a level playing field, now they are trying to invoke a constitutional crisis by trying to get the California Supreme Court to rule on something which by definition is beyond their power to oppose – a constitutional amendment. This hideous contempt for the rule of law must be defeated, and so must the cruelty and ignorance of its noisiest backers. Only then can a substantive debate over Proposition 8 be rekindled.