U.S. hate crime bills H.R. 1913 (2009)
Conservatives' concerns over free
speech surfaces during 2009-APR
Background on H.R. 1913:
In 2009-APR, H.R. 1913 1 was considered by the House Judiciary Committee
and later by the entire House. Many conservative
Christian media issued warnings that the bill could criminalize speech about
the Bible and homosexuality. They raised the image of pastors being charged
under the act after simply reading biblical passages during their sermons.
This concern was echoed by many conservative Christian
parachurch groups and appears to have been
accepted as "gospel truth" by the vast majority of fundamentalist and other
evangelical Christians in the U.S.
Conservative Christian media and parachurch organizations that have joined
the chorus of concern over H.R. 1913 are running a high risk to their
credibility. A "cry wolf" situation may occur. If the bill passes into law and
no conservatives are arrested for speech attacking homosexuals, the conservative
Christian community may become skeptical to the next alarm that is raised.
Interpretation of conservatives' free speech concerns:
People for the American Way (PFAW), a liberal advocacy group, suggests
that this opposition to
the hate crimes bill is:
"... in large measure because they resist any legal recognition of
LGBT people (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual or Transgender persons). They know that most
Americans support hate-crimes legislation, anti-discrimination laws, and legal
protection for gay couples. So they create confusion by portraying these steps
toward equality as dire threats to religious liberty. This is part of a larger
political strategy by Religious Right leaders to advance their policy goals
and mobilize supporters with alarmist claims that Christians in America are on
the verge of being jailed for their religious beliefs."
"As we have noted before, there's a dangerously cynical motive at the core
of this strategy. It is easier to convince Americans to support
discrimination -- even to oppose laws designed to discourage violent hate
crimes -- if you have first convinced them that their gay neighbors want to
shut down their church and throw their pastor in jail for reading the Bible." 8
Other interpretations of conservatives' free speech concerns:
Rep. Steve Cohen, (D-TN), cited one of the Ten
Commandments on the floor of the House:
"People who submit that preachers could be arrested for preaching against
homosexuality, which they do today, that they could be arrested, there is a
commandment about that: 'Don't bear false witness'."
House Majority Whip James E. Clyburn
issued a memo explaining that the bill is aimed at criminal behavior, not
religious speech. He wrote:
"The bill will NOT limit religious expression. Some churches have stated that
with passage of this bill, ministers may be arrested for speech and words said
in the pulpits. This is false. This bill is about violent crime. It is not about
and does not prohibit thought, speech or expression protected by the First
The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above
essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.
- "Text of H.R. 1913: Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act of
2009," GovTrack.us, at:
- Jennifer Mesko, "U.S. House Creates Special Legal Status for Gay People,"
CitizenLink, 2009-APR-29, at:
- "Hate Crimes Bill HR 1913 primed for house debate," Theodore's World,
- Tony Perkins, "Why Congress Should Reject Federal 'Hate Crimes' Bill,"
Family Research Council, 2009-APR-22, at:
- "Democrats Choose to Protect Only Homosexuals, Leave Pregnant Women, the
Elderly, and Veterans Out in the Cold," Concerned Women for America,
- Kathleen Gilbert, "Obama Urges House of Representatives to Pass Sexual
Orientation 'Hate Crimes' Bill," LifeSiteNews, 2009-APR-29, at:
- "Wisconsin v. Mitchell," 508 U.S. 476 (1993).
- "Right Sounds False Alarm On Hate Crimes Legislation," People for the
American Way, at:
Copyright © 2009 by Ontario Consultants on Religious
First posted: 2009-MAY-01
Latest update: 2009-SEP-04
Author: B.A. Robinson