On March 16, 2019, the final chapter of Arnie Lerma’s life closed, leaving the bitter legacy of a man consumed by hate throughout most of his life.
It is important not to forget the effects that can be caused by those as inured to hate and violence as Lerma was. Hate spawns hate. One extremist voice can ignite another and the result can be tragedy, particularly when the target of the violence is a religion.
According to the FBI, hate crimes against religions increased sharply in 2017. The Anti-Defamation League concurrently reported the second highest increase in hate crimes against Jewish Americans in the history of the ADL.
Those who commit such crimes are first inflamed by the anti-religious bigotry of others. The problem is compounded by the willingness, and sometimes even eagerness, on the part of the media to provide a voice to those intent on spreading their hate.
Arnie Lerma was a media source for years, despite his unhinged rants and criminal activities against the Church of Scientology. However, he was no different than any other anti-religious detractor who inflames others with bigoted and biased rhetoric. Hatred can create a dangerous climate for all.
Lerma spent his life inflaming others and that was his legacy. Free speech is not hate speech. Lerma crossed that line many times. Hate had tragic consequences for him as it always does for anyone. But it is important not to forget the others whose lives were affected by what he did.
Any one of any faith has a right to believe or not, to worship or not, as they wish and to do so in safety. And if there is any lesson to be learned here it is that we must all work together to protect that right so that every person can practice whatever faith they wish, without fear.