The American Family Association is taking Snopes, the noted urban legend debunking resource, to task for its conclusion about the “hate crimes” legislation pending in the U.S. Senate.

The AFA, which stands for traditional family values, issued an “Action Alert” to its constituents recently, warning the pending legislation could lead to a censorship of biblical perspectives on homosexuality.

Snopes then labeled the alert “false,” denying any portion of the law could be applied to thought or speech.

“The text of the bill [S.1105 and H.R. 1592] specifically addresses ‘willfully caus[ing] bodily injury to any person’ (as well as attempts to cause bodily injury to any person) because of ‘actual or perceived … gender sexual orientation [or] gender identity,'” Snopes concluded. “The bill does not ‘criminalize negative comments concerning homosexuality,’ nor would it make ‘calling the practice of homosexuality a sin from the pulpit a ‘hate crime’.’ The bill has nothing to do with the issue of speech…”

The AFA, founded by Donald Wildmon, however,
did not let the conclusion remain unchallenged.

“American Family Association became concerned about the imminent threat to free speech during the Judiciary Committee hearings about H.R. 1592,” the organization responded.

So during hearings, a sponsor of the proposal was asked: “If a minister preaches that sexual relations outside of marriage of a man and woman is wrong, and somebody within that congregation goes out and does an act of violence, and that person says that that minister counseled or induced him through the sermon to commit the act, are you saying under your amendment that in no way could that ever be introduced against the minister?”

The answer was “No.”

“In other words, it could be introduced in court against the minister,” the AFA confirmed.

“Obviously, we have many concerns with a bill like this – including the fact that it is constitutionally suspect, unfair, dangerous, indefinable, unnecessary and un-American,” said the AFA. “Laws in civilized nations have always been designed to punish conduct, not thought. The ‘hate crimes’ bill is not designed to aid in crime fighting. Wrong thoughts are the sole aim of this dangerous legislation.”

The Alliance Defense Fund, a leading advocate for freedom of speech in the U.S., analyzed the proposal and concluded “it is entirely constitutional for a person’s speech to be used to prove a crime was committed.”

“And one’s speech (including reading materials, websites visited, sermons heard and preached) is particularly relevant when a component of the crime itself is politically incorrect motive,” the analysis said. “The chilling of speech that may result from such a regime is self-evident, whether the First Amendment is implicated or not.”

Snopes said it doesn’t “expect anyone to accept us as the ultimate authority on any topic, which is why our site’s name indicates that it contains reference pages … We show our work. The research materials we’ve used in the preparation of any particular page are listed in the bibliography displayed at the bottom of that page.”

The sources for the rejection of the AFA perspective included news articles from USA Today, the Washington Post and CNN.

The AFA alert had warned that “pastors and other Christians” could at some point “be subject to huge fines and prison terms if they say anything negative about homosexuality.”

“The proposed law could make it a crime to preach on Romans Chapter 1 or I Cor. Chapter 6. Or even to discuss them in a Sunday School class. If churches and individuals want to keep the government from telling them what they can and cannot preach and teach about homosexuality, they better get involved now!” the group said.

S. 1105, the Senate version of H.R. 1592, which already has been approved, could make negative statements about homosexuality “such as calling the practice of homosexuality a sin from the pulpit, a ‘hate crime’ punishable by law,” the alert said.

It cited a case being appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court now in which the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled the use of words like “natural family” and “marriage” could be considered “hate speech.”

And it cited reports from those same sources – CNN and the Washington Post – regarding the dismissal of Gen. Peter Pace, apparently over issues including his public expression of moral opposition to homosexual behavior.

The alert from AFA called for Americans to sign an Internet petition to Congress in opposition to the plan:

To members of Congress. I strongly urge you to vote against the “hate crimes” bill (H.R.1592 and S.1105).
I will not step aside and let a small group of homosexual activists take away my freedom of speech and freedom of religion.

“American Family Association remains steadfast in our claim that if this bill passes, we are confident that liberal judges will rush to make it a federal crime to publicly criticize the homosexual lifestyle,” AFA responded. “We remain adamantly opposed to this dangerous legislation that could lay the groundwork for persecution of Christians in America.

“But even more chilling is the fact that S. 1105 and H.R. 1592 pave the way to religious persecution – with ‘hate crimes’ laws inevitably leading to ‘hate speech’ laws targeted specifically at Christians and other faith groups who hold traditional beliefs on homosexuality.

“Can’t happen, you say?” continued the AFA response. “In Canada, one cannot legally criticize homosexuality in public. Because of a ‘hate crimes’ law that includes sexual orientation. Even the quoting of Scriptures that condemn homosexuality can be illegal.”

The AFA also noted in Sweden a pastor was sentenced to 30 days in jail for preaching a sermon in which he said homosexuality is wrong.

A wide range of other Christian organizations also have been working in opposition to the “hate crimes” plan.

Michael Marcavage of Repent America, Rev. Rusty Lee Thomas of Elijah Ministries and Rev. Jess Lee Peterson of BOND are rallying in Washington in opposition to the plan.

They are being joined by representatives of Minutemen United, Pass the Salt Ministries, America Asleep Know More, Restoring America and Life and Liberty Ministries.

“American values are under attack by al-Qaida and radical Islamists. Instead of combating this issue, it seems some within our government are more interested in criminalizing American citizens. The so-called ‘hate crimes’ bill is an attempt to take away the rights of Christians to speak out and express their freedom of speech,” said Peterson.

Thomas pointed out Thomas Jefferson wrote: “The legislative powers of government reach to actions only, not to opinions.”

Marcavage said Americans “must not remain silent as our liberty to freely speak the Word of God and the Gospel of Jesus Christ is being threatened by those who are framing mischief by a law.”

As WND has reported, President Bush has said he doesn’t think any such law is needed.

“The administration favors strong criminal penalties for violent crime, including crimes based on personal characteristics, such as race, color, religion, or national origin. However … if H.R. 1592 were presented to the president, his senior advisers would recommend that he veto the bill,” the White House said earlier.

Former White House insider Chuck Colson, in his Breakpoint commentary, called it a “Thought Crimes” plan.

“It’s called the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act. But this bill is not about hate. It’s not even about crime. It’s about outlawing peaceful speech – speech that asserts that homosexual behavior is morally wrong,” he said.

“Some say we need this law to prevent attacks on homosexuals. But we already have laws against assaults on people and property,” Colson continued. “Moreover, according to the FBI, crimes against homosexuals in the United States have dropped dramatically in recent years. In 2005, out of 863,000 cases of aggravated assault, just 177 cases were crimes of bias against homosexuals…”

He noted, as WND earlier reported, in other locations, such as England, Sweden, Canada and even Philadelphia, where similar laws have been approved, the “Thought Police” already have prosecuted Christians.

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‘Jail grandma’ hate speech debate begins

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‘Philadelphia 11’ told ‘gays’ limited speech

‘Philly 11’ win round against ‘gay’ group

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Previous commentary:

Conyers’ ‘Hate Grandma’ bill introduced in House

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