I called it what it was

Let’s review the facts and events so far, and then I’ll throw my commentary in on this.

  1. The University of Alberta Atheists and Agnostics (UAAA) has been advocating to remove a charge to use our degrees “for the glory of God” from convocation.  Our advocacy consisted of sending a formal letter to the President over the summer, and after getting denied, circulating a petition, and more recently submitting an Opinion piece to the Gateway (the campus newspaper) which was published on September 16.  The op-ed generated some negative responses on September 18.
  2. Over the weekend of September 19-22 someone (or group) entered the Central Academic Building (which is open most of the time), and took the UAAA banner, cut off the email and website from the bottom and scribbled “God loves you”, “Jesus is coming”, a cross and a heart in felt marker.
  3. I noticed the vandalism after my class on Monday and headed home (since I had a cold and needed rest).
  4. I reported the incident (by phone) to Campus Security
  5. I wrote the press release, and proceeded to send it to every media outlet I could think of – from the campus newspaper, The Gateway, to local TV and newspapers.
  6. I got a call from CTV news and scheduled an interview for 3pm.  I went back to campus for the interview, it didn’t air Monday, but apparently aired tonight (when my VCR wasn’t set – I may get it tomorrow at noon).
  7. I also forwarded the press release and a picture of the damage to Friendly Atheist and Pharyngula who posted on it.  A number of other blogs also covered the issue (thanks to all of them).
  8. I also asked the Christian campus groups and chaplains on campus to denounce the attack, and as of this writing, only the Pentecostal group has.

Now, I’ve gotten a lot of positive support – several people offering to help repay the group for a new poster, and for those of you who are also interested, please email our group for mailing information. Do not feel obligated, and I only post this for those who thought about it and offered.  Any extra money received will be used by the club to further its goals, and you can rest assured it will not be used for church building.

Now, I have received flak from this event, mainly for using a four letter word – hate.

Specifically, from the original press release

The University of Alberta Atheists and Agnostics were targeted by hate-fuelled vandalism over the weekend of September 19-22 when their large banner was defaced. [emphasis added]

And on this blog: “This is not a joke, this is a serious hate crime.”

I haven’t commented on this yet, and at the time I felt justified in using the language I used (remember, I had a cold and was not-too-impressed with the damage to the banner that Sonia and I put 6 hours into).  Mainly, I wanted to wait until all arguments had been made.

I think the justification for the language is expressed by Brendan S’ comment:

A ‘Hate Crime’ has nothing to do with the ‘value’ of the crime committed. Please see: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hate_Crime

Anytime you commit a crime against a person or group of people because of the associations that person has (Race, Gender, Religion, Sexual Orientation.) THEN it is a hate crime.

Since there is a crime here (Vandalism) and it was committed because of religious preference (Atheist) This is a Hate Crime.

Now, this is not a violent crime, and not even a huge issue in the long run.  But as the law in Canada stands, this fits the description.  And so yesterday I used the language that I felt fit the description.

Many would argue that hate speech and hate crime legislation shouldn’t exist, but that’s not really the debate that’s being held about this.  I think it is a valid debate, but lets not get into it now.

Now the argument goes, that despite the reality of what we can call this, should I have?  Being a young student group in a recently re-invigorated movement, scrutiny abounds.  Decrying discrimination and hate can potentially come off as “whiny”.

So the double-standard exists.  Although we all agree the emperor is naked, we musn’t say he is.

Had similar things been done to Outreach (the GLBTQ group on campus), the Muslim student group, or Campus for Christ, the event would be heavily reported on campus and it is likely that words like hate-crime would come up.

So here’s where I’ll leave it.  Decide for yourself whether this should be communicated as a “hate crime” or not, but the fact is that our groups banner was directly targeted and our contact information censored.

The phrases “hate-fuelled” and “hate crime” were released by me, without club executive discussion (since I wanted expediency over discussion), and I take full responsibility for that.  The club stands behind it as an act of targeted vandalism.

The club is also not pushing Campus Security to pursue this as a hate-crime.

And naturally, I’ll be sure to update you as more information comes along.

5 thoughts on “I called it what it was”

  1. I just got a comment from one of your fellow U of A students (at least, I assume he’s a fellow student from looking at his Facebook profile) telling me that it was a “love crime”. That just cracks me up…

  2. Hello Ian

    I caught wind today that UAAA was unimpressed by the lack of response by so named “Christian campus groups” to the vandalism that took place in CAB last month.

    Being involved in a number of these groups, I was one of the people who was solicited for a response. My personal (n.b. individual) lack of response was based on a number of reasons. I suppose as I post this into the world of the internet I am making an official response on behalf of myself… you can count that as a total of two responses now. Okay now to the reasons:

    1. The hate crime (I don’t mind calling it one… it was) was performed as it seems as a response to previous events on campus in which I had only a few glimpses of knowledge.

    2. To comment about the vandalism without commenting about the convocation debate seems in some sense to be making a sideways response to the one event. My response to the convocation debate (albeit in somewhat selfish terms) is that I thoroughly appreciated the charge and would be saddened to see it rubbed out of the program or altered in what, for me, it conveys about integration of faith and all life.

    3. Drawing up a comprehensive statement to the entire religious and areligious community on campus is a magnificently overwhelming concept. As someone who is frustrated by the massive intolerance/disrepect seen in the situation I don’t engage in the debate as a source of entertainment or pleasure as it brings me none. Basically this results in me not knowing the topography of the tensions that may have existed over the past year and a half and am unable to make a comprehensive statement.

    4. You (in the individual sense, Ian, as well as the general population) have heard likely over and over that the big picture of Christian thought teaches that Christians should be a source of peace. The Jewish-Christian greeting or teaching of Shalom is one that I’d direct your attention to (wikipedia does a good job as usual). Where does vandalism fall in a world of shalom? it doesn’t.

    5. Events like this tend to lead to some Christian communities distancing themselves from others. I would suggest that this tendency would be called “sin” (creative name for it eh?) and making such statements while it feels nice for me doesn’t actually make anything right. As someone who would let you categorize me with the name “Christian” I am embarrassed when other people who might so categorize themselves act in stupid ways.

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