A lawyer who gained a federal court victory for Christians who want to share their faith and beliefs at a PrideFest that celebrates the homosexual lifestyle in St. Louis says believers need to be active now – writing their members of Congress to express their concern over the proposed “hate crimes” legislation.
That legislation as adopted in the U.S. House conceivably could allow the prosecution of Christian pastors who preach the biblical condemnation of homosexuality and later are accused of contributing any “incentive” to any crime against a homosexual.
A report in the Washington Blade homosexual publication cited an unnamed source saying that the issue would be subject to a vote soon – as early as tomorrow – triggering a series of alerts among Christian activists.
“(The) hate bill amendment will be passed unless the Senate is immediately flooded with protest calls! Call your senators as well as all members of the U.S. Senate,” pleaded Rev. Ted Pike of Truthtellers.
The plan already is being targeted by a letter campaign assembled by Janet Porter, a WND columnist and head of the Faith2Action Christian ministry. In it, constituents can send 100 overnight letters via Fed Ex to all 100 U.S. senators in protest of “The Pedophile Protection Act” for only $10.95
“Christian groups shouldn’t be prohibited from expressing their beliefs at public locations,” said attorney Rick Nelson, who is allied with the Alliance Defense Fund.
He said of the recent decision involving the St. Louis case, “We are pleased with the court’s decision to lift an unconstitutional ban on expression in these areas … allowing members of Apple of His eye to peacefully exercise their First Amendment right to free speech at the PrideFest event.”
But he said while the specifics of the federal “hate crimes” plan aren’t final until – and if – it becomes law, the threat remains significant.
“Right now it’s like ‘Let’s silence and move the Christians away from these events,'” he told WND. “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 proposal was approved 249-175 in the U.S. House and now is pending in the Senate committee as S. 909. It is dubbed the “Pedophile Protection Act” by opponents who cited the efforts of U.S. House, Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, to add an amendment, “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.
The specific issue of censoring Christians at homosexual festivals around the country has been ongoing for several years – dating back at least as far as the case of the Philadelphia 11, where Christians were arrested and held in jail for trying to talk about their faith at a homosexual event.
In Florida, several cities holding festivals set up fenced areas as “free speech zones” for Christians, keeping them away from the event itself.
In Nelson’s most recent case, a victory for the Christians, a federal judge issued an order that permanently prohibits the city of St. Louis from banning a Christian ministry from distributing literature and speaking about Christianity at the city’s “PrideFest.”
It was in June 2006 when members of Apple of His Eye were threatened with arrest by St. Louis officials for handing out Christian literature and speaking about their faith at Tower Grove Park during the homosexual festival.
Nelson sued in 2008 and obtained a preliminary injunction that prevented prosecution of the Christians then. The newest order from U.S. District Judge Henry Autrey made that order permanent.
“Defendants (city officials) are enjoined from re-enacting any total ban on the distribution of any advertisement, circular or handbill in or adjoining any public park, place or square,” the judge ordered.
He also ordered the city to instruct its police in the proper handling of such disputes.
“Defendant, its officers agents, employees, representatives and all persons acting in concert, or participating with them, are hereby ordered to meet with the PrideFest organizers prior to the  event for the purpose of informing the organizers of the terms of this Order, and to instruct said organizers that Plaintiffs’ distribution of religious literature and/or expression of religious beliefs in said Park, in and of themselves, do not constitute a basis for law enforcement authorities to take actions that would restrict Plaintiffs’ activities,” the judge said.
In his decision granting the preliminary injunction, the judge found, “While there may be attendees at PrideFest 2008 who may also object to Plaintiffs’ distribution of religious literature or expression of religious views, their ‘injury,’ namely, the suffering of viewpoints with which they may disagree, is outweighed by the restriction of Plaintiffs’ First Amendment right to express those views in a public forum.”
Nelson told WND that the ruling in the St. Louis case is not a precedent, because local rules and regulations vary widely regarding such disputes.
But the ADF said the order will protect efforts by members of the Christian ministry to distribute literature at future events and situations in St. Louis.
Nelson confirmed he and other attorneys who fight such battles are “tracking” the Washington legislation closely.
“Everyone should be very cognizant,” he said. “People should be writing their senators with great emphasis upon making sure they understand that this is yet another example of curtailing speech … really based on nothing more than people’s dislike of the message.”
WND had reported several months earlier on a dispute in Elmira, N.Y., that developed when police threatened to arrest three Christians if they did not remove a shirt and stop sharing biblical messages during a “gay” pride event at a public park.
John Barnes wore a shirt with the message “Liberated from sin by the blood of Jesus” to the Southern Tier Pride 2008 at Wisner Park – a June 14, 2008, event promoted as a celebration of homosexual, bisexual and transgender lifestyles.
According to the complaint filed in a U.S. district court, Elmira police Capt. Michael Marrone ordered Barnes to remove his shirt to prevent a “negative atmosphere” at the event and arouse discomfort in other attendees.
Barnes obeyed the officer and took off his shirt so he could remain at the park without facing arrest.
Another Christian, Julian Raven, carried a Christian newsletter to the event called the Elmira Protestor. Marrone threatened to arrest Raven if he distributed the letter, saying it contained obscene or illegal material, according to the complaint. Raven complied with the order.
Capt. James Wandell and Sgt. Sharon Moyer threatened a third Christian, James DeFerio, with arrest for holding a sign on a public sidewalk adjacent to the park. The sign read: “Thousands of ex-homosexuals have experienced the life-changing love of Jesus Christ” and listed websites for more information about ministry to ex-“gays.”
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.”
In fact, one supporter of the “hate crimes,” Rep. Alcee Hastings, D-Fla., confirmed 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 ‘ism’s’ that were put forward need not live in fear because of who they are.”
So far, several senators have expressed doubt about the proposal. Sen. James Inhofe said, “I am opposed to any sort of violent offense and believe that a crime motivated by prejudice or hate is particularly reprehensible. However, I think that the provisions in H.R. 1913 and S.909 are unnecessary and constitutionally questionable.”
He expressed alarm that Democrats working for a “hate crimes” plan voted against an amendment that stated, “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.”
“Many are concerned that should this legislation pass, it will have a ‘chilling effect’ on speech based on religious beliefs,” he said.
Sources working with senators opposing the legislation say the Fed Ex letter-writing campaign has shaken up the dynamics of the debate.
“This bill was supposed to sail through the Senate, but it suddenly has become much more controversial as a result of all these letters,” one source said.
Gohmert and King said the only chance to defeat the legislation was for a massive outpouring of opposition from the American people.
“If you guys don’t raise enough stink there’s no chance of stopping it,” Gohmert said on a radio program with Porter. “It’s entirely in the hands of your listeners and people across the country. If you guys put up a strong enough fight, that will give backbone enough to the 41 or 42 in the Senate to say we don’t want to have our names on that.”
An analysis by Shawn D. Akers, policy analyst with Liberty Counsel said the proposal, formally known as H.R. 1913, the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act bill in the House and S. 909 in the Senate, would create new federal penalties against those whose “victims” were chosen based on an “actual or perceived … sexual orientation, gender identity.”
Gohmert warned Porter during her radio program interview that even her introduction of him, and references to the different sexual orientations, could be restricted if the plan becomes law.
“You can’t talk like that once this becomes law,” he said.
He said the foundational problem with the bill is that it is based on lies: It assumes there’s an epidemic of crimes in the United States – especially actions that cross state lines – that is targeting those alternative sexual lifestyles.
“When you base a law on lies, you’re going to have a bad law,” he said. “This ‘Pedophilia Protection Act,’ a ‘hate crimes’ bill, is based on the representation that there’s a epidemic of crimes based on bias and prejudice. It turns out there are fewer crimes now than there were 10 years ago.”
He said he fought in committee and in the House to correct some of the failings, including his repeated requests for definitions in the bill for terms such as “sexual orientation.”
Obama, supported strongly during his campaign by homosexual advocates, appears ready to respond to their desires.
“I urge members on both sides of the aisle to act on this important civil rights issue by passing this legislation to protect all of our citizens from violent acts of intolerance,” he said.
But Gohmert pointed out that if an exhibitionist flashes a woman, and she responds by slapping him with her purse, he has probably committed a misdemeanor while she has committed a federal felony hate crime.
“That’s how ludicrous this situation is,” Gohmert said.