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March 27, 2006


San Francisco Board of Supervisors vs the First Amendment
Last Friday and Saturday, March 24-25, a fellow named Ron Luce and his Texas based organization Teen Mania held a big old evangelical Christian youth rally at the AT&T Park in San Francisco. They had something like 25,000 folks there as part of a "reverse rebellion" tour. He wants to turn loose a bunch of new youth ministers to help the homeless, evangelize for Christ, and so on. Typical Christian stuff.

But daring to be a basic Christian in San Francisco seems to be unacceptable to many of the locals. There were all kinds of counter demonstrations protesting their presence in the city. Why, they're just a fascist pep rally of hate! According to Assemblyman Mark Leno "they're loud, they're obnoxious, they're disgusting, and they should get out of San Francisco."

Yeah, okay fine. I would tend to think that protesting such a group is just silly. Of all the things to protest, nice Christian kids wanting to help poor folks and pass out Bibles would seem to be low on the list. But hey, it's a free country, and our constitution guarantees them the right to protest against whatever they want.

However, that same First Amendment also guarantees freedom of religion, and anti-Christians clearly crossed a line with an official government condemnation. From the San Francisco Chronicle:

Earlier this week, the Board of Supervisors passed a resolution condemning the "act of provocation" by what it termed an "anti-gay," "anti-choice" organization that aimed to "negatively influence the politics of America's most tolerant and progressive city."

The full text of the resolution does not seem to be readily available, but here's what's on the San Francisco city website:
060371 [Condemning upcoming rally to be held by anti-abortion groups in front of City Hall on Friday, March 24, 2006] Supervisors Ammiano, Ma, Maxwell, Daly, Peskin, Mirkarimi
Resolution condemning upcoming rally to be held by anti-abortion groups in front of City Hall on Friday, March 24, 2006.

ADOPTED by the following vote:
Ayes: 11 - Alioto-Pier, Ammiano, Daly, Dufty, Elsbernd, Ma, Maxwell, McGoldrick, Mirkarimi, Peskin, Sandoval

Back up, Jack. What business, what RIGHT does any government body have to be making official condemnations of religious rallies? "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion." That of course applies to all levels of US government as well.

Some people - no doubt including these protesters - get all bent out of shape about the least sign of government favoring or even vaguely appearing to endorse any kind of religious expression. Perhaps it's just as well to avoid even minor unnecessary provocation, but arguably it's really indulging in princess-and-the-pea sensitivity to get all worked up over a nativity scene on some country courthouse lawn. An atheist or Muslim has to be awfully thin-skinned to feel oppressed by a cheap manger with a plastic doll in it.

But this resolution from the San Francisco Board of Supervisors is ten times more egregious than any little Christmas display. They are singling out a specific group for condemnation. We don't like you and you're not welcome in our town. That sure sounds much more like something meant to have a chilling effect on people's religious expression.

Now, a "reverse rebellion" tour does put me in mind of Tim Robbins' evil Bob Roberts character making an album called The Times They Are a-Changin' Back, but this group is only marginally political. Note how the explanation of this city resolution dishonestly frames this as a pro-life rally, as if it were a political rather than religious event. Now, these are obviously social conservatives, and they seem to have picked San Francisco for their rally partly to protest gay marriage.

But it wouldn't matter if they were far more political than they actually are. Imagine how it would be taken if Jesse Jackson came on one of his tours of demagoguery, and some red state city council passed a resolution officially condemning his gathering. How long would it be before they were drug into court, and rightly beaten senseless by a judge? I might say that he's a weenie, but I'm not the government, and not in any position to even pretend that I could stop him from having whatever kind of meetings he wants.

The San Francisco Board of Supervisors should be rebuked for their religious bigotry and intolerance. Yet if I burned the words of the First Amendment onto a 2x4 and showed up at their next meeting to give the members an attitude adjustment to the side of their heads, it would no doubt be made out that I was the bad guy.

UPDATE: Here is the complete text of San Francisco Board of Supervisors resolution 060371:

Resolution condemning upcoming rally to be held by anti-abortion groups in front of City Hall on Friday, March 24, 2006.

WHEREAS, It is an act of provocation when a right-whing Christian fundamentalist group brings their anti-gay and anti-choice agenda of intolerance to the steps of San Francisco's City Hall; and

WHEREAS, It is unfortunate and alarming that those who are against reproductive and homosexual rights, and who are anti-gay as well as anti-choice, aim to negatively influence the politics of America's most tolerant and progressive city; and,

WHEREAS, The fact that the fringe group "Battlecry for a Generation" will rally on the front steps of City Hall Should be taken by no one as an official or semi-official sanctioning of their rally nor of their message by the elected officials of San Francisco; and

WHEREAS, We hope, nevertheless, that the out of town protesters will leave our fair city filled with slightly less hatred; now, therefore, be it

RESOLVED, That the Board of Supervisors condemns the upcoming rally to be held by anti-abortion groups in front of City Hall on Friday, March 24, 2006.

posted by Al at 3/27/2006 11:04:00 PM

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