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Author Topic: Russel Brand V. Westboro  (Read 4542 times)

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Offline Valthazar

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Re: Russel Brand V. Westboro
« Reply #50 on: February 13, 2014, 01:16:44 PM »
IO has really hit my point.  Referring to my earlier point, I feel more comfortable living in a country where I am free to express as I wish, without fear of prosecution like Geert Wilders - which should answer your point regarding which countries may pose a problem for an active, vocal citizenry that is honestly portraying their sentiments.

I emphasized this discussion from the beginning by stating that it was my opinion, as well - and one that I know is shared by many Americans.

Offline Kythia

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Re: Russel Brand V. Westboro
« Reply #51 on: February 13, 2014, 01:21:27 PM »
So your point is "it is possible to conceive of a world where people holding various viewpoints are prevented from entering European politics but I accept that is not the world we currently live in."  Seriously?

Anyway.  Very well.  So let's get back to the topic at hand.

Requoting as its a long way up the page:
In short, holding anti-immigration views....  or racist, or homophobic, or anything you like ...  is not equivalent to hate speech, you're trying to draw an entirely unjustified comparison between "views one may find disgusting" and "hate speech".  I could, relatively easily, launch into a hate speech promoting gay rights, I could have a non hate speech conversation about how the Nazis were right all along.  They are two entirely different matters.

Offline Valthazar

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Re: Russel Brand V. Westboro
« Reply #52 on: February 13, 2014, 01:26:56 PM »
So your point is "it is possible to conceive of a world where people holding various viewpoints are prevented from entering European politics but I accept that is not the world we currently live in."  Seriously?

Kythia, I never made a statement that it "is not the world we currently live in."  I just gave you a clear example right now, of why average citizens in Europe holding extremely conservative perspectives may not enter politics, given that that certain anti-Islamic views have been prosecuted against.

As far as what you quoted, I completely agree regarding homophobic or racist perspectives not being the same as hate speech.  I am glad we agree on that.  My concern however, is that these are prosecutable offenses in many European countries, as I have cited above.

Edit: To clarify, I am using "may not" in the sense of being dissuaded from doing so.
« Last Edit: February 13, 2014, 01:29:18 PM by Valthazar »

Offline Kythia

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Re: Russel Brand V. Westboro
« Reply #53 on: February 13, 2014, 01:30:15 PM »
Kythia, I never made a statement that it "is not the world we currently live in."  I just gave you a clear example right now, of why average citizens in Europe holding extremely conservative perspectives may not enter politics, given that that certain anti-Islamic views have been prosecuted against.

Could you clarify that "may not" for me please, before we get into this again.

Am I reading you as saying "It is possible to conceive of a world where individuals are discouraged from entering politics due to espousing anti-Islamic views" which is unarguable albeit trivial or are you claiming that "individuals are being discouraged from entering European politics due to their anti-Islamic views"- in which case I think you're going to run into the exact same brick wall you did above given the vast number of openly anti-Islamic European politicians, not least of which the two serving European politicians you introduced into the conversation.

Offline Kythia

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Re: Russel Brand V. Westboro
« Reply #54 on: February 13, 2014, 01:33:42 PM »
Ha, sorry.  Cross posted against your edit there.

So, correct me if I'm wrong, but your position is:

"Given that holding anti-Islamic (e.g.) views can be prosecuted in many European countries, I believe that that could have a chilling effect on people espousing those views"

Is that the case?

First, good.  People should be dissuaded from having those views.

Second, there is no evidence that that's the case.

Offline Valthazar

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Re: Russel Brand V. Westboro
« Reply #55 on: February 13, 2014, 01:36:02 PM »
Am I reading you as saying "It is possible to conceive of a world where individuals are discouraged from entering politics due to espousing anti-Islamic views" which is unarguable albeit trivial

This is very much my point, and I am suggesting that it is a very real phenomenon in many places in Europe today.  Though I am perplexed why you feel it is unarguable and trivial?  Being able to run for office without fear of prosecution due to our political views, is something that most Americans hold very close to our core values.

If we are even verging towards a society where certain perspectives are being prevented (meaning, disuaded) from entering the public discourse, it is something that all Americans should be concerned above.

First, good.  People should be dissuaded from having those views.

That is a shame, considering that they are as entitled to their views, as we are.
« Last Edit: February 13, 2014, 01:39:30 PM by Valthazar »

Offline Kythia

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Re: Russel Brand V. Westboro
« Reply #56 on: February 13, 2014, 01:40:07 PM »
This is very much my point, and I am suggesting that it is a very real phenomenon in many places in Europe today.  Though I am perplexed why you feel it is unarguable and trivial?  Being able to run for office without fear of prosecution due to our political views, is something that most Americans hold very close to our core values.

If we are even verging towards a society where certain perspectives are being prevented from entering the public discourse, it is something that all Americans should be concerned above.

Unarguable because yes, it is possible to conceive of such a world.  Trivial because, well, so what.  It's also possible to conceive of a world where once a year a giant flying octopus eats everyone who reached #3 on the Billboard chart.  What you need to do, and the point I notice you skipped over, is to show that that conceivable world is this one.  Evidence.

Quote
That is a shame, considering that they are as entitled to their views, as we are.

Why?

Offline Iniquitous

Re: Russel Brand V. Westboro
« Reply #57 on: February 13, 2014, 01:42:45 PM »
First, good.  People should be dissuaded from having those views.

I'm going to play devil's advocate here.

One, that is your opinion. Free speech allows you to speak that opinion whenever, wherever and however you desire.

Two, why is your opinion right and someone else who disagrees with you wrong? You do not get the right to tell me that I shouldn't be allowed to speak my opinions just because you disagree with them. Same applies to me.

The minute the government steps in and starts saying "Okay, these people over here with this opinion are correct so that is the only opinion we are going to allow." then free speech has died.


Offline Valthazar

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Re: Russel Brand V. Westboro
« Reply #58 on: February 13, 2014, 01:44:31 PM »
Why?

Not every European citizen may feel that the tenants of Islam are compatible with a free-society.  While I disagree with this, due to my own interpretation of Islam, they are equally as entitled to their own interpretation of the religion, based on how they perceive the words of the Qur'an.

Who am I to tell him or her that he should feel a certain way about a religion?

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Re: Russel Brand V. Westboro
« Reply #59 on: February 13, 2014, 01:46:40 PM »
Not every European citizen may feel that the tenants of Islam are compatible with a free-society.  While I disagree with this, due to my own interpretation of Islam, they are equally as entitled to their own interpretation of the religion, based on how they perceive the words of the Qur'an.

Who am I to tell him or her that he should feel a certain way about a religion?

A teacher, IIRC.

But seriously, if their opinion is causing harm to people, why should it be allowed?  I'm not allowed to go around punching people, why am I allowed to go around causing them mental distress?

EDIT:  They're their there.

Offline Iniquitous

Re: Russel Brand V. Westboro
« Reply #60 on: February 13, 2014, 01:51:26 PM »
A teacher, IIRC.

But seriously, if their opinion is causing harm to people, why should it be allowed?  I'm not allowed to go around punching people, why am I allowed to go around causing them mental distress?

EDIT:  They're their there.

You're causing me mental distress because you do not agree with my opinions. Matter of fact, I have a headache and my blood pressure is up.


Are you starting to see why it is ridiculous to try and define freedom of speech by the definition of "nothing that causes mental distress"? I mean hell, I could claim that 95% of the customers I talk to every night at work cause me mental distress. If we went by your definition there, they'd be in jail. 

Kinda silly.

Offline Valthazar

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Re: Russel Brand V. Westboro
« Reply #61 on: February 13, 2014, 01:51:37 PM »
A teacher, IIRC.

But seriously, if their opinion is causing harm to people, why should it be allowed?  I'm not allowed to go around punching people, why am I allowed to go around causing them mental distress?

EDIT:  They're their there.

How is simply stating that the core teachings of Islam are anti-antithetical to a free society, a form of inflicting mental distress?  It's an opinion - and one that I happen to disagree with.  On the same token, we may both agree that Al-Qaeda is anti-thetical to a free society, but if an Al-Qaeda member wants to voice his opinions in a peaceful manner, he is entitled to in the United States.

Should we stop him from doing so, for fear that he will cause mental distress to us as Americans?  Clearly he may be causing a lot of mental distress for all of us, but we value our First Amendment.

Offline Kythia

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Re: Russel Brand V. Westboro
« Reply #62 on: February 13, 2014, 02:00:03 PM »
How is simply stating that the core teachings of Islam are anti-antithetical to a free society, a form of inflicting mental distress?  It's an opinion - and one that I happen to disagree with.  On the same token, we may both agree that Al-Qaeda is anti-thetical to a free society, but if an Al-Qaeda member wants to voice his opinions in a peaceful manner, he is entitled to in the United States.

Should we stop him from doing so, for fear that he will cause mental distress to us as Americans?  Clearly he may be causing a lot of mental distress for all of us, but we value our First Amendment.

We're in circles a little here.  You seem to be saying that there is an intrinsic value to free speech, it is a good thing which outweighs the bad things it permits.  But again, I need to ask why?  What on earth makes you think that?  You claim repeatedly that in Europe (in many European countries at least) that its lack is providing a chilling effect and repeatedly I ask you to back up that assertion.  And you don't.  But it really does seem like that is key here.  Five seconds of googling will find you stats a-plenty on the growth of the far right across western Europe and you have introduced politicians into the conversation who show that further.  Le Pen's father was a presidential contender. 

See, my issue is that you accept some restrictions on free speech because of the potential harm they can do.  Again, fighting words.  Child pornography, one would assume.  Etc.  So you accept that Free Speech can and in some cases should be curtailed to serve other needs.  Why, though, do you believe the US has it right and other places - many European countries - don't.  What evidence do you have for this claim?

Offline Valthazar

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Re: Russel Brand V. Westboro
« Reply #63 on: February 13, 2014, 02:05:03 PM »
See, my issue is that you accept some restrictions on free speech because of the potential harm they can do.  Again, fighting words.  Child pornography, one would assume.  Etc.  So you accept that Free Speech can and in some cases should be curtailed to serve other needs.  Why, though, do you believe the US has it right and other places - many European countries - don't.  What evidence do you have for this claim?

Not sure what sort of empirical data you are looking for that would back up my opinion, and those of many other Americans on this issue - other than finding some sort of a scholar who would also be voicing a similar opinion.  If you recall when I started this discussion, I explicitly stated that I was asserting my opinion, what I found to be a perk as an American citizen, and was not suggesting that the methodologies used by other countries are inherently wrong - only that they are in opposition to my core principles.

A conservative Christian may say that preventing Christianity's influence in government is harmful.  That's their opinion as a human being, just like I may have my own as a human being.  The reason we have elections is so that all points of view can be displayed, and that the majority perspective will take precedence in policy.

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Re: Russel Brand V. Westboro
« Reply #64 on: February 13, 2014, 02:18:42 PM »
The obvious example would be evidence that when the various prosecutions of right leaning politicians started, membership of their organisations trailed off or the growth rate slowed.  In the relevant countries at a minimum. 

You actually didn't explicitly state it was your opinion.  This conversation was started because you did the opposite.  You explicitly stated it was the correct way to do things and was objectively a perk of being an American, only later when I challenged you on it did you state that it was your opinion.  But that's not overly important, and I know what you're trying to convey.  And this is why I find your argument problematic and what I've been trying to get at.

1)We agree that there can be negative effects to free speech
2)We agree that there are certain effects so negative that free speech should be curtailed to prevent them
3)We agree that, painting with broad strokes, Europe has greater restrictions than the US

I think at least?

But then you go on to say:

4)Those lesser restrictions in the US are, in your opinion, a positive to the US
5)Countries which have greater restrictions you, therefore, find less desirable
6)One of the ways in which they are less desirable is that you imagine there is less free political discourse (though, apparently, can't think of a way to prove it)
7)Therfore (4) is correct.

If we assume there is a negative to allowing the WBC church to exist, all else aside, and also accept that European laws would criminalise them while US laws don't then you need to show the good that is served by allowing them.  The opinion of many americans doesn't matter.  Many americans have been wrong before, they will be wrong again.  (Obviously I'm not singling the US out here, just that thats the country we're talking about).

The only thing you've suggested as a perk that outweighs the harm hasn't been supported at all.

Offline Valthazar

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Re: Russel Brand V. Westboro
« Reply #65 on: February 13, 2014, 02:39:20 PM »
If we assume there is a negative to allowing the WBC church to exist, all else aside, and also accept that European laws would criminalise them while US laws don't then you need to show the good that is served by allowing them.  The opinion of many americans doesn't matter.  Many americans have been wrong before, they will be wrong again.  (Obviously I'm not singling the US out here, just that thats the country we're talking about).

The only restrictions to Freedom of Speech that I find justifiable are the ones currently in law, many of which you have mentioned.  I do not see any other negative effects to Freedom of Speech, and as such, "Freedom of Speech," as it is currently defined in US law, is something I am an ardent supporter of.  You have asked me for evidence to support this, but I am not sure what sort of evidence you are seeking, since this is wholly a matter of opinion.

I have already presented to you numerous examples of prosecution in European parliaments that tarnishes open political discourse.  A situation in Denmark is yet another example of this.  I realize that you do not seem to agree with me on this, which is perfectly fine.  Your interpretation of what is a free society may vary greatly from mine, which is likely why you are dismissing many of the examples I am providing as not representing the lack of a true, open political discourse.  What represents a free society is something that each of us has to define for ourselves.

Finally, I never said there is a negative associated with allowing the WBC to exist - they are fully within their Constitutional rights to exist, and I support them exercising their rights.  While I, personally, may find their rhetoric to be disconcerting, that is something that I deal with on a personal level.  Many of my words in other contexts may inadvertently elicit a similar reaction for others.

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Re: Russel Brand V. Westboro
« Reply #66 on: February 13, 2014, 02:50:51 PM »
The only restrictions to Freedom of Speech that I find justifiable are the ones currently in law, many of which you have mentioned.  I do not see any other negative effects to Freedom of Speech, and as such, "Freedom of Speech," as it is currently defined in US law, is something I am an ardent supporter of.  You have asked me for evidence to support this, but I am not sure what sort of evidence you are seeking, since this is wholly a matter of opinion.

Right, sorry for being unclear.  What I have asked you for evidence of is prosecutions impeding the political process.  I would submit they have not been as effective as "I wish they had"/"You fear they have" *delete as applicable.

Quote
I have already presented to you numerous examples of prosecution in European parliaments that tarnishes open political discourse.  A situation in Denmark is yet another example of this.  I realize that you do not seem to agree with me on this, which is perfectly fine.  Your interpretation of what is a free society may vary greatly from mine, which is likely why you are dismissing many of the examples I am providing as not representing the lack of a true, open political discourse.  What represents a free society is something that each of us has to define for ourselves.

Largely ties in to the above.  Mainly just quoted to show I'm not ignoring it.  The only point I'd make is that previously you haven't been presenting this as a matter of opinion, you've been presenting it as a matter of fact.  You started presenting it as a matter of opinion around the end of page two and are still hovering around not doing so ("tarnishes open political discourse" as opposed to "I believe tarnishes open political discourse").  This is why I started asking for evidence, to challenge your presentation of this as fact.  If you misspoke or I misread then apologies as relevant.

Quote
Finally, I never said there is a negative associated with allowing the WBC to exist - they are fully within their Constitutional rights to exist, and I support them exercising their rights.  While I, personally, may find their rhetoric to be disconcerting, that is something that I deal with on a personal level.  Many of my words in other contexts may inadvertently elicit a similar reaction for others.

They cause a lot of mental anguish to a lot of people.  I'm not arguing that they're not legally permitted to do so, but do you not think "causing a lot of anguish to a lot of people" is, pretty much by definition, a negative?

Regardless, with your second paragraph we may well have reached the end of anything productive? (arguably that happened a while ago?)  I certainly read it as a "we don't agree but we're both jolly nice people so that's OK"

Offline Valthazar

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Re: Russel Brand V. Westboro
« Reply #67 on: February 13, 2014, 03:02:27 PM »
Right, sorry for being unclear.  What I have asked you for evidence of is prosecutions impeding the political process.  I would submit they have not been as effective as "I wish they had"/"You fear they have" *delete as applicable.

And as I have already indicated, I provided numerous citations, including a situation in Denmark where they are re-evaluating their laws now, due to similar concerns over racial and religious intolerance laws impeding the political process.

"Hedegaard's statements earned him a hate speech charge under Danish law. While Denmark's constitution ostensibly protects freedom of expression and forbids censorship (see Section 77), the Criminal code provides that "expressing and spreading racial hatred" is a criminal offense punishable with up to two years imprisonment. (Article 266b)" (Source)

The only point I'd make is that previously you haven't been presenting this as a matter of opinion, you've been presenting it as a matter of fact.

In the United States, it is a matter of fact, though given that you are from Europe, in our discourse, I certainly realize it is a matter of opinion.  As we have seen so far in this thread, almost all Americans who have posted realize that the founding of this country was predicated on freedom of political discourse, so it is not an issue we take lightly.  Part of the reason we respect the WBC's Constitutional rights, is because we know that suggesting anything to the contrary would slowly open the road to making it more challenging for us to express our own political views in the future.

They cause a lot of mental anguish to a lot of people.  I'm not arguing that they're not legally permitted to do so, but do you not think "causing a lot of anguish to a lot of people" is, pretty much by definition, a negative?

Iniquitous Opheliac very nicely conveyed how most of us feel about the Westboro Baptist Church.  We strongly dislike what they are saying, but as Americans, we have no rights to diminish their freedom.

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Re: Russel Brand V. Westboro
« Reply #68 on: February 14, 2014, 12:48:34 AM »
If I feel personally threatened by something a person say to me, there are legal avenues I can take to sort out that specific threat.  Europe is going through an immense period of political change, and it is a shame that many of these grassroots initiatives are being subverted right from the start, even though they are garnering significant support.

This was an aside, but it seems to shape a lot of your thinking on this and similar subjects, Valthazar. You're ignoring something rather large, though - it's not always a specific threat made directly to your face. Sometimes it's a general attitude of hostility and a pattern of conduct - for instance, members of the trans* community can have an extremely difficult time finding doctors who a) will serve them in the first place, and b) actually understand the unique psychological and medical issues they might face.

And sometimes, it's not the speech itself that's the problem, it's that it incites - is explicitly designed to incite - a certain fringe portion of the population to take violent action. Yes, there are already laws against assault, etc. I, for one, think it's better to stop the viollence once it's clear that's where the road is going but before we get there.

Offline Valthazar

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Re: Russel Brand V. Westboro
« Reply #69 on: February 14, 2014, 01:01:01 AM »
I don't think anyone in this thread is justifying what the WBC is doing - we all think they are nuts, and doing nothing but spreading hostility.  The only thing that I said, is that it is within their Constitutional rights to protest in the manner in which they are.  With regard to your statement, I don't think anyone here would disagree that medical doctors need to be educated on such topics relating to LGBT communities.

You may be right that certain choice words may cause mentally unstable individuals to react violently.  But unless it can be proven that the speaker spoke with the intent of perpetrating this violence, it is difficult to prosecute.  Many have made the case that Marilyn Manson's music videos are explicitly designed to incite a certain fringe portion of the population to react violently, but this is a questionable assertion at best.

Offline Ephiral

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Re: Russel Brand V. Westboro
« Reply #70 on: February 14, 2014, 01:29:49 AM »
Um. You said considerably more than that. In particular, you've been arguing in favour of what appeared to be unrestricted free speech, and have asked for examples of how it can cause harm. You also made the statement I responded to, which strongly implied that the only concern was direct threats made specifically to your person, which can be handled through other channels.

You have examples, including specific examples of why that is not the only concern. You now appear to be walking back from these positions; I note that you state it would be difficult to prosecute, not undesirable. Time to bite the bullet: Is governmental restriction of free speech acceptable (in which case, we're just debating how much restriction is OK), or is it dangerous in any case? If the latter, then how many dead bodies are acceptable to avoid restricting speech?

Nice try with the Marilyn Manson example, by the by, but no. There are pretty clear-cut examples - upheld by US courts - of speech directly inspiring murder, and the murder being celebrated by the speaker. Are you really going to pretend that's in any way nebulous or unclear?

Offline Iniquitous

Re: Russel Brand V. Westboro
« Reply #71 on: February 14, 2014, 01:40:09 AM »
You know what?

I'll put it plain as day.

I cannot stand what the WBC does. I hate listening to them, I find them utterly disgusting. With that said... I'll defend their rights to run their mouths. Why? Because the minute a court rules that they cannot say what they believe with complete immunity from the law then the rest of us are going to find our rights to say what we want taken away.

You cannot have your cake and eat it to. If you want to be able to express your beliefs, your opinions, your thoughts freely then guess what - the people who's beliefs, opinions and thoughts you disagree with get to have that same right.


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Re: Russel Brand V. Westboro
« Reply #72 on: February 14, 2014, 01:41:40 AM »
I have not been arguing in favor of unrestricted free speech.  I stated earlier to Kythia that I support our First Amendment rights as they are currently defined by US law:

Quote
The only restrictions to Freedom of Speech that I find justifiable are the ones currently in law, many of which you have mentioned.  I do not see any other negative effects to Freedom of Speech, and as such, "Freedom of Speech," as it is currently defined in US law, is something I am an ardent supporter of.

Earlier in this thread, Iniquitous Opheliac and I both acknowledged that speech akin to WBC is doing nothing but spreading hostility, and can have lasting impacts on individuals.  As I said, "while I, personally, may find their rhetoric to be disconcerting, that is something that I deal with on a personal level.  Many of my words in other contexts may inadvertently elicit a similar reaction for others."  When asking about potential harm, I was referring to harm that can be clearly defined in a legal sense.  Iniquitous Opheliac even made the point that their language hurts her on a very personal level, due to the fact that her son is in the military, but she acknowledges their First Amendment rights.

I am not sure what you mean by, nice try, for the Marilyn Manson example.  If you would like to discuss a specific example you have in mind, I would be more than happy to.

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Re: Russel Brand V. Westboro
« Reply #73 on: February 14, 2014, 01:50:49 AM »
WARNING: The link below? Yeah, these are horrible people saying and doing horrible things. I've used donotlink, but... ugh. Most people will still want a shower afterward.

Here you go. These people have directly inspired at least one of the murders on this list, and very likely more. And the very top of the page is them crowing about this. Their right to maintain and continue building what amounts to a hit list has been upheld by US courts.

Even if you define "harm" extremely narrowly (conveniently leaving out the significant number of bullied, dead gay teens, for example), I do hope you'll agree that murder fits the bill?

Offline Iniquitous

Re: Russel Brand V. Westboro
« Reply #74 on: February 14, 2014, 02:02:08 AM »
So, you want it to be law that if you open your mouth and say, oh I don't know, "I hate gays" then you are guilty of causing someone somewhere to kill someone?

Really?

That is the only thing I get out of that link.

Again, it's real simple. If you want to be able to say what you want then you have to deal with other people spewing things you don't like having the same right. If you are willing to lose your freedoms, then by all means, fight to have their rights taken away. But don't be surprised when people like me say you're foolish.

Much like the memes I see floating around about don't like gay then dont be gay... if you don't like what they have to say, don't listen.