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Ku Klux Klan, Christian Identity groups, Neo- Nazis, and other hate groups initiate people into their groups by requiring them to do acts of hate, such as assaulting racial- ethnic people, beating or killing persons perceived to be homosexual, desecrating synagogues, and burning churches with racial- ethnic or multi-cultural membership. Hundreds of churches and synagogues have been burned or vandalized in recent years. Race-based hate crimes have targeted all racial, ethnic, and religious groups and immigrants. Assaults against people perceived to be gay or lesbian are increasing at alarming rates and are characterized by particular viciousness.
But it is not just hate groups who perpetrate such crimes. According to a recent study by the American Psychological Association,"most hate crimes are carried out by otherwise law- abiding young people who see little wrong with their actions. Alcohol and drugs sometimes help fuel these crimes, but the main determinant appears to be personal prejudice...such prejudice is most likely rooted in an environment that disdains someone who is 'different' or sees that difference as threatening." According to The White House Conference on Hate Crimes report, "teenagers and young adults account for a significant proportion of the country's hate crimes--both as perpetrators and victims." Children are not born with hatred, they are taught hatred. We, as part of society, have a responsibility to condemn hate and violence and to teach our children not to hate.
The United Methodist Church must be pro-active in resisting hate and teaching young people and all members how to live in our diverse social world without passively accepting the rise of hate and bigotry. When church members do nothing about hate language or horrifying atrocities, such as the murders of James Bird and Matthew Shepherd, and have not actively taught tolerance, we participate in the social support of hate.
Resolutions that address such issues are not new to United Methodists. More than one hundred references in The Book of Resolutions of the United Methodist Church address various aspects of our commitment to the elimination of racism in all its forms. In particular, the 1996 resolution, "Global Racism: A Violation of Human Rights," states that United Methodists will "work in coalition with secular groups to monitor and actively combat the activities of hate groups, extremist groups, and militia groups in the United States and other parts of the world" (The Book of Resolutions of the United Methodist Church, 1996, page 256).
Although The United Methodist Church is in conflict over the place of gay and lesbian people in the church, there is agreement that in the larger society, sexual orientation is not grounds for revoking human rights. In the "Social Principles" of The Book of Disciplline, it states that "certain basic human rights and civil liberties are due all persons. We are committed to supporting those rights and liberties for homosexual persons....Moreover, we support efforts to stop violence and other forms of coercion against gays and lesbians" (¶ 66.H).
Violence, hate, and civil rights violations go against the long heritage of United Methodist commitment to justice for all persons. Today, it is increasingly apparent that such commitment must be translated into action in new ways.
Therefore, be it resolved that The United Methodist Church, through its general boards, agencies, and other appropriate structures will:
1. Provide biblically-based resources that address hate crimes and intolerance for both young people and adults.
2. Create resources to help United Methodists analyze the language of intolerance among groups that use religious language and emotionally-charged images.
3. Organize letter writing campaigns and denominational and ecumenical delegations to meet with government officials to advocate for passage, funding, and implementation of strong hate crimes laws and for holding congressional hearings on hate crimes.
4. Fund local, community-based networks which educate for tolerance and provide support for the victims of hate crimes.
5. Track hate crimes through news media and other sources to provide information to the General Board of Global Ministries, including Women's Division, which work in partnership with other organizations tracking hate crimes to expand a national data base of such incidents.
6. Engage in a media campaign to promote tolerance and report hate crimes. Monitor, respond to, and support media that promotes tolerance while challenging programs that teach hate, stereotypes, prejudice and/or bigotry.
7. Educate members that silence equals complicity with hate. When jokes, disparagements, stereotypes, or references to violence based on identity or status pass without response, we participate in the growing culture of intolerance, hate and violence.
8. Research, organize and advocate for local, state and national hate crime laws that include any crimes committed based upon race, ethnicity, culture, status, religion, sexual orientation, gender, age, disability and/or class.
9. Support legislation that protects the civil rights of all persons.
10. Work with ecumenical and interfaith groups to create worship resources and to hold worship services for tolerance.
11. Work with diverse grass roots and national organizations to create joint strategies and actions to address hate crimes.
12. Work through local organizations and local schools to review policies and training programs related to various forms of discrimination and sexual harassment based on gender and perceived sexual identity.
13. Contact all governors urging that they appoint a task force to investigate hate crimes at state levels.
14. Encourage The United Methodist Church in other countries to engage in efforts to address hate-based activities in ways appropriate to their particular context.
From The Book of Resolutions of The United Methodist Church--2000. Copyright ©2000 by The United Methodist Publishing House. Used by permission.
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