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U.S. hate crime bills/laws

Senate hate-crimes bill S. 1105: (2007):
Support and opposition by religious groups

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Quotation:

bullet"Senate Bill 1105: Unnecessary, unconstitutional, ungodly" Sign at a Capitol rally on 2007-JUL-11. 1

Review of proposed federal hate crimes legislation:

The existing federal hate crimes act of 1968 is limited to a narrow range of crimes and to only those hate crimes motivated by race, color, religion, or national origin. Two bills proposed in 2007 (House bill H.R. 1592 and Senate bill S. 1105) would have expand hate-crimes coverage to include physically violent crimes in which the perpetrator was motivated by hatred of the victim's sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, or disability.

The bills did not proceed, but were reintroduced in 2009.

Criticism of and support for the bill:

By mid-2007, there were few comments on the Senate version of the hate-crimes bill from activist organizations. However, religious and social conservatives and liberals have been vociferous in their commentaries on the near-identical companion bill in the House: H.R. 1592.

Their concern quickly switched to the Senate version of the hate crime bill after the very similar version passed in the House.

bulletTypical of mainline and liberal religious groups, the Interfaith Alliance, a group of over 30 religious organizations, strongly supported the hate-crimes bill.
Their president, Rev. Dr. C. Welton Gaddy, said in a statement:

"This bill helps law enforcement protect vulnerable groups from hate-motivated violence, a goal that appeals to the moral foundations of all faith traditions."

They released an open letter on 2007-JUL-11 signed by 1,385 clergypersons representing over 75 different faith traditions.

bulletHowever, essentially all fundamentalist and other evangelical Christian groups were strongly opposed to the bill. Religious conservatives appeared to be treating the bill as a hate speech bill rather than a hate crime bill.

At a rally in front of the Capitol building religious conservatives gathered to express concern about the bill which they believe will endanger the rights of Christians to speak about what they consider the sin of homosexuality. A long yellow banner facing the Capitol read "Homosexuality is a Sin."
 
bulletDr. Johnny M. Hunter, national director of Life Education and Resource Network (LEARN) said that:

"This hate crime legislation is hatred and intolerance aimed at ministers and good Christian folks who dare to call sin 'sin'. ... Pastors not only have a right, but they have an obligation to state emphatically, that according to Scripture, a man or a woman should not perform a sex act with a person of the same sex. 1

He expressed concern that the proposed bill would be only be applied to homosexuals. He asked:

"If a lesbian kills another lesbian, would she be charged with a hate crime? If a man kills the man he calls his partner, would he be charged with a hate crime?. If not, then that law would be discriminatory because it would only apply to heterosexuals."

He appears to believe that the hate crime bill has some sort of exclusion clause that allows gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transsexuals to physically attack and kill people without triggering the bill. In reality, the bill considers the sexual orientation of the perpetrator of a violent crime to be immaterial. If a victim is physically attacked, shot or killed because of the victim's sexual orientation, then the bill would be applicable, whether the perpetrator is heterosexual, homosexual, bisexual, transsexual or cisgendered. 1

bulletRev. Jesse Lee Peterson, founder and president of Brotherhood Organization of a New Destiny (BOND) also spoke against the bill.
 
bulletU.S. Navy chaplain Lt. Gordon James Klingenschmitt said:

"We are calling upon the United States Congress to rescind [the bill] and asking President Bush to veto this hate crimes speech law because it will directly come after our pastors."

bulletThe Christian Post news service published a series of articles on the bill titled:
bulletFaith-Based Leaders Denounce House Approval of Hate Crimes Bill.
bulletHate Crimes Bills: Threat to the Pulpit.
bulletHate Crimes, Thought Police, and Religious Freedom.
bulletNational 'Hate Crimes' Petition Day to Flood Capitol with Protest.
bulletChristian, Pro-Family Groups Stand Up Against 'Criminalizing' Right to Speak Truth. 1

bulletLifeSiteNews, a group that "... emphasizes the social worth of traditional Judeo-Christian principles" 2 stated:
bulletRather than prosecute all crimes equally as motivated by “hate”, H.R. 1592 would grant the federal government sweeping and entirely subjective authority to regulate the thoughts, words and actions of American citizens who could be accused of “hate crimes” by opposing the lifestyle of a special class of citizens. 3

We are at a loss to understand their position. It is obvious after reading the bill that its provisions would only come into effect only after a violent crime has been committed. Thus, a pastor who delivered an anti-gay sermon and then picked up a baseball bat and hit a gay or lesbian member of the congregation with it could conceivably be charged with a hate crime. But simply preaching hatred of sexual minorities is a basic right guaranteed by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

The degree of misinformation and disinformation directed against these hate crimes bills is unprecedented in our experience. We have monitored the progress of hundreds of bills through federal, state, and (Canadian) provincial legislatures since the startup of this web site in 1995. But we have never seen a bill that has been attacked with such intensity and lack of concern for accuracy.

References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. "Michelle Vu, "Hate Crimes Bill Opponents Protest for Right to Preach on Biblical Sin," Christian Post, 2007-JUL-12, at: http://www.christianpost.com/
  2. "About LifeSiteNews.com," Life Site News, at: http://www.lifesitenews.com/
  3. Peter Smith, "Democrats Refuse Religious Freedom Amendment to Hate Crimes Bill," LifeSiteNews. 2007-APR-26, at: http://www.lifesitenews.com/

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Copyright © 2007 to 2009 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
First posted: 2007-MAY-04
Latest update: 2009-JUN-28
Author: B.A. Robinson

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