An amendment that would have set up new federal law to apply penalties for politically incorrect “thoughts” under a “hate crimes” plan has been stripped from a defense spending authorization bill, delaying at least for now the application of such punishments.

But an activist who has suffered because of the application of such a plan – at the state level – says Americans need to remain wary.

The amendment was stripped yesterday from a $500 billion defense reauthorization plan that is expected soon to be forwarded to President Bush.

President Bush

According to the Congressional Quarterly, members of the Senate serving on a conference committee dropped their demand for the hate-crimes provision, “paving the way for the conference report to be signed.”

The amendment would have expanded hate-crime laws that now address race to include crimes committed against anyone in new special classes based on their gender or sexual orientation.

The amendment originally had been approved by the House as a stand-alone measure, and was added to the Senate defense spending bill in September, but the White House had threatened a veto.

Michael Marcavage, of Repent America, says his organization has members who were jailed for proclaiming their Christian beliefs on public streets in Philadelphia, because of state regulations similar to the federal proposal.

“It’s extraordinarily important that it has been removed from the defense reauthorization bill,” he told WND. “But we know that the homosexual lobby is extraordinarily aggressive when it comes to obtaining special protections. That’s exactly what this is.”

“We must be very vigilant as to what their next move is going to be. They’re not going to go away,” he said.

“I do see a lot of people starting to understand exactly what hate crimes legislation can do, when you have a prosecutor with an agenda. That’s what we saw in Philadelphia,” he said.

It was then, in 2004, that a number of members of his organization chose to proclaim their biblically based belief that homosexuality is wrong at a city-sponsored “gay” fest in Philadelphia. They were arrested and jailed, even threatened with prison sentences decades long, for proclaiming their beliefs.

He said Pennsylvania lawmakers had been told when they approved the state’s hate crimes plan in 2002 that it wouldn’t really be applied unless “there was blood in the streets.”

“Strategically, they can certainly find a way to bring a charge [if they choose],” he said.

“There is a movement in America to criminalize Christians for their beliefs. We’re seeing it more and more every day,” he said.

It is within the realm of future possibilities that even China, with its aggressive crackdowns on Christians, eventually could be a “safe haven” for Christians should hate crimes laws ever become common in the U.S., he said.

“It’s moving quickly in that direction,” he said, citing a separate plan in Congress to give “gays” special rights in employment, and another move to silence conservative radio talk shows.

“The mindset behind this legislation is to criminalize Christians,” he said.

Rev. Ted Pike, of the National Prayer Network, said there may be an attempt to revive the plan. “But its rejection by conference greatly increases the likelihood that we can defeated it again – if lovers of freedom continue to protest loudly.”

Earlier this week, the the Family Research Council had issued an alert about the pending plan, suggesting constituents call members of Congress.

“Tell them it should be removed because the provision is not germane to the national defense of this country. Most importantly, tell them that the provision should be removed because it runs counter to our country’s bedrock principles of free speech and thought.”

As WND has reported, the plan was feared by critics as a means to target Christians and to demolish both freedom of speech and religion in the United States. It would allow enhanced prosecution for crimes motivated by “hate,” including the perception of gender or gender identity.

The White House has concluded such legislation is “unnecessary and constitutionally questionable.”

The White House said state and local criminal laws already provide penalties for the violence addressed by the new federal crime defined in the bill, and many carry stricter penalties than the proposed language.

But FRC said the fine print of the plan was alarming.

“The definition is broadened to include sexual orientation among the protected classes, elevating sexual attraction to the status of race and creed. Those who can be found culpable have also been expanded to include not only those who commit the crime but those who may have unknowingly ‘inspired’ those actions. For example, a pastor can be considered legally culpable if he preaches against the homosexual agenda and a member of his congregation subsequently commits a crime against a homosexual. Thus, the act against the homosexual is considered a crime, as it should be, but so also is the thought against the agenda or conduct,” the organization said.

Former White House insider Chuck Colson, in his Breakpoint commentary, has called it a “Thought Crimes” plan.

“This bill is not about hate. It’s not even about crime. It’s about outlawing peaceful speech – speech that asserts that homosexual behavior is morally wrong,” he said.

WND columnist Janet Folger earlier warned in a commentary called “Pastors: Act now or prepare for jail,” that in New Hampshire, a crime that typically carries a sentence of 3 1/2 years was “enhanced” to 30 years because a robber shouted an anti-homosexual name at his victim.

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