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I am very troubled by the expansion of a bill that would allow federal prosecution for crimes based on “actual or perceived” sexual orientation. Critics – and I am one – believe the bill, which has passed in the House, would, if signed into law, pose a serious threat to pastors and religious organizations that hold biblical views on morality.

The hate-crimes provision is in the Senate Judiciary Committee as S. 1145 (Local Law Enforcement Enhancement Act), with no action being taken on it since May. But in September, the same act was tacked on as an amendment to the Child Safety Act (H.R. 3132) and passed in the House, moving on to the Senate with the amendment (Title X of the Child Safety Act) being renamed as the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2005.

The hate-crimes bill would be the first law by the federal government that affords special protection or benefits based on the status of sexual orientation.

I certainly agree that we must work as a nation to halt sex crimes and to make information available to families regarding dangerous predators. However, the supplemental hate-crimes amendment is terribly perilous for pastors and churches.

Mathew Staver, president and general counsel of the Orlando-based Liberty Counsel, says that giving special protection to specified groups devalues the lives of others who are not members of those groups. He says that all crime victims suffer, and all should be treated equally under the law.

In a press release, Liberty Counsel stated: “… if the hate crimes bill passes the Senate, it will be coupled with the Hate Crimes Reporting Act of 1990 which mandated that the FBI include intimidation in its reporting of statistics on hate crimes. Therefore, because intimidation may also be considered a hate crime, ministers or religious organizations who speak out against homosexuality are in danger of being labeled with a hate crime.”

Supporters of the law scoff at the suggestion that pastors and religious leaders would be held accountable for asserting, from a biblical perspective, that homosexuality is immoral. But we have seen cases across the globe where this is taking place.

Such speech is already under attack. Liberty Counsel notes these examples:

  • Eleven Christians were jailed under Pennsylvania’s hate-crimes law in 2004 for singing in a public park and speaking out against homosexuality;

  • In 1998, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors passed a resolution blaming religious people for hate crimes, declaring: “It is not an exaggeration to say that there is a direct correlation between these acts of discrimination, such as when gays and lesbians are called sinful and when major religious organizations say they can change if they tried, and the horrible crimes committed against gays and lesbians”;

  • A Canadian citizen was fined more than $6,000 for running a newspaper ad in which he quoted Leviticus 18:22, which states that homosexuality is a sin;

  • A mayor in Canada was found to violate a human-rights ordinance when she refused to declare Gay Day;

  • A minister in the United Kingdom was fined ?20,000 (approximately $35,000) for an ad that described homosexuality as an abomination;

  • A complaint was filed in a Dutch court against Pope John Paul II for his statement that “homosexual acts are contrary to the laws of nature.” The Dutch court ruled the pope’s status as the leader of the Roman Catholic Church and the Vatican state afforded him immunity from prosecution. But other religious leaders would not be immune.

While we must work as a nation to uncompromisingly protect our children from sexual predators, Christians need to be very concerned about the effort to silence our free-speech rights.

I am urging readers to call both of their senators to urge them not to support the hate-crimes rider in the “Local Law Enforcement Act of 2005.” You may call the Capitol Switchboard (202-224-3121) to speak to both of your senators, asking them to actively oppose the rider in S. 1145, which allows federal prosecution for crimes based on “actual or perceived” sexual orientation. I encourage readers to call both of their senators today.

In addition, Liberty Counsel has established a petition asking senators to actively oppose the rider in S. 1145, which allows federal prosecution for crimes based on “actual or perceived” sexual orientation. I encourage readers to call and sign the petition today. Readers interested in learning more about this issue should visit this Concerned Women for America website.

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