Christian organizations are warning constituents of a potential stealth attack on their faith in Congress with the launch of another “hate crimes” law, similar to a previous measure adopted with only minutes’ notice.
President Barack Obama
The earlier plan died when President George W. Bush threatened a veto, describing the idea as unneeded and probably unconstitutional.
But now Barack Obama’s White House website affirms his dedication to strengthening “federal hate crimes legislation” and expanding “hate crimes protection.”
“While this new bill has not yet been given a new name or bill number, it is more dangerous to our constitutional rights than the other hate crimes bills that are also still pending. All hate crimes legislation is a direct threat to our religious liberties. We must let Congress know we are watching!” said a statement today from Gary Cass at the Christian Anti-Defamation Commission.
Cass said the plan offers “one of the gravest threats to religious liberty and freedom of speech.”
“Even while national attention is focused in on the economy and Obama’s radical economic and foreign policy, the far left is at work undermining our First Amendment rights at home with hate crime legislation,” he warned. “In other countries where these types of laws have been implemented, pastors and Christians have been jailed and fined for their faithful adherence to the Scriptures.”
Cass said the expectation is that U.S. Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., will reintroduce the previous bill.
“This new hate crime bill is making its way to the Judiciary committee as soon as this Friday!” he said. “Now we are on the verge of passing federal hate crime laws that will be used to silence believers like in Canada, Europe and Australia. No more will your pastor be able to declare the truth about Islam or homosexuality because it will be considered a hate crime.”
Some are fighting back, including Rep. Louie Gohmert, R-Texas.
“A large part of this is that many people do not understand the Christian heart,” he said. “They just don’t like people who disagree with them. The true Christian heart can disagree with people, and still love them deeply,” he said.
But the law, Gohmert said, would allow prosecutors to “go after a minister … who says [sexual] relations outside of the marriage of a man and a woman are wrong.”
The congressman says if there is a crime, and the suspect says he was inspired by a minister, the preacher suddenly also would be a defendant in the crime.
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He emphasized that the scenario explained by Gohmert not only is possible but probable.
“How would it happen? A federal ‘hate crimes’ law prohibiting ‘bodily injury’ could be construed by
many law enforcement officials and judges to include words that inflict
emotional or psychological distress,” he said. “That means an ‘offended’ homosexual could accuse a religious broadcaster … a pastor … Sunday School teacher … or other individual of causing
emotional injury simply by expressing the biblical view that homosexual
behavior is morally wrong and unhealthy.
“That’s all it could take to trigger a wave of federal prosecutions and begin an
era of censorship like America has never seen!” he warned.
“Remember, all violent criminals should be prosecuted but we already have laws
for that,” he said.
Many states already have “hate crimes” legislation. A couple running a photography studio in New Mexico faced thousands of dollars in fines for their decision not to provide photography services to a pair of lesbians because of the Christian beliefs of the studio owners. In Pennsylvania, a 75-year-old grandmother was threatened with prison for advocating a biblical perspective of homosexuality.
Internationally, Christians in several nations have been penalized for stating a biblically based condemnation of homosexuality.
Former White House insider Chuck Colson, in his Breakpoint commentary, has called such proposals “Thought Crimes” plans.
“It’s about outlawing peaceful speech – speech that asserts that homosexual behavior is morally wrong,” he said.
Critics have said “hate crimes” laws actually criminalize thought because they demand enhanced penalties because of the “perception” of the victim by the perpetrator. A mugger, for example, who attacks a victim while screaming an epithet denoting a race or sexual preference could get a much more significant penalty than a mugger who attacks a victim but doesn’t say anything.
Matt Barber, chief of cultural affairs at Liberty Counsel, has spoken out repeatedly in opposition to the idea.
“The Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution guarantees equal protection under the law,” he said. “Hate crimes legislation is … [a] violation of the Fourteenth Amendment in that it elevates one class of citizen based upon their chosen sexual behaviors above other people.”
Coral Ridge Ministries, launched by the late D. James Kennedy, has published a book on the issue by John Aman, who says such laws put into doubt “the future of religious liberty and freedom of speech for Christians.”