Democrats are expected to sneak the hate crimes bill through the Senate as early as tomorrow after they offered it as an amendment to the Defense Authorization bill.

The Senate approved the same hate crime legislation last year as part of the military funding bill, but it was never reconciled with the House’s bill.

The current House version – H.R. 1913, or the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2009 – was passed April 29 and referred to the Senate Committee on the Judiciary.

Now the Senate is considering the military appropriations bill, or S.1390, and the Senate “hate crimes” act, or S. 909, may be passed as an amendment soon.

The “hate crimes” legislation now faces its best chance in years to become federal law.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., announced Senate consideration of S.909, or the “Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Prevention Act” on Tuesday.

“For the last decade, Matthew Shepard’s name has been associated with hate crimes. When this bill passes, his name will thereafter be associated with justice,” Reid said, according to a Politico report.

Sen. John McCain, R.-Ariz, blasted the hate crimes amendment today, saying it is unrelated to the defense bill.

“The hate-crimes bill is not without controversy,” McCain said, according to a CQ Today report. “This is a complete abdication of the responsibilities of the Judiciary Committee, but more importantly could hang up this bill for a long period of time while we have young Americans fighting and dying in two wars.”

Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., has now signed on as one of more than 45 co-sponsors of the act, the Minneapolis Post reported.

“The overwhelming majority of Americans know that these protections are long overdue,” Sen. Franken said. “No American should suffer because of their gender or sexual orientation, and no law enforcement official should be denied the necessary resources to prosecute their case. Minnesotans have a strong sense of justice, and no tolerance for hate. It’s time our laws reflect our convictions.”

The hate crimes legislation adds gender, gender identity and sexual orientation to a list of protected categories under federal hate crimes law.

As WND reported, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder admitted a homosexual activist who is attacked following a Christian minister’s sermon about homosexuality would be protected by the proposed federal law, but a minister attacked by a homosexual wouldn’t be.

The revelations came from Holder’s June testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee, which was taking comments on the so-called “hate crimes” proposal. It also was the subject of discussion on talk radio icon Rush Limbaugh’s July 3 show.

“This is the question,” Limbaugh said. “[Sen.] Jeff Sessions [R-Ala.] presents a hypothetical where a minister gives a sermon, quotes the Bible about homosexuality and is thereafter attacked … by a gay activist because of what the minister said about his religious beliefs and what Scripture says about homosexuality. Is the minister protected?”

No, said Holder.

“Well, the statute would not – would not necessarily cover that. We’re talking about crimes that have a historic basis. Groups who have been targeted for violence as a result of the color of their skin, their sexual orientation, that is what this statute tends – is designed to cover. We don’t have the indication that the attack was motivated by a person’s desire to strike at somebody who was in one of these protected groups. That would not be covered by the statute,” Holder stated.

Continued Limbaugh, “In other words: ministers and whites are not covered by the hate crime statute because we’re talking about crimes that have a historic basis, groups who have been targeted for violence as a result of their skin color, sexual orientation. So hate crimes are reserved exclusively for blacks and homosexuals. Everybody else can get to the back of the bus on this one.”

As WND has reported, the House version would provide special protections to homosexuals, essentially designating them as a “protected class.” However, it could leave Christian ministers open to prosecution should their teachings be linked to any subsequent offense, by anyone, against a homosexual person. The bill earned its nickname, “The Pedophile Protection Act,” when Rep. Steve King suggested an amendment during its trek through the U.S. House that would specify pedophiles could not use the law to protect their activities.

Majority Democrats flatly refused.

Richard Land, of the Southern Baptist Convention, has said such a law – by definition – requires judges to determine what those accused of crimes were thinking.

“This could create a chilling effect on religious speech, connecting innocent expression of religious belief to acts of violence against individuals afforded special protections,” he wrote. “The criminalization of religious speech, such as speech against the practice of homosexuality, has already been seen in other countries with similar hate crimes legislation in place.”

Limbaugh has also warned his audience about the advancing threat of “hate crimes” laws.

“Some people are going to be put in jail for things that they say,” he said. “Hate crime legislation. That’s where they determine what’s in your mind when you commit a crime. That’s when they decide what you were thinking … If you were thinking unapproved thoughts, that would make the crime you committed even worse.”

President Obama, supported strongly during his campaign by homosexual advocates, has indicated that he would like to see the legislation become law.

“I urge 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.”

A now-concluded special Fed Ex campaign to warn U.S. Senate members of the dangers of the “hate crimes” plan dispatched more than 705,000 letters to senators.

The letter-writing effort was organized by WND columnist Janet Porter, who also heads the Faith2Action Christian ministry. It allowed citizens to send individually addressed letters to all 100 senators over their own “signature” for only $10.95.

Rick Scarborough of Vision America, Donald Wildmon of the American Family Association, Janet Porter of Faith2Action and many other opponents of hate crimes legislation have been urging voters to immediately contact their senators to oppose the plan.

Concerned individuals may e-mail their respective senators or call 1(877) 851-6437 or 1(202) 224-3121.

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