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The bigots hall
of shame

The bigots hall
of shame


What is going on in Tampa? In June the county commission dissed gay and lesbian pride. Now they're insulting Muslims in the name of the United States. Shame on them for twisting true liberty

"There comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular; but one must take it because it is right." --The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

For the past several months members of Florida's Hillsborough County Commission--namely Brian Blair, Ken Hagan, Jim Norman, Thomas Scott, Mark Sharpe, and Ronda Storms--have been playing fast and loose with some of the core values that Americans hold dear. In the name of morality they have been chipping away at some of the basic tenets that make the United States a great country and meddling with the civil liberties and rights we cherish the most.

Beginning this past summer and continuing until November, the commissioners have--with the exception of one member, Kathy Castor--assaulted and intimidated minorities. In between they have tried to censor books and CDs from public libraries, meddled in others' business, held up funding for critical programs, attempted to squander the public's money on vanity projects, bullied those with whom they disagree, and appointed a known homophobe and accused murderer to a county committee.

In June, they voted--during national gay pride month--to officially deny any county recognition to the positive contributions of the region's gay men and women. It was an unnecessary, hateful act designed to pander to far-right extremists, and they have continued to refuse to defend it.

Emboldened, the commission, led by Blair, has recently taken on the region's non-Christians. In response to a request from Hillsborough County's Islamic population to add a Muslim holiday to the public school calendar, Blair put on the cape of moral crusader and accused Muslims of trying to rob Americans of their traditions and heritage. He stated that because this is the United States and they don't want to follow "the rules," they should leave the country.

There's a frightening pattern here. The commissioners' message is clear: If you're not Christian, if you're not heterosexual, your kind is not welcome here.

This rhetoric and these actions are more than "ignorant" (to quote The Tampa Tribune) and much worse than "entertaining" (to quote the St. Petersburg Times), even though the notion of setting up Brian "Killer Bee" Blair as the county's point person on education is inspired farce.

They're dangerous, and they're un-American. While freedom of speech is precious, racism, xenophobia, homophobia, and religious discrimination have no place in the United States and they have no place in Hillsborough County.

"Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter." --The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

When I think of the core values that strengthen and enrich this country, I think of the words included in the Declaration of Independence that affirm our equality. I think of the Statue of Liberty, reaching out her arms and welcoming immigrants from every country, ethnicity, and faith tradition on earth. I think of the great dynamic melting-pot cities of New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, San Francisco, and Miami. I think of the Pledge of Allegiance, which proclaims "liberty and justice for all." I don't think of the narrow-minded fear-mongering practiced by the Hillsborough County Commission.

"Change does not roll in on the wheels of inevitability, but comes through continuous struggle." --The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

The commissioners have chosen to cast their lot with the peddlers of hate, prejudice, and intolerance. History will judge them. One day they will be consigned to the trash heap of the Bigots Hall of Shame and take their rightful place alongside their forebears and contemporaries: John Birch, David Duke, Louis Farrakhan, Lyndon LaRouche Jr., Joseph McCarthy, Pete Peters, Fred Phelps, Randall Terry, Don Wildmon.

Before then, the rest of us should remember Election Day 2006.

Advocate Channel - The Pride StoreOut / Advocate Magazine - Fellow Travelers & Jamie Lee Curtis

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Scott Taylor