A Christian-inspired media group is being targeted with a fine of about $125,000 for its broadcast of television ads that promote the traditional family by using video footage of homosexual “pride” events and asking “Proud … of what?”
According to a detailed documentation of the case by the European Center for Law and Justice, an affiliate of the U.S.-based American Center for Law and Justice, the fine targets the multimedia communication group Intereconomia, which among other things owns ALBA – a Christian-inspired weekly publication in Spain.
The fine of 100,000 euros was announced recently by Spain’s Ministry of Industry, the government agency “responsible for regulating telecommunications and audiovisual media,” not too dissimilar from the U.S. Federal Communications Commission, which adopted a new federal “hate crimes” law regulating such speech only months ago.
According to the ECLJ report, Intereconomia said the democratic nation of Spain should not have a “thought police” and contended the fine violated the fundamental democratic principle of the right of expression.
The accusation against the media company charged that the ads included material that was “likely to produce the effect of inciting, spreading or promoting hatred or other forms of discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons” – otherwise known as “hate speech.”
But the ECLJ noted the decision violates case law already issued by the European Court of Human Rights, and the Spanish government’s prosecution “goes directly against international standards protecting freedom of expression and freedom of thought, conscience and religion.”
The ad, which aired about 270 times over the course of the pro-family campaign, showed “only actual footage” of homosexuals marching and dancing in various parades.
“Is this the type of society you want?” the ad asked. “Are these the examples you want for your children?”
The ad also suggested that if there is a “Gay Pride Day,” the other 364 days of the year should be recognized as days of pride for heterosexuals.
“As the European Court of Human Rights stated several times, freedom of expression is an essential foundation of democratic society,” the ECLJ report said. “Freedom of expression is not only a guarantee against the state but also a fundamental principle for life in democracy. Freedom of expression applies not only to information and ideas that are favorably received or regarded as inoffensive or indifferent, but also to expression that may offend, shock or disturb the state or any sector of the population.”
European precedents have concluded only a “pressing social need” may justify a limitation to freedom of speech.
But, as a Catholic media organization, Intereconomía “has not only the right of freedom of expression, but also the right of religious freedom under Article 9 of the Convention,” the organization explained.
“In its duty to promote pluralism and tolerance and to respect the standards of a democratic society, the Spanish government should acknowledge the importance of religious speech and practice of faith. Under European law, it has never been a crime to merely express religious belief, nor should it ever be,” the law organization said.
Such cases cracking down on speech produce a “chilling” effect on democracy: They discourage the press from “participating in the very public debate over the morality of homosexuality,” the report said. “The public must be permitted to view reports and advertisements on the issue so they can make a value judgment for themselves, rather than having the government impose its view on Spain’s citizens by censoring Intereconomía’s right of freedom of expression to impart its religious beliefs.”
In the U.S., the issue has been raised regarding the newly adopted “hate crimes” plan pushed through by Democrats in Congress and used as a rallying point by President Obama.
U.S. Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa
U.S. Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, has called the U.S. new law “unconstitutional” and said it “marks an unprecedented move to regulate and criminalize our thoughts.”
His comments came in a letter to those who have raised a legal challenge to the restrictions.
Gary Glenn, president of the American Family Association of Michigan, joined Pastors Levon Yuille, Rene Ouellette and James Combs in a lawsuit against the government with the help of the Thomas More Law Center in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan.
The complaint contends that the “hate crimes” law violates the plaintiffs’ civil rights, since it opens Christians to being the target of federal investigations, grand juries and even charges for opposing or publicly criticizing the homosexual lifestyle and “gay” activism.
“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 explained.
The plaintiffs in the lawsuit 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.
“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.
“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. 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.”
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”.
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 verbal assurances it would not be used to crack down on speech.
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.
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,” Gary Cass of the Christian Anti-Defamation Coalition 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.