Equal rights are not just about gays

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July 21, 2012, 9:01 p.m. | Op-ed — by Bishop Paul Peter Jesep

An activist (R) of the Ukrainian sexual minorities movement faces a nationalist trying to block a protest on July 6, 2012 in Kiev against a proposed bill to be debated in parliament to ban the advocating and promotion of homosexuality. The bill would amend existing laws on "the protection of morals", media and publishing, as well as the criminal code, effectively banning virtually all information on gay and bisexual issues and criminalizing gay militant human rights work in Ukraine. AFP PHOTO/ SERGEI SUPINSKY

Violence against Ukraine’s gay community should be part of a much larger concern. Independent of the recent un-Christian acts of violence shown to God’s children made different, but equally loved by the same God of those pursuing violence, is the issue of liberty, free expression, and democratic principles. Attacks against anyone for opinions that are different reflect a Eurasian, not European mindset. It threatens everyone in Ukrainian society. It reflects an uneducated backwardness that will limit the country’s European integration.

 The Communist Party and Svoboda, a Ukrainian nationalist party, are among the groups that expressed strong opposition to a parade or any other public expression for gay rights.  It is an understatement to note that Communists and Svoboda members have a very low regard for one another.  Hence, when the persecutors dispense with gay and lesbian Ukrainians then they’ll turn on one another.  The loser will become the new persecuted.

It’s worth pointing out the obvious.  “Svoboda” means freedom.  But freedom for whom?  Once freedom becomes selective or withheld then it no longer exists.  Only those who have power will decide who has freedom.  Social and political freedom in the purest sense means no one needs to worry about who is in power.
If the rights of one group are not protected then no one’s rights are safe.  Although it is factually and medically incorrect to state that homosexuality is a mental illness as numerous medical societies throughout the world have pointed out, there is a failure to understand that a democratic government must ensure the rights of all its citizens.  Otherwise its democratic values are weak.  
Great nations prosper because of diversity.  The United States, for example, has the benefit of every race, religion, ethnic group, and political perspective within its borders.  New York City is the crossroads of the world that draws its strength, vitality, and resilience from its many races, faiths, and cultures.  It has a thriving gay and lesbian community that is considered a natural part of the social fabric in one of the world’s great cities.
In New York, people of very different backgrounds live together in relative harmony.  It is a place where respect, though not necessarily agreement, is a foundation to the city’s greatness.  Those who are quick to pass judgment on Ukraine’s gay and lesbian citizens, who incidentally also pay taxes, should remember that someone may persecute them next.

Think about Ukraine’s current political situation in the parliament.  Political power at some point will shift.  Power is built on sand.  It may take time, but it will shift.  Those in power today should remember that tomorrow they may not be in charge.  Hence, showing respect to the political party not in power today will hopefully be returned when the government changes hands.  And it will change hands at some point.  

Similarly, those who persecute a group should be mindful that the day may come that they will become the persecuted.  At what point will Svoboda and the Communists turn on one another with the crass, brutal, uncivilized behavior shown to Ukraine’s gay and lesbian community?  Where does it end?     

The French philosopher Voltaire said that “I don’t agree with anything you said, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.”  Respecting someone else’s rights doesn’t mean you agree with their views.  It means you understand civility is a necessary part of any healthy democracy.  It means that everyone has right to have their voice heard.
Paul Peter Jesep is a New York attorney.  He is also a bishop in the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox   Church.  Metropolitan Myfodii appointed him spokesperson and government liaison in the United States.  The views expressed here are personal and in no way reflect those of his Church.  

The Kyiv Post is hosting comments to foster lively debate. Criticism is fine, but stick to the issues. Comments that include profanity or personal attacks will be removed from the site. If you think that a posted comment violates these standards, please flag it and alert us. We will take steps to block violators.
Mykhayl July 22, 2012, 3:54 a.m.    

Слава Ісусу Христу!

From your mouth to God's ear.
From the Independent Evangelical Bishop's mouth to your ear.
From the Orthodox Moscow Patriarch's mouth to Evangelical Bishop's ear
From the Evangelical Bishop's mouth to the Moscow Patriarch's ear
From the Moscow Patriarch mouth to Church of God Bishop's ear
From the Church of God's mouth to Ukrainian Greco Catholic Patriarch's ear
From the Greco Catholic Patriarch's mouth to Swedish Lutheran Bishop ear
From the Swedish Lutheran Bishop's mouth to the Ecumenical Patriarch ear
From the Ecumenical Patriarch to the German Lutheran Evangelical Bishop
From the German Lutheran Evangelical Bishop mouth to Roman Catholic ear.
From the Roman Catholic Bishop's mouth to Armenian Apostolic Bishop ear
From the Armenian Apostolic Bishop mouth to Kyiv Orthodox Patriarch's ear
From Kyiv Orthodox Patriarch's mouth to Evangelical Baptist Bishop's ear
From the Evangelical Baptist Bishop's mouth to your Autocephalous ear
From your Autocephalous Orthodox mouth to the Evangelical Bishop's ear

Слава на вікі!

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carl July 23, 2012, 8:41 p.m.    

This man is a bishop? 2,000 years Christian Church teach sodomy is wrong now clergy say otherwise. Instead of changing church teaching it is time to change clergy.

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Mykhayl July 24, 2012, 5:40 p.m.    

Слава на вікі!

carl, carl...

Does not Christianity not teach that you hate the sin while you love the sinner?

Stop being a fundamental reactionary reading only headlines. Where other than the church is anyone to learn social love for one another? I will agree Orthodoxy often looks exclusionary rather than embracing yet here is where a representative is deviating it from a Nazi agenda. You do not see Christ in this love? Well, the Jews killed Christ so round them up next.

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Mykhayl July 24, 2012, 5:43 p.m.    

Afterthought... carl, do you see religion as a Machiavellian form of social control?

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carl July 24, 2012, 6:30 p.m.    

Yes Mykhayl religion is a form of social control.

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Mykhayl July 25, 2012, 9:06 a.m.    

Слава Ісусу Христу! Matthew 7:6 "Do not give what is holy to the dogs; nor cast your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you in pieces." in Jesus's Sermon on the Mount, implying that scriptural truth or knowledge (pearls) should not be put in front of people (or in this case, swine) who do not appreciate their value. Слава на вікі!

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carl July 24, 2012, 6:31 p.m.    

Mykhayl how is church teaching against sodomy a Nazi agenda?

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Mykhayl July 25, 2012, 9:16 a.m.    

Hate is NEVER justifiable.

Now go away, go play... go... go

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