Biblical principles are clashing more and more with politically correct doctrine, which often judges them unacceptably offensive and intolerant. New York City's Administrative Code prohibits "biasrelated violence or harassment" against homosexuals and other groups, and goes further by creating a city agency to "eliminate and prevent discrimination from playing any role in actions relating to employment, public accommodations, and housing and other real estate, and to take other actions against prejudice, intolerance, bigotry, discrimination, and bias-related violence or harassment." One feisty local pastor decided to challenge this assault on religious freedom and freedom of speech. Reverend Kristopher Okwedy of Keyword Ministries purchased advertising space for two eight-by sixteen-foot billboards in Staten Island Borough to display four separate versions of Leviticus 18:22, a Bible verse prohibiting homosexual practices. The top of the billboard begins with "Word on the street; 4 ways to say Leviticus 18:22;" and the four versions are under it. One of the versions, the New International Version, reads: "Do not lie with a man as one lies with a woman; that is detestable." At the bottom it says "I AM YOUR CREATOR." The minister placed the billboards near communities inhabited by many homosexuals. The city agency ordered the removal of the billboards under the anti-harassment ordinance.
Reverend Okwedy contested the ordinance and sued Staten Island Borough and borough president Guy Molinari. Molinari, representing the borough, wrote a letter to PNE Media, the owner of the billboards, urging it to contact the city attorney and chairman of the Anti-Bias Task Force, Daniel Master, concerning the billboard. In the letter, Molinari referred to the quoted verse as one "commonly invoked as a biblical prohibition against homosexuality. Many members of the Staten Island community," wrote Molinari, "myself included, find this message unnecessarily confrontational and offensive. As borough president of Staten Island, I want to inform you that this message conveys an atmosphere of intolerance which is not welcome in our borough." Molinari also reportedly publicly condemned the language in the displayed verse as "mean-spirited" and "hate speech."
In a motion to dismiss Okwedy's lawsuit before a federal judge in Brooklyn, the attorney for the city, Dana Biberman, actually argued (and thus admitted) that New York City's anti-bias policy prohibits any public expressions of intolerance toward homosexuality. "Plaintiff's billboard," said Biberman, "through using biblical quotes, expressed open hostility and intolerance of homosexuality... Whether these were quotes from the Bible or not, they were nonetheless ... unnecessarily confrontational and offensive, [and] didn't belong in Staten Island." The trial court granted the defendants' motion to dismiss. Pastor Okwedy appealed the ruling to the Second Circuit Court of Appeals.
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