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article imageOp-Ed: On the Pope's immunity from hate speech backlash

By Jeff Campagna     Mar 21, 2013 in World
The 266th sovereign of The Vatican City State, Jorge Mario Bergogli, better known now as Pope Francis, seems to share more with his predecessors than just a peculiar Popemobile.
He comes to the Papacy with a seemingly inherited right to share his opinions, as disparaging as they may be, on the world-wide lesbian and gay community — a right that he alone now seems to possess. These days, politicians, athletes, celebrities and religious leaders alike seem to be back-peddling more than ever as platforms like social media and digital news syndication make it impossible to bury one's verbal transgressions, past or present.
Recently, Chris Culliver, cornerback for the San Francisco 49ers, said on The Artie Lange Radio Show, "I don't do the gay guys, man. I don't do that. Ain't got no gay people on the team. They gotta get up outta here if they do. Can't be with that sweet stuff ... Can't be ... in the locker room, nah." The backlash began just minutes after Culliver made the remarks and the 49ers were quick to release a statement that made their official stance on the subject clear, "There is no place for discrimination within our organization at any level. We have and always will proudly support the LGBT community."
Culliver, who is required to undergo sensitivity training and work with at-risk youth as part of his punishment, issued an apology the very next day stating, "The derogatory comments I made yesterday were a reflection of thoughts in my head, but they are not how I feel."
Former Ecuadorian presidential candidate, Nelson Zavala, has also been severely reprimanded for statements of discrimination. Zavala, who is currently an evangelical preacher, has stated in the past that being gay is “immoral,” a “sin” and a “deviation of conduct” as reported by The Huffington Post. Zavala penalization for his defamatory remarks include the suspension of his political rights and a fine to the tune of $3,000.
Zavala's punishment doesn't stop there. He can also be sentenced for committing a hate crime, El Universal, a Mexican publication, reports. According to BBC News, The Ecuadorian electoral code "forbids candidates from publicly expressing any thoughts that discriminate or affect other people's dignity or utilize symbols, expressions or allusions of a religious nature”.
Europe also takes public statements of discrimination very seriously. Last year, chief of Croatia's Football Federation, Vlatko Markovic, was asked by a Croatian newspaper whether he had ever met a gay football player to which he replied, "No, fortunately football is only played by healthy people". Markovic, who was also reported saying that he would never accept a gay player on the national team, was found guilty of discrimination by Croatia's Supreme Court.
According to AFP, the Supreme Court "also banned Markovic, who quit the post in July, from any further public comments discriminating against gays and ordered him to publish both his apology and the court's ruling in the daily news, at his expense." Marcovic was also fined €10,000 by European football's governing body, The Union of European Football Associations (UEFA).
On almost every continent now, the notion of publicly besmirching the lifestyle choices of the LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender) community is frowned on; however, in the landlocked sovereign city-state of Vatican City, these infractions seem to be allowed. In 2010 Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, the former archbishop of Buenos Aires, wrote a letter to Argentina's cloistered nuns in which he said about homosexuality, "Let's not be naive, we're not talking about a simple political battle; it is a destructive pretension against the plan of God. We are not talking about a mere bill, but rather a machination of the Father of Lies that seeks to confuse and deceive the children of God."
In the letter, the 76 year-old son of middle-class Italian immigrants also mentioned, "…at stake is the identity and survival of the family: father, mother and children. At stake are the lives of many children who will be discriminated against in advance, and deprived of their human development…" Around the same time he also said that homosexuality is a "real and dire anthropological throwback."
Though Pope Francis' comments were made prior to his election as the 266th Pope just over a week ago, precedent shows that someone of power or influence should be held accountable for his discriminatory views. Current Secretary of Defense, Chuck Hagel, came under fire late last year for anti-gay remarks that he made in 1998 about James Hormel, a San Francisco philanthropist who was up for a diplomat appointment. Hormel was referred to by Hagel as “openly, aggressively gay,” making the argument that he would not be fit to represent the United States of America, Policymic reported.
When President Barack Obama nominated Hagel, a former Nebraska Senator, to serve as Secretary of Defense in January of 2013, Chad Griffin, president of the Human Rights Campaign, demanded the former Senator apologize for his past remarks, stating to The New York Times, “For him to be an appropriate candidate for any administration post he must repudiate his comments about Ambassador Hormel.”
Shortly after The New York Times callout, Hagel did just that. "My comments 14 years ago in 1998 were insensitive," NBC News Reported him as having said, "They do not reflect my views or the totality of my public record, and I apologize to Ambassador Hormel and any LGBT Americans who may question my commitment to their civil rights.” Also in his apology, Hagel stated, “I am fully supportive of ‘open service’ and committed to LGBT military families.”
The Pope's stance on homosexuality is widely known. Now, even his involvement in Argentina's US-backed 'Dirty War' has been proven. So why does the shepherd of over one billion Catholic Christians in over twenty different Catholic Churches go unpunished?
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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