Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass.
Sen. Edward Kennedy’s “hate crimes” plan – feared by Christian leaders as a way to censor biblical condemnations of homosexuality – has been proposed as an amendment to a defense spending bill, a maneuver opponents are calling “shameless” and “manipulative.”
The Kennedy plan, which earlier was introduced as separate legislation, would classify gender and sexual orientation as specially protected classes of people under federal law. Opponents say it would require law enforcement personnel to become “thought police” to determine whether a crime already addressed by existing law could be prosecuted under an enhanced standard of “hate crime.”
The White House already has suggested the proposal is unneeded and a veto would be in order if it is approved. But Kennedy has proposed inserting it into the defense appropriations plan, which Bush wants to pass.
“The maneuver is one clearly calculated to put the president in the position of ending up vetoing a defense appropriation,” Mathew Staver of Liberty Counsel told WND.
Joe Glover of the Family Policy Network said the move is “shockingly manipulative.”
“It is a shameless attempt to push the homosexual agenda on the American people by exploiting American soldiers who are currently in harm’s way around the world,” he said.
Many dismiss the idea Christian pastors and others who oppose homosexual behavior on biblical grounds would end up being punished for their beliefs and thoughts, including the ACLU. The organization issued a statement endorsing the plan to amend the defense spending bill to include the hate crimes legislation.
“The serious problem of crime directed at members of society because of their race, color, religion, gender, national origin, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability merits legislative action,” the ACLU said.
And the ACLU noted a clause protecting “free speech” in the proposal makes it clear it would be applied only to actual crimes, not thoughts.
However, WND columnist Janet Folger wrote the idea of arresting people for stating their religious beliefs that homosexuality is wrong is no longer something that “may” happen in the future.
“Here’s the Cliff Notes of what so called ‘hate crime’ legislation has already done IN AMERICA,” she wrote. “This is no longer up for debate. Here are the facts.”
- Madison, Wisconsin. David Ott, a former homosexual, was arrested for a “hate crime” for sharing his testimony with a homosexual at a gas station. He faced a $10,000 fine and one year behind bars. Seven thousand dollars in legal fees later, [he] was ordered to attend re-education classes at the University of Wisconsin conducted by a lesbian.
- St. Petersburg, Florida. Five Christians including two pastors were arrested at a homosexual rally for stepping onto the public sidewalk instead staying caged in their officially designated “free speech zone.”
- Elmira, New York. The Elmira police arrested seven Christians for praying in a public park where a homosexual festival was getting started.
- Crystal Lake, Illinois. Two 16 year old girls are facing felony “hate crime” charges for the content of their flyers.
- Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Arlene Elshinnawy, a 75-year-old grandmother of three, and Linda Beckman, a 70-year-old grandmother of 10 (along with nine others), were arrested for sharing their faith on the public sidewalk.
Folger said the testimony from the grandmothers can be seen and heard at the Stop Hate Crimes Now website.
“Just how many cases do we need to cite before America stands up and stops the bill that will criminalize Christianity?” she asked.
“It will criminalize not just those willing to speak the truth and spread the Gospel in the public square, but those pastors, authors, radio hosts and anyone who ‘counsels, commands, induces or procures [the commission of a 'hate crime']‘,” she said.
Rev. Rick Scarborough, president of Vision America, said the plan will “punish Christians for preaching certain biblical principles and lead to pastors being jailed in violation of their First Amendment rights as we have already witnessed in Europe.”
A pastor in Europe already has served a prison term for preaching that the Bible condemns homosexuality.
Scarborough said it is significant that the proposal to add the plan as an amendment “will bypass the Senate committee process, thereby denying significant debate on the legislation.”
“If this bill passes, a pastor who preaches about homosexuality being sin could be prosecuted if someone who has heard his message commits a crime against a homosexual. The implications for conservative biblical pastors who have broadcast ministries are staggering. We cannot allow Christians to be dragged into court for simply fulfilling their biblical mandate of preaching the gospel,” said Scarborough, a Southern Baptist pastor who now is participating in a “70 Weeks to Save America” campaign.
“It is clear the enemies of the cross are wickedly shrewd,” said Rusty Lee Thomas, of Elijah Ministries.
Peter Sprigg, vice president for policy for the Family Research Council, said even with “speech protections” there are grave dangers.
“We’ve seen it in states, with the Philadelphia 11, where they used ethnic intimidation laws. Intimidation is a broad term, it does not require any act of violence and intimidation is included in the definition of hate crime,” he told WND.
“What we see and what we’ve seen repeatedly, when a crime occurs, the homosexual activists will inevitably blame it on the speech of people like us who oppose homosexual behavior,” he said.
Sprigg cited the recent murder of a homosexual in California. Witnesses said the attackers were speaking Russian, so immediately nearby Slavic Christian churches came under suspicion, he said.
Staver said a vote on the amendment could come as early as this week.
“I think this bill is a significant threat, more so than most Americans realize,” he said.
“I’ve seen situations where courts told mothers they cannot even expose their own children to teachings or messages that are ‘homophobic,’” he said “They construe anything that says homosexuality is wrong or immoral to be homophobic.”
“Hate crimes legislation that includes sexual orientation is bad law because it criminalizes speech and does nothing to prevent violent crimes. All crimes are motivated by hate. Hate crimes laws will not be used to punish the perpetrator, but will be used to silence people of faith, religious groups, clergy, and those who support traditional moral values,” said Staver.
The American Family Association earlier issued an “Action Alert” about the pending proposal.
The Alliance Defense Fund, a leading advocate for freedom of speech in the U.S., analyzed the proposal and concluded “it is entirely constitutional for a person’s speech to be used to prove a crime was committed.”
“And one’s speech (including reading materials, websites visited, sermons heard and preached) is particularly relevant when a component of the crime itself is politically incorrect motive,” the analysis said. “The chilling of speech that may result from such a regime is self-evident, whether the First Amendment is implicated or not.”
Michael Marcavage of Repent America also has warned of the potential consequences.
Former White House insider Chuck Colson, in his Breakpoint commentary, has labeled it a “Thought Crimes” plan.
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