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A measure in the Massachusetts statehouse to allow jail time for criticism of homosexuality has been pulled abruptly after a conservative group publicized the move by lawmakers.
The apparent precedent of criminalizing opinions about homosexuality had been predicted by opponents of the nation’s “hate crimes” law before it was adopted as an amendment to a must-pass military bill in Congress and signed by President Obama last year.
According to Mass Resistance, which monitors the state legislature, the lawmakers added to a bill addressing schools an unrelated provision providing the jail time.
The planned addition to the Massachusetts General Laws would have been: “Whoever publishes any false material whether written, printed, electronic, televised, or broadcast with intent to maliciously promote hatred of any group of persons in the commonwealth because of race, color, religion, national origin, ancestry, sex, sexual orientation, or disability shall be guilty of libel and shall be punished by a fine of not more than one thousand dollars or by imprisonment for not more than one year, or both.”
Mass Resistance said the move would be “very extreme.”
“Similar laws have been used in Canada and other countries to snuff out critical reporting on the homosexual movement and severely prosecute offenders. Note that the word ‘hatred’ is not defined and is thus completely subjective. And ‘false material’ lays the burden of proof on the accused, under the judgment of a court or tribunal. So even the threat of a long, expensive trial is enough to silence just about everyone,” the group reported.
Spokesman Brian Camenker, however, reported to WND today that less than 24 hours after the issue was publicized, lawmakers removed the provision.
The measure was insterted in S. 2283, “An Act Relative to Bullying in Schools,” which was a compilation of a long list of proposed bills. None of the original bills included the language, he said, and the provision didn’t fit into the rest of the text that dealt with students and “bullying.”
Camenker told WND lawmakers have been “skittish” about the issue since the stunning recent election of Republican Scott Brown to the U.S. Senate seat held by Ted Kennedy, which had been in Democrat hands for decades.
He said lawmakers are aware this is an election year and are “walking a tightrope” between advancing the special interests to which they’ve committed and raising the ire of an electorate that clearly is not aligned with some of those special interests.
He said he was glad for the victory but cautious because he doesn’t believe the plan is going away.
“Nothing happens by mistake,” he told WND. “Something as unlikely as this, which had nothing to do with the rest of the bill, didn’t just slip in accidentally. It is something they clearly want to do. We’re just going to have to watch for it.
“This is the direction they want to go.”
Mass Resistance said the bill’s “draconian” language would have criminalized criticism on homosexuality.
“The strategy of labeling of people with traditional values as ‘haters’ (or ‘hate groups’) and their reasoned arguments (or normal reactions to blatant perversion) as ‘hatred’ is offensive and detestable,” the organization warned.
According to the American Family Association of Pennsylvania, “Pastors and others in Europe have routinely been threatened with criminal prosecution for speech critical of homosexual behavior and homosexual activists’ political agenda. This side of the pond, even the repressive Canadian Human Rights Tribunals have heavily fined individuals – but haven’t sent any to prison – for speaking out against homosexual activists’ political agenda.”
WND reported during the run-up to the 2009 “hate crimes” plan that opponents were alarmed by the potential of prosecutions for Christian pastors and others who preach the biblical condemnation of homosexuality.
Rick Nelson, an Alliance Defense Fund lawyer who has worked on cases of Christians’ speech being repressed, told WND at the time, “Right now it’s like ‘Let’s silence and move the Christians away from these events.’ The next step is, ‘Well, your speech, whatever it may be, is not palatable, we’re going to do the same thing to you.'”
The federal law was dubbed the “Pedophile Protection Act” by opponents who cited the efforts of Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, to add an amendment stating the “term sexual orientation as used in this act or any amendments to this act does not include pedophilia.”
Majority Democrats in the House refused to accept the amendment.
During the discussion of the “hate crimes” plan, Rep. Louis Gohmert, R-Texas, a former judge, explained how the rejection by the House of King’s amendment would be read should a pedophile claim protection under the federal plan that protects those with alternative sexual lifestyle choices.
“Having reviewed cases as an appellate judge, I know that when the legislature has the chance to include a definition and refuses, then what we look at is the plain meaning of those words,” explained Gohmert. “The plain meaning of sexual orientation is anything to which someone is orientated. That could include exhibitionism, it could include necrophilia (sexual arousal/activity with a corpse) … it could include urophilia (sexual arousal associated with urine), voyeurism. You see someone spying on you changing clothes and you hit them, they’ve committed a misdemeanor, you’ve committed a federal felony under this bill. It is so wrong.”
One supporter of the “hate crimes,” Rep. Alcee Hastings, D-Fla., confirmed during congressional discussion that very worry, saying: “This bill addresses our resolve to end violence based on prejudice and to guarantee that all Americans regardless of race, color, religion, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability or all of these ‘philias’ and fetishes and ‘isms’ that were put forward need not live in fear because of who they are.”
Sen. James Inhofe at the time noted Democrats also rejected an amendment stating, “No prosecution under this act may be based in whole or in part on religious beliefs quoted from the Bible, the Tanakh, or the Quran.”