Hate crimes bill threatens religious free speech
“(The Religious Right) is not about to admit that they just want to bash gays if they can … . You have to remember, Sunday after Sunday, millions of people come to church to hear their diatribes.”
– Steven Green, spokesman
Americans United for Separation of Church and State.
Homosexuality is a sin. God calls it an “abomination” in Leviticus 18:22.
President Obama apparently disagrees. He thinks the “abomination” is me writing – and our faithful pastors preaching – such a thing.
If Obama has his way sometime later this year, anyone speaking or writing against homosexuality could be charged with a federal “hate crime.” The new law is an attempt to silence the church’s criticism of homosexuality and will surely set the stage for an explosive showdown between Obama and the Feds and an overwhelming majority of the evangelical and Catholic churches in America. How could this be?
Obama is calling on the Senate to pass The Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Act of 2009. The measure was passed April 29 by the Democrat-controlled House of Representatives on a largely party-line vote of 245-179. (Missouri Democrats voted for the bill, Missouri Republicans voted against it.) The Senate is expected to pass its version of the bill later this year.
“I urge (Senate) members on both sides of the aisle to act on this important civil rights issue by passing this legislation to protect all of our citizens from violent acts of intolerance – legislation that will enhance civil rights protections, while also protecting our freedom of speech and association,” Obama said following the April 29 House vote.
The proposed measure grants the federal government (the FBI and Homeland Security) greater authority at the state and local levels to punish crimes that appear to be motivated by “hatred” of a person’s sexual orientation, on a par with other characteristics such as race and religion. Sexual orientation includes not just homosexuality, but pedophilia and could include bestiality, exhibitionism and about 25 other deviant sexual acts. House Republicans tried amending the bill to strip it of such protections, but Democrats defeated the amendment.
Presently such “hate crime” investigations require the victim to be engaged in a federally protected activity, like voting or attending public school. In short, the proposed bill opens the door for the Feds to crack down on undesirable behavior wherever it occurs, including hateful thoughts and expression, setting it on a collision course with the First Amendment right of freedom of speech.
If it passes, here is what is likely to happen. Let’s say I write – or your pastor preaches – against homosexuality. Then some kook tells the FBI he was motivated by our words to verbally or physically attack a homosexual because of their abnormal lifestyle. Under this proposed new law we will be charged as either an “accessory” or a “conspirator” in a federal hate crime. There is no doubt homosexual activists will continue to press the federal government to tighten restrictions on what churches – and anyone who is against homosexuality for that matter – can say.
This Orwellian legislation is being camouflaged in politically rhetorical smoke. This dangerous bill is not needed because there are laws already on the books protecting people against the crimes addressed. If Obama signs this bill into law, the “Thought Police” will be in charge of reading peoples’ minds and questioning motivations. “Big Brother” teams-up with homosexual activists to get what each one wants: The Fed wants to control every facet of our lives, including our minds, while homosexuals want to silence the church and elevate themselves to an elite status among our citizenry.
Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, said the bill punishes thoughts, not just actions.
“Advocates of the bill deny this because it only authorizes prosecution of someone who ‘willfully causes bodily injury’ or ‘attempts to cause bodily injury.’ But such acts are already crimes under state law. What converts the acts targeted by this bill into a federal offense are the thoughts and opinions of the perpetrator alone. Since every violent crime manifests some sort of ‘hate,’ it makes more sense to think of this as a ‘thought crimes’ law.”
In addition, some legalists believe the proposed bill violates the 14th Amendment, which provides Americans equal protection under the law, “by protecting some victims more than others.” This would create a two-tiered justice system and history terrifyingly teaches us what happens under such circumstances. Two-tiered systems resulted in blacks being enslaved and Jews condemned to gas chambers.
Michael Whitehead, a Kansas City attorney and lead counsel for the Missouri Baptist Convention’s quest to retrieve five breakaway agencies, has been a member of the Scottsdale, Ariz.-based Alliance Defense Fund’s (ADF) Advisory Board for 15 years. ADF will likely challenge the hate crimes law in court once Obama signs it into law. He notes that victims of assault should be protected equally, and criminals who commit assault should be punished equally. Special penalty enhancements because of the “sexual orientation” of the victim are not equal treatment for the victims of crime, nor for the criminals.
“Suppose the same criminal assaults my daughter and then assaults another young woman,” Whitehead said. “Suppose the injuries are basically the same. However, suppose the second assault was motivated by “hate,” for the race or sexual orientation of the victim. Is the second assault more serious than the first? Does the second victim deserve greater protection than my daughter? Should the criminal be charged in federal court and punished more severely for the second crime than for the first?”
Under the proposed law the answer is yes.
“The assault against my daughter will be treated as less severe than the assault of the second woman,” Whitehead explained. “My daughter’s case will be tried as a normal assault in state court, with normal penalties. The second assault may be tried in federal court, and may impose ‘enhanced’ penalties, just because of the alleged ‘hate’ motive as to race or sex orientation.
“Our Constitution demands equal protection of the laws, not special protections for some victims and special penalties for other criminals,” Whitehead said. “It should not matter that the criminal held thoughts or opinions that are socially intolerable. It is the assault that harmed another human being that deserves punishment. Both victims should expect justice, that both assaults will be treated as equally wrong and worthy of equal punishment.”
Whitehead also warns the new law will have a “chilling effect” on religious free speech.
“When this law passes, American evangelical pastors can expect a growing tide of complaints and investigations if they preach biblical messages about homosexuality,” Whitehead said. “The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) now claims that the new law does not punish speech or beliefs, but just wait until the bill is passed. Gay political activists will begin to press the envelope with this law, just as they have done in other nations with similar laws.”
Indeed in recent days Julio Severo, one of Brazil’s most influential pro-life and pro-family activists, was forced to flee the country after investigators sought his address following a complaint of “homophobia” lodged against him by homosexual activists, according to LifeSiteNews.com. Severo, his pregnant wife and two small children are now in exile in an undisclosed location. What did Severo do? He wrote some unfavorable remarks on his blog about Brazil’s Gay Parade in 2006. In his remarks he opined that homosexual behavior is immoral and urged those involved in the sin to convert to Christianity. Brazilian courts have repeatedly convicted individuals and groups of the phantom crime, LifeSiteNews reports.
Brazilian President Luiz Lula has promised homosexual leaders that he will continue to advocate criminalizing speech critical of homosexuality. In a recent speech to the Third Congress of the Brazilian Association of Gays, Lesbians, Bisexuals, Transvestites, Lula criticized Christians for speaking against homosexuality. “Some backward as well as hypocritical sectors … have criticized our government for supporting initiatives that criminalize words or acts that are offensive to homosexuality,” he said. “That has no importance. I will continue, with the support of the entire government, to maintain that attitude.”
Whitehead notes similar situations have arisen in other nations that have passed laws like the one Obama wants:
• In 2004, a Swedish pastor received a one-month jail sentence under the Swedish “hate crimes” law because he preached a sermon about homosexuality. At his trial, the prosecutor said: “One may have whatever religion one wishes, but this is an attack on all fronts against homosexuals. Collecting Bible citations on this topic as he does makes this hate speech.” An Appeals Court overturned the conviction, but the government appealed to the Swedish Supreme Court, where the pastor prevailed thanks to legal help from ADF.
• In 2002, a former pastor in Alberta, Canada, sent a letter to the editor of a local newspaper on the issue of sexual orientation. Two weeks later a homosexual teen was beaten up. The former pastor was charged with inciting the violence by expressing his Biblical views. After six years of litigation and more than $200,000 in legal expenses, the former pastor was, in 2008, found guilty of violating a “hate crimes” law because the letter likely exposed homosexuals to hatred and contempt – despite the fact that he had never advocated violence of any sort in his letter or otherwise. His case is on appeal, with assistance from ADF.
The Pathway recently contacted Democrat Senator Claire McCaskill to express concern and ascertain her views on the proposed new law. She replied that she supported a similar bill last year and maintains that “hate crimes laws punish violent acts, not beliefs or thoughts.” Even if she is well-intended, I confess to having trouble believing her, much less her allies who are poised to pass this awful bill. How can we believe anything any group says who supports this level of government-sanctioned paganism and tyranny?
Missouri Southern Baptists must not idly sit on the sidelines and accept the so-called inevitable. Are we going to follow God or Obama on this one? If the answer is God, then it is time to call and write our two senators and the president and urge them to reject this detestable bill. We need to vote the Missouri Democrats who voted for it out of office when they come up for re-election next year. We need to educate our families and neighbors and urge them to get involved. And finally, we must pray, asking God to deliver us from this evil.