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The Hate Crime You May Have Missed

Feb 26, 2008 — Categories:

Among the numerous school shootings in the past several weeks, one stands out for me: the killing of Lawrence King, 15, allegedly by Brandon McInerney, 14, in Oxnard, California. However, it got the least media coverage.

Among the numerous school shootings in the past several weeks, one stands out for me: the killing of Lawrence King, 15, allegedly by Brandon McInerney, 14, in Oxnard, California. However, it got the least media coverage.

The other school shootings appeared to be acts of random violence directed at strangers who happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. But at Oxnard junior high school, McInerney walked into the computer lab, went directly to King and shot him in the head before fleeing, according to reports. King died later at the hospital. The memorial service was held at Westminster Presbyterian Church which celebrated Lawrence’s short life.

Evidently, McInerney and his friends had been harassing King after King had disclosed that he was gay. Then McInerney took it one step further. King was different, as they say. He was proudly gay and wore high-heeled boots, make-up and jewelry to school. So he became the target of bullies.

The shooter will be tried as an adult charged with murder as a premeditated hate crime and if convicted, could spend up to 52 years in prison. So where did he learn this kind of hate? My best guess is home, church and peers. Anti-gay sermons, jokes, and language teach people that it is okay to hate lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgendered people, and the action to follow that hate is bullying and violence.

This is not an isolated violent event. In the 2005 National School Climate Survey, nearly a fifth (17.6%) of LGBT students reported being physically assaulted at school in the past school year because of their sexual orientation, and over a tenth (11.8%) because of their gender expression. Nearly two-thirds of LGBT students (64.3%) said they feel unsafe in school because of their sexual orientation, and two-fifths (40.7%) because of their gender expression.

Those of us in the faith communities should be asking ourselves the question: what are our youth programs and ministries doing to counter the hate and homophobia that is still taught and learned in much of society today? What are we doing to support the Lawrence Kings in our youth groups? What are we doing to challenge the Brandon McInerneys? Two young lives tragically interrupted because it’s not okay to be different from the rest.

April 25 will be a national day of silence to remember Lawrence King and all who suffer from hate crimes. Consider organizing an event in your mosque, church or synagogue.

Rev. Dr. Marie M. Fortune
FaithTrust Institute
www.faithtrustinstitute.org

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