Everybody's up in arms over the thing that outgoing and fit-to-be-tried state Sen. Vince Fumo said at a hearing in Harrisburg the other day. His remarks are kind of hard to characterize -- it's easier to start by just printing them verbatim:

"What you are advocating here is that we take away the rights of a minority. And I don't think that's right," Fumo told Gilbert Coleman, Jr., senior pastor of Freedom Christian Bible Fellowship in Philadelphia, during the hearing. ". . . If we introduced a bill on slavery, it might pass. That doesn't make it right."
"I doubt that sir," responded Coleman, who testified in support of the measure.
"Oh, don't bet on it in this General Assembly," the Philadelphia Democrat shot back. "I know some people up here, especially on a secret ballot, it would be almost unanimous."

Well, basically the world went crazy because a) a public figure said something outrageous and somehow mentioned the word "slavery" and b) it seemed to have something to do with either race, or homosexuality -- the two raw subjects it actually skirted around.

Yet there's really a lot less here than meets the eye here, isn't there, because:

1) The comment really tells us nothing about the human condition, except the sad condition of one particular human, Vince Fumo -- a man who's losing his job and the life he's known, and may very well lose his freedom as well. And so on the way out the door he utters something that's bats--- crazy. You can't even ask the guy to resign, because he's already done that. So in that context, this is important because...why is it important, again?

We get outraged over horrible statements from public figures when they seem to reflect what they truly believe, whether it's Jeremiah Wright saying "God damn America" and blaming it for AIDS or when a U.S. congressman calls Barack Obama "boy" in public. To have the same level of outrage here, you'd have to think that Vince Fumo believes in his heart that Pa, lawmakers support slavery. I don't.

2) To follow on the same theme, it's lower than low when a public official says something that's racist or homophobic (and Fumo, of all people, has done that, and it was deplorable when it happened) -- but in this case wasn't the exaxt opposite thing happening? Clearly, Fumo was not endorsing slavery and as for gays, he was apparently set off by what he perceived as discrimination against them.

So if Fumo was't insulting blacks and he wasn't insulting gays, who was he insulting here? That notoriously oppressed class: Pennsylvania state legislators. OK, I'm being a little sarcastic -- stepping out of my usual Howard Beale mode, of course legislators are humans too and don't deserve to be slandered in public, which is why Fumo apologized. But by the same token, an off-the-way and generalized slam on other politicians just doesn't raise my outrage meter that high. Sorry.

Meanwhile, there's been virtually no attention paid to other side of the coin here. In fact, very few people have focused on the remarks that set Fumo off in the first place, the words uttered by a Philadelphia minister named Gilbert Coleman from the Freedom Christian Bible Fellowship.

I realize the gay marriage is a complicated issue (personally, I want to see government get out of the marriage business altogether, for straights and gays, and just recognize civil unions) but frankly I get really irked by these ministers who leave their neighborhoods so wracked by poverty and crime and in need of spiritual uplift for their crusade to make "the gay" into Public Enemy No. 1.

Here's Coleman's remarks, which blatantly disrespect one of America's greatest traditions, the separation of church and state:

Coleman said America has lost its moral compass since the church was taken out of government and schools, and he went on to say legalizing marriages other than heterosexual unions would erode a "foundational pillar" of this country.
"This nation finds no problem in abandoning its beliefs and morals to conform to the wants and desires of a few people that believe we should throw away the foundation and opt for a new one," Coleman
— said. "America was established on biblical principles that anchored and governed this nation until government decided that the Bible and its teachings are unconstitutional; thus we began a downward spiral. …

This news coverage out of Lancaster paints an entirely different picture of the hearing than what we've read so far in Philly. Here's another response from Fumo that not only isn't wacky but actually, in my opinion, heroic:

As Coleman departed, he said in a barely audible voice to Fumo, "Go read your Bible," which prompted the Democrat to say, "I'll go read the Constitution."

Regular readers know that I'd hardly a big fan of the politically corrupt Fumo. But on this one....am I crazy here, or is Gilbert Coleman's call for an American theocracy that discriminates against homosexuals much, much more offensive than Fumo's ill-conceived retort?

Sadly, we now live in society that's become more worried about stray words that sound like they might somehow be offensive than about deeply held ideas that are truly worthy of condemnation.