A federal “hate crimes” plan to criminalize speech or thoughts critical of homosexuality – dropped from Congress’ agenda earlier because of a veto threat from President Bush – may be resurrected before the election, according to an opponent of such advocacy laws.
“Here’s ultimately what we expect,” Mathew Staver, founder of Liberty Counsel and dean of the Liberty University School of Law, told WND today. “The hate crimes plan is to be offered as an amendment to the Fiscal Year 2009 Department of Defense reauthorization bill. That’s what the word is, that it’s going to be offered as an amendment.”
Pro-homosexual advocates long have sought such a law but opponents fear it would be used to crack down on those who maintain a biblical perspective that condemns homosexuality as sin. Observers note that it would criminalize speech and thought, since other criminal actions already are addressed with current statutes.
Canada already has an aggressive “hate crimes” law, and there authorities there have gone so far as to tell a Christian pastor he must recant his faith because of the legislation that bans statements that can be “perceived” as condemning another person.
Some states already have similar statutes, too, and in New Mexico, a photography company run by two Christians was fined $6,600 by the state for declining to provide services to a lesbian couple setting up a lookalike “marriage” ceremony. Also, Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter recently signed a bill into law that opponents describe as draconian, with one analyst expressing the opinion that it actually could be read as outlawing publication of the Bible in the state because of its injunctions against homosexuality.
Staver said his Washington sources said the defense bill was planned for a vote this week only hours after Congress was scheduled to reconvene, but the work was delayed and the apparent schedule for the vote now is Monday.
Given an affirmative cloture vote in the Senate, the bill then could be on the floor for a formal approval within as little as 24-48 hours.
Staver said the proposal had been made to include the “hate crimes” legislation in the Fiscal Year 2008 appropriations, but the spending bill was passed last winter without the amendment because of Bush’s veto threat.
The House already had passed the proposal as a stand-alone bill and had it a significant amount of support in the Senate, but its support base started fracturing there when Bush said it was unneeded and promise a veto, Staver said.
Bush has gone on record specifically noting the “hate crimes” legislation would create special privileges for those who identify themselves with an alternative sexual lifestyle.
Staver said since criminal acts already are addressed with existing law, the only impact of “hate crimes” legislation would be to criminalize free speech and religious speech and a person’s thoughts. For example, an assailant convicted of attacking a heterosexual might get six months in jail. Under a “hate crimes” plan, if the victim reported being homosexual, the sentence might be enhanced significantly, analysts said.
Those who are concerned now should contact their members in the U.S. Senate to express their concerns, he said.
Bush also used the threat of a veto to head off another pro-homosexual congressional plan, called the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, that would have granted special employment privileges to homosexual individuals.
Bush’s advisory then also cited the plan as being “inconsistent with the right to the free exercise of religion.”
According to Rev. Ted Pike, who also has battled “hate crimes” plans, Staver’s concern “is justified.”
“According to the August 22nd Washington Blade, ‘Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass), a lead sponsor of the bill in the House, has called on the Senate to pass the measure this year as a freestanding bill…’ Frank, a homosexual, is as much a bellwether of pro-homosexual legislative trends in the House, as is Sen. Edward Kennedy in the Senate,” Pike reported.
“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 [the “hate crimes” plan] were presented to the president, his senior advisers would recommend that he veto the bill,” the White House said during the earlier discussion.
The statement said state and local criminal laws already provide penalties for the violence addressed by the new federal crime defined in the bill.
“State and local law enforcement agencies and courts have the capability to enforce those penalties and are doing so effectively. There has been no persuasive demonstration of any need to federalize such a potentially large range of violent crime enforcement…” the statement said.
It said the administration believes all violent crimes are unacceptable, regardless of the victims, and should be punished “firmly.”
Former White House insider Chuck Colson, in his Breakpoint commentary, at one point decried what he described as a “Thought Crimes” plan.
“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.
In Philadelphia, a grandmother was hauled to jail and threatened with 47 years in prison for proclaiming her Christianity on a public street, Repent America has reported.
The woman, Arlene Elshinnawy, 75, and grandmother of three, was holding a sign: “Truth is hate to those who hate the truth,” before she was hauled off by police officers.