Monday, September 17, 2007

Letter to the Catholic League

William Donohue, President
Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights
450 Seventh Avenue
New York, New York 10123

Dear Sir,

There is little I can say in the way of apologia or praise for the stupid remarks that Kathy Griffin made when she received her Emmy award; I can only wonder at her choice to upstage her moment of triumph by setting off a controversy about religion. Were I her agent, I would be furious.

Her speech can fairly be called blasphemy. Blasphemy is not, however, a criminal act. The sentiment might distress those to whom faith is most important; it is an exaggeration to suggest that such a statement is obscene.

What is utterly preposterous is to label anything Griffin said in her speech as "hate speech," as you have done repeatedly. Kathy Griffin said something unpleasant, but she did not say anything disparaging about Christians. How do you justify calling her a "bigot?" It is frequently said on television that those who do not reconcile with Jesus are condemned to hell. Would you call this "hate speech" against non-Christians? Would you say the Christians who make these statements are "bigoted" towards atheists?

Or, perhaps, do you feel that Christians merit a privilege to religious expression superior to those who do not worship as you do?

Would you deny the right to self-expression to an atheist that is enjoyed by artists of faith? Why, in light of the First Amendment to our Bill of Rights, should one artist be free to thank the Lord for her award on television, while another artist is forbidden to say, "The Lord had nothing to do with this?"

Your repeated description of Griffin's off-color joke as "hate speech" belittles the hate speech that is endured every day by Americans of diverse non-white races, and by gay Americans. In no way have you suffered what these people suffer. You were offended by an unfunny joke at the expense of no one except perhaps Jesus, who will surely have the last word in the matter. You, a man, were annoyed for a moment by a celebrity who unashamedly professes atheism. And you portray this as some kind of social injustice?

If the Catholic League stands for civil rights, it must stand for civil rights for all people – including atheists. To portray atheism as "hate speech" and "bigotry" not only overstates the case, it seeks to deny one of our most basic and essential freedoms, on the basis of religious discrimination. That is an offense far greater than Kathy Griffin's.

I call on you to scale back this rhetoric and seek, rather, to promote dialogue and understanding.

Most Sincerely,

Algernon D'Ammassa

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