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 team of Christian activists and pastors today filed a civil rights lawsuit against Attorney General Eric Holder over the “hate crimes” law that President Obama signed into law late last year, alleging it violates their civil rights.
The complaint states Christians now can become the target of federal investigations, grand juries and even charges for no more than opposing the activism of homosexuals who want not only public endorsement of their life choices, but to halt any criticism of those decisions.
“On account of … the Hate Crimes Act, plaintiffs are targets for
government scrutiny, questioning, investigation, surveillance, and other adverse law enforcement actions and thus seek judicial reassurance that they can freely participate in their speech and related religious activities without being investigated or prosecuted by the government or becoming part of official records because of their Christian beliefs,” the lawsuit explains.
It was filed today by the Thomas More Law Center in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan on behalf of Pastors Levon Yuille, Rene Ouellette, James Combs and Gary Glenn, the president of the American Family Association of Michigan.
The plaintiffs include individuals who already have faced accusations by homosexual advocates that they bear responsibility for the actions of others for no other reason than their agreement with biblical condemnations of homosexuality.
The lawsuit cited the death of Andrew Anthos, a 72-year-old Detroit man allegedly the victim of a “hate crime” because of his “sexual orientation.” In that case, the executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force “blamed … Plaintiff Glenn’s ‘homophobic rants’ for causing his death.”
According to the lawsuit, the homosexual activist said, “It is appalling hypocrisy for these forces to pretend that their venomous words and organizing have no connection to the plague of hate violence against gay people, including the murder of Mr. Anthos.”
Anthos also was cited by Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., as evidence of the need
to extend federal “hate crimes” legislation to include “sexual orientation” as a protected
But the lawsuit said police and a medical examiner determined that Anthos died of natural causes.
The complaint also said, “The former director of policy for the Triangle Foundation, a Michigan-based homosexual lobby group that supported the Hate Crimes Act, publicly stated, ‘We personally
believe that the AFA may support the murder of gay, lesbian, and bisexual people.’”
Such statements, combined with the “hate crimes” law that now exists, provide a “tool” of intimidation for federal officials, including Holder, “to abuse their positions of power to stifle political opinion and opposition to the homosexual agenda.”
“It also provides political adversaries with a basis for making official criminal complaints and allegations
against opponents of the homosexual agenda, such as plaintiffs, thereby deterring, inhibiting, and
chilling the exercise of plaintiffs’ rights to freedom of speech, expressive association, and the
free exercise of religion,” the complaint said.
“By preaching God’s Word on homosexuality, plaintiffs and others are engaging in
conduct that subjects them to federal questioning, investigation, and prosecution as principals pursuant to [the law] for counseling, commanding, or inducing a federal offense under … the Hate Crimes Act.”
“There is no legitimate law enforcement need for this federal law,” said Richard Thompson, president of the Law Center. “Of the 1.38 million violent crimes reported in the U.S. by the FBI in 2008, only 243 were considered as motivated by the victim’s sexual orientation.
“Moreover, Eric Holder himself testified at a Senate hearing that the states are doing a fine job in this area,” he said.
“This is part of the list of political payoffs to homosexual advocacy groups for support of Barack Obama in the last presidential election. The sole purpose of this law is to criminalize the Bible and use the threat of federal prosecutions and long jail sentences to silence Christians from expressing their biblically-based religious belief that homosexual conduct is a sin. It elevates those persons who engage in deviant sexual behaviors, including pedophiles, to a special protected class of persons as a matter of federal law and policy,” he said.
The Hate Crimes Act was dubbed by its critics as the “Pedophile Protection Act,” after an amendment to explicitly prohibit pedophiles from being protected by the act was defeated by majority Democrats. In fact, during congressional debate, supporters argued that all “philias,” or alternative sexual lifestyles, should be protected.
Robert Muise, the lead attorney on the case, told WND the law also elevates people who “engaged in a certain class of deviant behavior to a protected class as a matter of federal law and policy.”
With some classes of people given more “rights,” others naturally have “fewer,” he said. And that’s where Christians are targeted. He noted that in an earlier version of what eventually became law under Obama was a proposed amendment referring to reading or citing biblical passages
“In 2007, when Congress was considering similar hate crimes legislation, a motion was made before the Committee on Rules in the House of Representatives to clarify that the printing, distribution, or public reading of the Bible was not prohibited by any provision of the proposed bill. The motion was defeated.”
Contacted by WND, Holder’s office declined to comment on the case.
The law was promoted by its advocates as cracking down on “bias” crimes motivated by a person’s “actual or perceived” “sexual orientation” or “gender identity”
Yiulle is the pastor of The Bible Church in Michigan and national director of the National Black Pro-Life Congress. He hosts a radio program and “is often warned by his Canadian listeners that he will prosecuted under the new U.S. hate crimes law for his public ministry.”
Ouellette is pastor of First Baptist in Bridgeport, Mich., with about 7,000 members, and the author of five books.
Combs is lead pastor of Faith Church, The Point Church, The Rock Church and The River Church, with about 10,000 members.
The civil rights violations created by the “hate crimes” law involve freedom of speech, expressive association, free exercise of religion, the equal protection guarantee and other provisions of the First, Fifth and 10th Amendments as well as Commerce Clause, the case said.
“This new federal law promotes two Orwellian concepts. It creates a special class of persons who are ‘more equal than others’ based on nothing more than deviant, sexual behavior. And it creates ‘thought crimes’ by criminalizing certain ideas, beliefs, and opinions, and the involvement of such ideas, beliefs, and opinions in a crime will make it deserving of federal prosecution,” Muise said.
“Consequently, government officials are claiming the power to decide which thoughts are criminal under federal law and which are not.”
Obama signed the “Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act” in October 2009 after Democrats strategically attached it to a “must-pass” $680 billion defense-appropriations bill.
The law cracks down on any acts that could be linked to criticism of homosexuality or even the “perception” of homosexuality. As Congress debated it, there were assurances it would not be used to crack down on speech.
Days after Obama signed it, in response, pastors and other Christian leaders gathered to read from the Bible
at a rally organized with the help of Gary Cass of the Christian Anti-Defamation Coalition.
Former Navy Chaplain Gordon Klingenschmitt of PrayInJesusName.org read from Romans: “And they that commit such things are worthy of death.”
“The government has to invade my thoughts to decide what my motive was in quoting the Bible,” Klingenschmitt explained. “I can be prosecuted if the government thinks my motive was wrong.”
The rally took place in front of the Holder’s offices. He supported the bill although he explained it does not protect all people equally. He is charged with enforcing the law.
Obama boasted of the “hate crimes” bill when he signed it into law.
“After more than a decade, we’ve passed inclusive hate-crimes legislation to help protect our citizens from violence based on what they look like, who they love, how they pray or who they are,” he said.
Some of the rally in opposition to the law was captured by Christian Broadcasting Network on video:
“If this law is used to silence me or any of these preachers for speaking the truth, then we will be forced to conscientiously defy it,” Rick Scarborough, president of Vision America, declared. “That is my calling as a Christian and my right as an American citizen.”
Janet Porter of Faith2Action called it a “sad day for America.”
“While a small minority of homosexual activists are celebrating, thousands of pastors, priests and rabbis are lamenting their loss of First Amendment freedoms. I for one refuse to bow before this unjust and unconstitutional law, and I intend to continue to preach the whole counsel of God as revealed in the Scriptures,” she wrote.
“But this law doesn’t just affect pastors; it will criminalize the beliefs of millions of ordinary people who may now be afraid to speak even their pro-marriage positions lest it spark a federal ‘hate crime’ investigation,” Porter wrote.
Cass noted in the U.K., a senior citizen was accused of “hate crimes” for writing a letter objecting to a pro-homosexual festival:
“This is the way it gets implemented in all the other countries,” Cass said. “Christians are singled out for prosecution, with threats, imprisonment and fines simply for refusing to stop doing what Christ commands: proclaiming the truth.”
“[These cases] are a good precursor of where this goes,” he warned.
The bill signed by Obama was opposed by the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, which called it a “menace” to civil liberties. The commission argued the law allows federal authorities to bring charges against individuals even if they’ve already been cleared in a state court.