A rally is being planned in Washington to raise the alarm over the nation's new "hate crimes" law and to force Attorney General Eric Holder to confront the unconstitutionality of the measure's "thought" penalties, according to a Christian leader working on the event.
Gary Cass of the Christian Anti-Defamation Commission told WND there are a series of approaches being considered to challenge the restrictions on expression of religion and speech contained in the law signed last week by President Obama.
At the rally, set for 1:30 p.m. on Nov. 16, ministers will preach from the Bible on the prohibition against homosexuality, then will present a letter to Holder demanding that the religious liberty of all Americans be respected.
Specific legal challenges to the restrictions of the "hate crimes" plan also may be announced then, Cass said.
The "Rally for Religious Freedom" in front of the Department of Justice in Washington is intended to force Holder either to address the issues or be put in a position of ignoring those who say they are violating the provisions of the federal law, Cass said. A website under ReligiousFreeSpeechRally.com is under construction at this point but soon will have details.
"We're basically going to defy the law, and challenge it," Cass told WND. "We're going to declare the whole counsel of God, including those parts that some may consider 'inciting a hate crime' to see if the attorney general is going to come down and arrest a group of peaceful clergy exercising their First Amendment rights."
The law, long sought by homosexual activists who claim they are targeted by so-called "hate crimes," was signed last week by Obama, who then followed with a White House celebration of the event.
Cass said the practical application of such laws already has been seen in several other countries, including the United Kingdom, where just in recent days the Christian Institute highlighted reports of a senior citizen being 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," Cass 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.
"In other nations, like Canada, where hate crime laws have been enacted, it is Christians, specifically conservative Christians who hold to the historic Christian faith and its values, that become the object of institutionalized, governmental hate," he said. "Christians who dare to tell the truth about the social, moral, spiritual and health consequences of illicit homosexual acts are accused of hate speech and intimidated into silence with threats of fines or jail."
He said the maneuver of attaching the law to a defense authorization plan "reveals the depth of President Obama's commitment to a radical, anti-Christian agenda."
"He will stop at nothing to undermine the will of the majority of Americans to pay back militant homosexual activists who raised millions of dollars for his campaign and worked to get him elected," he said.
The British grandmother's case was reported by the Daily Mail of London.
Christian Pauline Howe wrote to her local council to complain of the pro-homosexual event. In return, she got a letter warning her of her possible guilt of a hate crime and an advisory her behavior and thoughts had been reported to police.
The results "stunned" her, she reported.
"The officers told me that my letter was thought to be an intention of hate, but I was expressing views as a Christian," she told the paper.
Another case addressed by the Christian Institute involves Ben and Sharon Vogelenzang, who run a hotel in Liverpool and were arrested and charged when a Muslim woman complained she was offended by their Christianity.
A criminal trial is scheduled in December on accusations of a "religiously aggravated" public order offense, according to reports.
Yet another situation involves a Christian man intimidated by police for handing out Christian literature:
The bill signed by Obama had been opposed by the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, which called it a "menace" to civil liberties. That was because the law allows federal authorities to bring charges against individuals even if they've already been cleared in a state court.
A supporter of the hate crimes plan was quoted saying, "The federal hate crimes bill serves as a vital safety valve in case a state hate-crimes prosecution fails."
Holder himself has suggested the law can be used to prosecute cases in which state prosecutors don't file charges because of a lack of evidence.
The Alliance Defense Fund earlier issued an analysis calling the proposal a "grave threat" to the First Amendment.
Senior Legal Counsel Erik Stanley explained it "provides special penalties based on what people think, feel, or believe.
"ADF has clearly seen the evidence of where 'hate crimes' legislation leads when it has been tried around the world: It paves the way for the criminalization of speech that is not deemed 'politically correct,'" Stanley explained. "'Hate crimes' laws fly in the face of the underlying purpose of the First Amendment, which was designed specifically to protect unpopular speech."
The ADF analysis said, "The emotion of hate is an unfortunate reality of the human experience. But it is not a crime unless accompanied by a criminal action – and even then it is the action that is within the police power of the government, not the emotion. The reality is that 'hate' crime laws are designed to punish people for what they think, feel, or believe. The crime itself that is committed is already punished under various federal and state criminal laws. The only thing added … is punishment for what a person thinks, feels, or believes. That intent is diametrically opposed to the U.S. Supreme Court."
The organization cited cases on which it has worked already within the U.S.:
- A small photography company in New Mexico was fined by that state's human rights commission for refusing to photograph a civil union 'commitment ceremony.' The fine was imposed even though civil unions are not legal in New Mexico and photographing such a ceremony was in direct opposition to the photographer’s sincere religious beliefs.
- In New Jersey, the Ocean Grove Camp Meeting Association recently sued the New Jersey Division on Civil Rights for threatening to prosecute the association. The association's "crime" was to abide by its religious beliefs not to allow civil union ceremonies to be conducted on its private property.
"While we do not advocate crime and violence, the real issue behind the 'hate' crimes law is its punishment of thought and belief and the imposition of a political orthodoxy on people of faith," the analysis said.
"There is a legitimate concern that once Congress makes any 'hate' crime a federal offense, the categories of crime will expand to include speech that causes someone to 'feel' intimidated, just as they have in other places such as Australia, Canada, and Sweden," it continued.
"It is likely that a great deal of evidence of a defendant's statements, associations, and support of organizations could be presented to a jury in connection with a prosecution under the proposed federal hate crime statute. This is a legitimate concern for churches and organizations that hold a sincere (peaceful) religious belief against homosexual behavior," the group said.
But the federal law goes even further, prohibiting crimes against "even 'perceived' sexual orientation" or "gender identity." The analysis said this provision would allow for evidence of a defendant's perception (i.e., what the defendant believed or thought) in a criminal prosecution. This is again an instance where belief or thought becomes an element of the prosecution under a 'hate' crimes law.
American Family Association President Tim Wildmon warned that the new law "creates a kind of caste system in law enforcement, where the perverse thing is that people who engage in non-normative sexual behavior will have more legal protection than heterosexuals. This kind of inequality before the law is simply un-American."
Wildmon said the legislation creates possible situations where pastors may be arrested if their sermons on sexuality can be linked in even the remotest way to acts of violence.
"It threatens free speech and freedom of religion and is totally unacceptable," he said.
As WND reported, Holder admitted a homosexual activist who is attacked following a Christian minister's sermon about homosexuality would be protected by the proposed federal law, but a minister attacked by a homosexual wouldn't be.
Brad Dacus, president of Pacific Justice Institute, testified before Congress against the hate crimes bill in 2007.
"It is fundamentally unjust for the government to treat some crime victims more favorably than others, just because they are homosexual or transsexual," Dacus said. "This bill is an unnecessary federal intrusion into state law enforcement authority, and it is an unwise step toward silencing religious and moral viewpoints."
He said the adoption of hate crimes legislation has led to widespread suppression of speech deemed politically incorrect. The Pacific Justice Institute noted that in California, hate crimes laws are commonly invoked as a basis for further laws pushing acceptance of homosexuality in public schools and the workplace. The group also warned that use of "hate speech" terminology is also now being employed by minority religious groups in America to encourage suppression of free speech, as a prominent Hindu group called on Congress and major Internet service providers to shut down websites critical of Hinduism, including websites of Christian mission organizations.
Liberty Counsel litigation counsel Matt Krause told WND, "It's a very sad day for America and for religious liberties in general."
He said the law will not deter crime or help the law-enforcement system.
"The only thing it will do is silence and scare Christians and religious organizations," Krause said. "It will penalize thoughts and actions, and it will not stop crime. It should be called the 'thought-crimes' bill."
He continued, "We encourage pastors and church leaders to keep doing what they're doing and preach the gospel. If they run into any barriers, they can contact us because we are ready and willing to defend them in any way we need to."