FBI Report: Hate Crimes Against Gays Outnumber those Against Religion

FBI Report Hate Crimes
This week a popular Christian magazine picked up on the recently released annual hate crime statistics report for 2011 from the FBI, noting that for the first time, hate crimes against gays outnumber those against religion.

Incidents of religious bias previously outnumbered incidents of sexual orientation bias – but not any longer. Hate crimes against the LGBT community have taken the #2 spot on the Bureau’s list, with nearly 21% of over 7,240 incidents motivated by sexual-orientation bias.

Hate crimes against our LGBT brothers and sisters are on the rise.

Interestingly, this isn’t the first time the magazine has reported on hate crimes. A past article by the popular magazine included responses from Christian groups to a federal hate crimes law in 2009 that moved to add sexual orientation and gender identity to the list of federally prosecuted hate crimes.

That law, known as the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, is named in part for Matthew Shepard. The late Shepard was a gay 21 year-old Wyoming college student who had been targeted because he was gay :: He was subsequently robbed, pistol whipped, tortured and left for dead by two men.

He was found, tied to a fence. The woman who discovered his near-lifeless and blood-soaked body initially mistook him for a scarecrow.

The men who perpetuated this heinous act were found guilty – but not of a hate crime.

They weren’t charged with one, because no criminal statute provided for such a charge.

The hate crimes prevention act bearing his name had previously been dropped from a bill in 2007 due to strong opposition from the same groups who would later unsuccessfully oppose it two years later (when the bill was finally signed into law).

Related: Sexual Orientation – It’s Not a Sin by Kathy Vestal

Out of fear and falsely envisioning a world where pastors could be arrested for preaching against homosexuality, a number of Christian groups fought tirelessly to keep crimes against folks like Matthew Shepard  from being designated as ‘hate crimes’.

Others were dumbfounded by the opposition to a bill that would protect a percentage of the population against violence and hate crimes.

One was quoted as saying ::

I would think that the followers of Jesus would be first in line to protect any group from hate crimes. He was the one who intervened against religious violence aimed at the woman caught in the act of adultery.’

Religious leaders who are concerned about hate crimes legislation should separate out their views on homosexuality from what life is like for gays and lesbians in America,‘ another said. ‘They don’t have to agree with someone’s way of life in order to acknowledge that there are real threats to people that need to be addressed.’

Two years later, according to the report, hate crimes against the gay community are rising.

This is unacceptable – but also unsurprising.

Is it any wonder, when we respond out of fear in an us-versus-them mindset and treat a percentage of the population as ‘less than,’ Other or second-class-citizens, that there would be an increase in violence against that same group?

Even if those within the religious communities would condemn violent attacks on the LGBT community (as most did while simultaneously opposing the introduction of the Matthew Shepard Act), the very act of fighting against protecting the rights of a certain community will unintentionally lead to the abuse of that lack of protection.

As one friend recently pointed out here, violence against any person or people group can be boiled down to three simple steps ::

Step 1 :: Agree that it is OK to treat some people different than others.
Step 2 :: Agree that violence can be a useful tool to solve some problems.
Step 3 :: Apply that violence to other people you deem lesser than you using whatever criteria you choose.

Is that not the path to all forms of violence, really?

All acts of violence stem from the dehumanization of another.

If someone fails to celebrate the imago dei in another – fails to see them as a beautiful expression of the Divine even in spite of their differences – then it is not surprising that apathy, ignorance, intolerance and even violent responses would followThis trajectory is both inevitable (as we’ve seen in Uganda) and completely incompatible with the teachings of Jesus.

Also by Michael: Possibilities – Is this what got Jesus killed?

Obviously there are diverse theological views of the christian faith tradition regarding the morality of homosexuality.

Yet even when we disagree about a subject as controversial as sexuality, we should still look for a way to live together in harmony with all people.

Let us work tirelessly not to withhold certain rights from a select percentage of the population, nor to pass legislation that would keep any group at the margins of acceptance;

Rather, may we devote our time, energy, efforts and resources to the much greater work of seeing and celebrating the image of God stamped upon each and every person, and participating in reconciling all people toward his hesed love for all humanity.

For discussion :: The same friend I quoted in the article also asked these questions ::

If our churches marginalize gay people, are we complicit in these crimes? Does the rejection of gay people by the church sanctify, or put God’s stamp of approval, on the dehumanizing attitudes and actions toward gay people? These are important questions.’

Important questions indeed. What do you think?


Michael Kimpan is the author of the WayWard follower blog, a site designed to inspire thoughtful conversation and movement among followers of Jesus Christ. Michael works with The Marin Foundation in Chicago, a non-profit organization which works to build bridges between the LGBT community and the Church.

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Michael Kimpan

Michael KimpanMichael Kimpan is the author of the WayWard follower blog, a site designed to inspire thoughtful conversation and movement among followers of Jesus Christ.View all posts by Michael Kimpan →

  • If Christians should be outraged by the 1,520 crimes (NOT DEATHS) against homosexuals that took place last year how much MORE SO should they be outraged by the 1,200,000 HATE CRIMES directed at those under 1-year of age (agism!) that resulted in DEATH!? What’s more hateful than killing a child under 1-year of age solely because of the place s/he dwells?!

    • Apparently we are only allowed to be outraged at one thing at a time. Good to know.

    • I assume that you mean under the age of 0 since the record of birth starts at conception. Last time I checked their were not a million 6 months post conception that were killed because of spatial position.

      But I would like to point out that your presumption is unnecessary. Who told you that they are not also out raged against those ‘hate crimes’ as you put it?

      Perhaps their is something biased within this post? The blog post is about crimes against GBLT. It says nothing, unless I misread, about abortion. By connecting the two I would assume that you make the assumption that: 1.) Those for GBLT rights also are directly in support of abortion. (Which the Democratic party has lumped together. 2.) GBLT hate crimes are somehow less important because abortions are legal in the US. Probably because you hold GBLT as unimportant people who should be burned.

      Why can I say the above? Would you have commented the same comment if the article was: Hate Crimes Against Women outnumber those of religion. Then your post would read:

      If Christians should be outraged by the 1,520 crimes (NOT DEATHS) against women that took place last year how much MORE SO should they be outraged by the 1,200,000 HATE CRIMES directed at those under 1-year of age (agism!) that resulted in DEATH!? What’s more hateful than killing a child under 1-year of age solely because of the place s/he dwells?!

      or if it was about 6-year old black kids…

      If Christians should be outraged by the 1,520 crimes (NOT DEATHS) against 6 year old black kids that took place last year how much MORE SO should they be outraged by the 1,200,000 HATE CRIMES directed at those under 1-year of age (agism!) that resulted in DEATH!? What’s more hateful than killing a child under 1-year of age solely because of the place s/he dwells?!

      I would venture to say that your post would probably say something different.

      Women cases:
      I can’t believe all those people have such hatred.

      Black kids:
      Disgusting racism. Christians should stand tall! Stop hurting kids in and outside the womb.

  • Jonathan Starkey

    I’m surprised at you pointing out this figure, but not addressing how many religious white hetero middle class conservatives are slandered on this blog everyday. Just kidding. Just thought I would be the first to post it today.

  • Gr8whiteN

    I’ve been following RLC for a while now and I’m always amazed at the number of comments that don’t even respond directly to the content of the blog but veer right off on some wild-eyed tangent.

    Anyway, I appreciate what you’ve written here. I’m finding that I have to confront my own prejudices and judgemental attitudes toward gay people and that the assumptions I’ve grown up with are false and not in fact reflecting the heart of Jesus for them.

    The question I have, and hopefully all of us have is, would a gay person even darken the door of my church? And by church I don’t necessarily mean come to one of our weekend worship services but if and when they encounter our extended church family, will they experience a Christ-like response and be drawn in or will it be one of pharisaical hypocrisy that repels.

    If I’m honest with myself, I can’t really say I think “gay is ok” but I can at least admit my perception is tainted by a well-nurtured bias & prejudice and that hopefully that can be a good starting point for me to begin to open up to how Jesus wants to change me & I can be used by Him for positive change.

    • thanks for being open – i think the possibility for a better future it starts with each of us being willing to admit our misperceptions and being open to change. appreciate your thoughts, and your willingness to go on the journey!

  • I ask this with utter sincerity. Why are hate crimes laws of any sort necessary? Are you telling me that torturing and murdering someone because they cut you off in traffic should be treated one way, and torturing and murdering someone because they are gay should be treated another way? To me, both are equally despicable, and the particular reason of WHY they did it seems to give to much credit to the perpetrator. Maybe I’m missing something, but why aren’t all human beings protected equally from violence, REGARDLESS of sexual orientation, religion, or race?

  • aprilis

    I am so sorry that Matthew Shepard was murdered but pplleeaassee stop saying it was because he was gay. It was not. He was the victim of a random robbery by two idiots high on drugs. They did not know that Matthew was gay they only thought he had money and they wanted it. It does not help anyone to lie about something as serious as reason for death to make your point when it is not true.

    • Bob Peters

      There remains a dispute as to whether his being gay was instrumental in his horrible beating and death. You may be right or you may be wrong. We will likely never know for sure.

  • hora

    Never will stop violence against homosexuals and a hate and opposite grow, until Gov accept what majority won, and are a majority, that over pass any Law, we won stop right to homosexuals, not hire to no jobs and lock in a Mental institution until is cure or simple destroy, it can’t protect a 4% of all population against a rest 96%. A only another solution are live in a dark, like was for long time, but Justice not call discrimination, in a better way who opposite are discriminate. See what will happening when Dems will loose a majority and power? a revenge be will come to much hard against homosexuals and who support to.

    • Guest

      Ttry your post again….in english. It makes no sense as written.

    • Bob Peters

      You should consider re-doing your post. It makes absolutely no sense as currently written.

  • Ethan D. Mason

    While I may not agree with some of the views held by this author, I praise the effort made to counter the militant ideologies on both sides of the debate with love and understanding. The U.S. isn’t as polarized as Fox News and MSNBC would have us believe, most of us are centered. While there appears to be a “Christians vs. Homosexuals” culture war unfolding in the news media, most homosexuals remain Christian and I proudly AMPLIFY that fact, and like so many Abolitionist and Women have done in the past to rally Christian support, homosexuals should invoke Christ in their arguments instead of playing into the “bible vs. homosexuals” narrative. Embracing Christianity will heed more support than bashing it – something I hear many Christians reference as their opposition to homosexuality. Most Christians I know make no distinction between their sins and homosexuality, therefore have no other reason to oppose it.

  • MC

    Matthew Shepard was NOT murdered because he was gay, he was murdered by his own gay lover over drugs and money. Please stop using that fallacious argument. And religious hate crimes out number sexual orientation hate crimes.

    • Bob Peters

      Please cite your sources, especially that he was murdered by his own gay lover and how you would know!

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