LGBTQ activists in Mexico have filed a human rights complaint against their local archbishop for alleged hate speech, but a closer examination reveals the complaint may have gone too far.
Paul Ibarra, president of the Network of Social Diversifiers, which focuses on LGBTQ equality, announced his group’s complaint filing with the federal Interior Ministry’s Undersecretariat of Religious Affairs. La Razón reported on the complaint against against Archbishop Jesus Cabrero Romero of San Luis Potosi and archdiocesan spokesperson Juan Jesus Priego Rivera:
“[Ibarra] affirmed that after the legalization of equal marriage, both religious leaders issued homophobic statements that could represent a risk for the LGBT community.
“[The Network] will ask for financial sanctions and also a public apology for statements which they consider will encourage hate against people with different sexual preferences.
“‘The archbishop continues with his homophobic statements. It has been seen elsewhere that when the church manifests its opposition, a series of acts occur: first threats that then can be translated into violence. We do not want to reach those extremes,’ he said.”
Pulso reported that part of Ibarra’s argument refers to other Mexican states where religious leaders’ speech led to anti-LGBTQ violence, including one death in the state of Aguascalientes.
The complaint stems from Archbishop Cabrero’s statement after marriage equality was approved locally in which he appealed for tolerance of Catholics who opposed the measure. The archbishop said the Church had not lost because its teachings are unchanging, even if the legal institution was “attacked and ended by wanting to destroy it.” El Sol de San Luis reported further from the archbishop’s response:
“‘We invite those who today celebrate this vote to exercise what should be an authentic and true tolerance, which by nature is reciprocal. We respect their manner of thinking, but then also demand that our faith, our way of thinking and believing . . .be sincerely respected. . .In this stage of our Potosí state’s history, we respect but cannot share, that which has been voted by an initiative; we respect but do not approve that which, according to our faith community’s conscience, should not be approved.”
This case in Mexico is similar to one that occurred in Spain three years ago where activists filed a complaint against a cardinal who had spoken against LGBTQ rights. That situation quickly escalated through several rounds of verbal attacks by each side. The complaint was dismissed in court but not before unnecessary harm was caused.
Cabrero’s words are disagreeable and an addition about the Church’s teaching that LGBTQ people should not be discriminated against would have been good. Still, it is clear that his words, at least as reported, do not rise to the level of hate speech. Indeed, his appeal for tolerance is better than many Catholic bishops’ responses to marriage equality have been. Hate speech targeting LGBTQ communities is a tragic reality and must be confronted. But activists must also be careful about too easily labeling Church leaders’ words, especially when the message is calling for reciprocal respect.
Rather than repeating the harm caused by the Spanish dispute, the situation in San Luis Potosi is an opportunity for dialogue. Activists should sit down with Archbishop Cabrero and share with him why the Church should and can support LGBTQ civil rights. The fruits from such conversation would be far richer than any financial sanctions.
—Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, May 29, 2019