‘Language of hate’ blamed in murder

By on November 1, 1998

The savage killing of a gay Episcopalian university student in Wyoming has led to renewed calls for anti-hate laws and an appeal from the president of Integrity in the United States to cease using the “language of hate.”

Matthew Shepard, 21, died without ever regaining consciousness from a coma after he had been pistol-whipped and tied to a fence post in near-freezing temperatures. The University of Wyoming student, who stood 5-foot-2 and weighed 105 pounds, was found as long as 18 hours after he had been tied up, police said. Two men, one aged 21 and one 22, face a number of charges in his murder and their girlfriends have been charged as accessories after the fact.

Mr. Shepard often served as an acoloyte in an Episcopal church in Casper, Wyoming.

Frank Griswold, presiding bishop in the United States, said in a statement that “I pray that this unnecessary tragedy will make plain why we cannot be silent in the face of intolerance, or quietly accept the climate of hate and fear of `the other’ that makes such a crime possible.”

Rev. Michael Hopkins, president of Integrity, Inc. in the U.S., an organization of gay and lesbian Episcopalians and their friends, has called for an “end to all speech both within the church and in our society that supports, however unwittingly, these acts of hate. In particular, I plead for an end to the use of that oft-repeated phrase, `Love the sinner, hate the sin’ … Matthew Shepard is a victim of the language of hate as surely as he was the victim of the physical violence of hate.”

Robbery was the main motive for the attack but Mr. Shepard’s being gay was also a factor, police say.

President Bill Clinton has repeated his calls for a national act on hate crimes. Several efforts to pass such a law in Wyoming have failed.

From our wire services

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