Bob Unruh joined WND in 2006 after nearly three decades with the Associated Press, as well as several Upper Midwest newspapers, where he covered everything from legislative battles and sports to tornadoes and homicidal survivalists. He is also a photographer whose scenic work has been used commercially.More ↓Less ↑
A fast-tracked congressional plan to add special protections for homosexuals to federal law would turn “thoughts, feelings, and beliefs” into criminal offenses and put Christians in the bull’s-eye, according to opponents.
“H.R. 1592 is a discriminatory measure that criminalizes thoughts, feelings, and beliefs [and] has the potential of interfering with religious liberty and freedom of speech,” according to a white paper submitted by Glen Lavy, of the Alliance Defense Fund.
“As James Jacobs and Kimberly Potter observed in Hate Crimes, Criminal Law, and Identity Politics, ‘It would appear that the only additional purpose [for enhancing punishment of bias crimes] is to provide extra punishment based on the offender’s politically incorrect opinions and viewpoints,’” said Lavy.
The proposal has been endorsed by majority Democrats on the committee, and already has 137 sponsors in the full House, making it possible it could be voted on in a matter of days or weeks.
“This is a terrible thing, to criminalize thought or emotion or even speech,” Lavy told WND, referring to H.R. 1592, now pending at the committee level in the U.S. House. Democrats there have been turning back amendments that would strip it of its worst provisions, according to an observer.
Bishop Harry Jackson, chairman of the High Impact Leadership Coalition, said the plan, the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Protection Act of 2007, is no more than “a surreptitious attempt by some in Congress to strip the nation of religious freedom and the ability to preach the gospel from our church pulpits.”
“It will stamp all over our doctrine and practice of our faith,” he said. “We believe what the Bible says. If you start there we’ve got a major problem.”
Secondly, it unfairly restricts the expression of fair opinion by Christians, he told WND. “If anything, gays are getting undue deference awarded to them by the courts. That’s why we have the same-sex marriage fight and that kind of thing.”
Rev. Louis Sheldon, director of the Traditional Values Coalition, which represents 43,000 churches across the nation, told WND that the Democrats sponsoring and supporting the issue “have sold out to the homosexual agenda.”
He said churches need to awaken to the dangers of having pastors, lay leaders, or even those sitting in the pews sent to jail for their biblical views. “When they [realize they] could go to jail for preaching the Word of God, they’ll be concerned,” he told WND.
Sheldon’s organization is releasing a poster showing Jesus as a wanted fugitive, for “crimes” under the planned “hate crimes” legislation.
“Think about it for a minute. If saying a mean anti-homosexual word adds an additional 23-26 ? years to a sentence, and people live to around 80, that penalty is one-fourth of your life for the words you say. And while this was in addition to a robbery penalty, how much of a jump would it really be to penalize the speech ‘infraction’ alone? And just what constitutes an ‘anti-gay epithet’? Would an ‘anti-gay epithet’ be to say, ‘Homosexuality is a sin,’ or ‘Homosexuals should repent’? What if you informed someone that ‘Homosexuality is harmful to your health’? If I were you, I wouldn’t try it in New Hampshire,” Folger wrote.
One, Arlene Elshinnawy, 75, and grandmother of three, was holding a sign: “Truth is hate to those who hate the truth,” before she was hauled off by police officers.
The proposal is by U.S. Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., the head of the House Judiciary Committee.
On Sheldon’s website, he warned the bottom line is that in a court of law “cross-dressers rights would trump a pastor’s right to preach the Bible, if the so-called Hate Crimes bill … passes.”
Bishop Jackson cited well-known cases of the application of such a law in other nations: “In Australia, two evangelical pastors were charged with violating the State of Victoria’s ‘hate crimes’ laws last year for criticizing Islam. In Canada, a Catholic city councilor was fined $1,000 for publicly stating that a gay couple’s lifestyle was ‘not normal and not natural,’” he said.
“As an African American, I have long questioned the attempts of the homosexual community to piggy back on the legislative breakthroughs blacks have achieved in civil rights. This legislation will not just over-protect homosexuals, it will bring the threat of invasive, governmental interference with the doctrines and practice of the Church. As some homosexual activists chant, ‘Stay out of our bedrooms,’ we are here to say, ‘Stay out of our pulpits!’” said Bishop Jackson.
Lavy’s white paper, delivered to Congress just a few days ago, pointed out some of the results if the law is adopted. “It provides a federal remedy for a person who is attacked for promoting homosexual relationships, but not for a person who is attacked for encouraging people to stop engaging in homosexual behavior because it is physically and psychologically harmful,” he said. “Worse yet, it provides for federal prosecution of a murderer who spews racial epithets at the victim, but not for a cold-blooded killer that is paid to commit the crime.”
“There is no justification for this disparate treatment. Violent crimes should be punished regardless of the characteristics of the victim,” he said.
“The emotion of hate is an unfortunate reality of the human experience. But it is not a crime unless accompanied by a criminal action – and even then it is the action that is within the police power of the government, not the emotion.” he said. “The reality is that ‘hate’ crime laws are designed to punish people for what they think, feel, or believe.”
And even more problematic, he said, is the inclusion of a definition of ‘hate crime’ from section 280003(a) of the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994. “There is legitimate concern that once Congress makes any ‘hate’ crime a federal offense, the categories of crime will expand to include speech that causes someone to ‘feel’ intimidated, just as they have in other places such as Australia, Canada, and Sweden,” he said.
Lavy’s analysis noted that in New Jersey already it is a “hate crime” to communicate in a manner likely to cause “annoyance or alarm.”
“One would not expect a reasonable person to feel threatened or feel fear of harm as the result of an innocuous communication. Nevertheless, the entire faculty at Ohio State University’s Mansfield campus apparently agreed that university librarian Scott Savage was guilty of threatening behavior for a simple statement in 2006. His ‘threat’? Recommending four books for freshman reading… The four books were “The Marketing of Evil,” by [WND Managing Editor] David Kupelian, The Professors by David Horowitz, Eurabia: The Euro-Arab Axis by Bat Ye’or, and It Takes a Family by Sen. Rick Santorum.”
The recommendation made three professors feel “unsafe” on campus and the entire faculty voted to file charges of sex discrimination and harassment against Mr. Savage for “anti-gay hate mongering,” Lavy wrote. The charges were dismissed later, and Savage now has responded with a lawsuit against several university professors.
But under the proposal, such a recommended list for reading “could be prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney General.”
Lavy’s evaluation also noted that San Francisco already has stated in a resolution that organizations seeking to minister to those engaged in homosexual behavior “were responsible” for homosexual student Matthew Shepard’s death in Wyoming, even though his killers have said they did it for drugs and money.
Under such a new law, advertising its “Love Won Out” conferences, addressing homosexuality, would subject Focus on the Family to federal prosecution, he said.
At William Patterson University in New Jersey, a student-employee was formally reprimanded for saying he didn’t want to receive promotional e-mails advocating for the lesbian lifestyle, because that sent a message of a “threat,” Lavy said.
Furthermore, statistics show that during 2004 there were only 774 actual “hate crimes” recorded, five murders, four rape and the rest assaults – all of which can be prosecuted without special federal laws, he said.
Rev. Ted Pike, of the National Prayer Network, has been especially active in warning Christians of the approaching danger.
“Most persons who are concerned about imminent passage of the federal ‘anti-hate’ bill don’t realize that S. 1105 in the Senate and H.R. 1592 in the House are actually amendments to a federal hate law passed in 1969. During the height of the civil rights movement, ‘Title 18, U.S.C., Sec. 245′ stipulated that no one could verbally ‘…attempt to…intimidate’ another person (chiefly black) away from enjoyment of their federally protected right to equal employment, public services, housing, voting rights, jury privileges, etc. If the government finds such verbal ‘intimidation’ in a state and state officials are not enforcing these guarantees, the federal government can invade states’ rights in local law enforcement, upholding Title 18,” he said.
Now, in 2007, he said, “the present hate bill grants [special rights] to homosexuals, transvestites, and transsexuals.”
The proposal would make it “federally indictable to ‘…attempt to…intimidate’ a homosexual from believing that he (even if he has AIDS or hepatitis) has the right to work in a restaurant, be employed as a police officer or summer camp counselor, or has equal rights to housing and employment anywhere he wishes,” he said.
“A pastor, Christian broadcaster or publisher who verbally attempts to ‘intimidate’ homosexuals by describing homosexuality as an abomination (Lev. 18:22) are thus high-profile targets for indictment under this legislation,” he said.
He noted that it also would be illegal for a Christian church to discriminate against an applicant as pastor because of his homosexuality or her lesbianism.