A coalition of major religious denominations and organizations has launched a petition to the Federal Communications Commission asking for an investigation into “hate speech in the media” and how telecommunications might play a role in “hate crimes.”

The petition is promoted by members of the “So We Might See” coalition that includes the United Church of Christ, the U.S. Catholic Conference of Bishops, the Islamic Society of North America, United Methodist Communications, Presbyterian Church (USA) and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.

The move comes as President Obama celebrates his signing just last week of a “hate crimes” law that provides special protections to people who live homosexual and other “alternative” sexual lifestyles.

Addressed to FCC chief Julius Genachowski, the petition asks for a “notice of inquiry into hate speech in the media.”

“We are concerned about this issue because of the possible connection between hate speech and violent hate crimes and the lack of information for members of the public concerned about the issue,” the petition states.

“The possible correlation between hate speech and violent crime gives us great pause. Immigrant, minority, and religious populations are often targets of hate speech before they are subsequently the target of physical hate crimes,” the petition says.

“Hate speech in the media is a growing problem that must be examined before it can be solved. So We Might See supports efforts to increase the resources available to the public to understand hate speech. As members of the faith community, we will do our part to ask our members to raise their own voices condemning hate speech when they see it and to ask for all citizens to conduct themselves with civility,” it says.

The move, however, was so controversial that the U.S. Catholic Conference of Bishops, while a part of the coalition, refused to sign on to the petition.

“USCCB supports the establishment of a broad public forum to debate the difficult constitutional and regulatory issues, including the potential danger to religious speech, raised by the petitioners,” it said in a separate statement. “We are asking the FCC to make available a proceeding where the public can attempt to describe speech anyone deems harmful, and where the public (including Catholics and the bishops) can raise important constitutional constraints on government action regarding speech, including religious speech.

“We are not participating in any campaign to censor any organization, program or commentator,” the organization said.

Matt Barber, Liberty Counsel attorney and author of the newly released book “The Right Hook – From the Ring to the Culture War,” told WND passage of ‘hate crimes’ legislation “has emboldened the radical homosexual lobby, the quasi-Christian left and other fringe factions.”

“There are terrific people who attend [United Church of Christ] churches, but the reality is that much of the UCC’s leadership is cut from the same hateful, counter-biblical cloth as President Obama’s racist, America-hating pastor Jeremiah Wright.

“I knew it was just a matter of time before the left – to include the Obama administration – would begin using the euphemistic terms ‘hate crimes’ and ‘hate speech’ interchangeably,” Barber continued. “I just didn’t think it would happen this fast. Those of us who opposed the new ‘hate crimes’ law have warned for years that the true agenda is, and has always been, to silence any opposition to liberal views, including opposition to the homosexual lifestyle.”

Jeffrey Lord, a former Reagan White House political director and now a writer for American Spectator, wrote that while he is a member of the UCC, he has questions about the effort.

“Read the key phrases again. ‘Open a notice of inquiry into hate speech in the media.’ Meaning, church members are being asked to sign on to an already-in-progress petition to the FCC that is opening the door to legal sanctions from the federal government on ‘hate speech in the media,'” he said.

Lord cited a petition accusation that talk radio icons had criticized immigrants.

“But to focus on that in this space would remove one’s eye from the real fast ball. This petition has nothing to do with the immigration issue,” he continued, citing an statement from FCC commissioner Michael Copps about the “comprehensive FCC evaluation of the state of broadcast journalism.”

“Now, how would one push for such a ‘comprehensive FCC evaluation’ of talk radio?” Lord asked. “And if, just by chance of course, you also wanted to delegitimize and silence not just talk radio … but Fox News … well, how exactly could you try and do that? How do you get this ball rolling?”

Lord said it would be necessary to have the question raised to the FCC by an outside group. Additionally, he said, there needs to be the “raw political power” to attack the issue.

He cited the George-Soros-sponsored Media Democracy Fund as one of several financial supporters of the “So We Might See” organization.

“These religious groups are to convey the idea that talk radio and Fox News are guilty of ‘hate speech’ as illustrated by links naming or presenting Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, Bill O’Reilly, Lou Dobbs, Michael Savage in this fashion,” he wrote.

“What we are documenting here is a full-fledged assault on conservative media. On talk radio and on Fox News. An assault by name on some, on others with their names left out, but surely every bit the target as the others. … Leading this charge or involved in some capacity are at least one commissioner of the Federal Communications Commission, seven national churches, one left-wing billionaire who helps as always with the funding – and last but certainly not least, the White House. Specifically that would be Messrs. Emanuel, Axelrod and Ms. [Anita] Dunn,” Lord wrote.

“Hello? Is anyone home here? Is the First Amendment – which interestingly protects these very same churches – going to be assaulted like this while everyone just sits by and says nothing?”

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