U.S. hate crime bills: Conservative fears & concerns
3. "Gives special privileges;"
4: Limits hate speech; 5: Not needed.
Fears based on:
1. prosecuting hate speech and
2. the definition of sexual orientation
are covered in a separate essay
Additional concerns by religious and social conservatives:
Conservatives often refer to the bill as giving special protection to gays
and lesbians. They often ignore the fact that the proposed law would protect persons of
all sexual orientations equally: i.e. heterosexuals, bisexuals and
Of course, a hate crime law that includes sexual orientation as a protected
class would most commonly be applied to assault cases on homosexuals. That is because,
according to FBI statistics: a homosexual is almost 1,000 times more likely to be a victim of
homophobic violence than a heterosexual is likely to be a victim of heterophobic violence.
The FBI statistics collected the following hate crime
data in 2005:
|Sexual orientation of victim
||Number of Violent Incidents
||Number of adults in the U.S. with that
||Violent Incidents per million persons
The root cause of conservative opposition to including sexual orientation as a
class appears to be that such protection would provide a major step towards the
cultural acceptance of homosexuality and bisexuality as normal and natural
sexual orientations for a minority of adults.
From various forums and news sources that we have monitored, they seem to have succeeded in
convincing religious and social conservatives that a main goal of this
bill is the protection of homosexuals. They minimize or ignore the fact that the proposed law would also protect
heterosexual and bisexual men
and women from hate crimes. Further, they would protect people from violence motivated by hatred of their gender,
gender identity, and
degree of disability. Thus, each American would be protected from eight
different bias crimes: the original set of four characteristics covered by the
original 1969 hate crime bill, and these four new characteristics.
We subscribe to many newsletters sponsored by conservative religious and
agencies. Before the vote on the 2007 version of the bill in the House,
we could only find one that mentioned that the bill would
also protect men and women on
the basis of their gender, as well as disabled people, heterosexuals, bisexuals,
etc. The main emphasis seems
to be on homosexuals and occasionally on transsexuals.
During debate of the 2009 bill, there was slightly more emphasis on the
inclusion of gender, gender identity, and disability. However, the main emphasis
was still on the protection of homosexuals.
Concern #4: The law could directly limit hate speech.
Conservative groups often suggest that pastors could no longer read any of the six anti-gay
"clobber passages" from the Bible without risking immediate criminal charges
under this law. No actual violence would be required, either by the pastor or
a member of her/his congregation. ... just hate speech.
This appears to be a groundless fear. The hate crimes bill only
applies when an individual is charged with a crime of violence. As the
bill states, this involves a person who "willfully causes
bodily injury to any person or, through the use of fire, a firearm, or an
explosive or incendiary device, attempts to cause bodily injury to any
person ..." 1. Also, it
only applies to the perpetrator. It does
not apply to someone who merely gave a
speech that may have inflamed the perpetrator.
The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution states:
"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or
prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the
press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government
for a redress of grievances."
This guarantees the right of every American, whether a clergyperson, or a
member of the laity, or a person unaffiliated with any faith group to express hatred -- and even
advocate genocide -- against any person or group of people with impunity. It is
this Amendment that has protected:
||Rev. Fred Phelps and his
www.godhatesfags.com web site.
||A well-known fundamentalist teleminister who advocated the execution of
Wiccans and other Neopagans by stoning.
||A Baptist minister in Texas who advocated that the U.S. Army
exterminate Wiccans with the use of napalm.
||Merrill Keiser, Jr., a Democratic candidate for the U.S. Senate in 2006, who
was reported as having advocated making homosexual behavior a felony, punishable
To our knowledge, none of these have been prosecuted for hate speech. 4
Religious and social conservatives have often attempted to
link hate crime bills with Canadian and Swedish laws restricting
hate speech. They ignore the fact that Swedish and Canadian Christians who have been
charged with homophobic hatred and bigotry crimes were not charged under
hate-crime legislation. They ran afoul of their
country's hate-speech laws.
||The hate propaganda" section of
the Criminal Code of Canada (Section 319) severely limits hate-speech directed at heterosexuals,
bisexuals, gays, and lesbians. However, it contains an exclusion clause that
prevents the law from being applied if the hate speech was motivated by
religious belief. It is only when someone advocates genocide in a religious
setting that a prosecution can be made.
||Sweden severely limits hate-speech which verbally attacks persons
on the basis of their sexual orientation. Their law applies in both religious
and secular settings.
Neither example applies to the
U.S. The First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution
protects hate speech. Any hate speech law would be immediately challenged in
court and found unconstitutional.
Concern #5: The bill is not needed.
Rev. Lou Sheldon, of the
fundamentalist Christian Traditional Values Coalition wrote:
"States already have the resources to
deal with crimes of bodily harm or assault, etc. There are no cases of
bodily injury that the states have not been able to investigate and
They overlook the main rationale behind the bill: that hate crimes are
very different from other assaults and attempted murders. They are generally
perpetrated by strangers with the intent of terrorizing not just one victim but
an entire community that shares one factor in common with the immediate victim: e.g. all women or a sexual, racial,
or religious group.
Religious and social conservatives often point to the FBI statistics like those shown
above. They indicate that there fewer than 1,000 instances of hate crimes
motivated by sexual orientation per year in an adult population of over 200
million. The overlook the fact that gay bashing is a vastly under-reported
crime. Surveys of gay and lesbian adults
have shown that about 5 million (circa 40%) have been the victims of gay bashing.
Not included in that data are the number of heterosexual persons who were
assaulted because they were perceived as gay.
The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above
essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.
"Hate Crime Statistice 2005," FBI, 2006-OCT, at:
||Based on the FBI hate crime report for 2005, and a adult population
of 217.8 million.
||It is based on the assumption that 92% of U.S. adults are heterosexual,
5% are homosexual and 3% are bisexual. Some religious and social
conservatives believe that the percentage of homosexuals is much lower; many
do not fully recognize the existence of bisexuals. Some gay-positive groups believe that the
percentage is much higher.
||We assume that all victims were adults -- 18 years or older.
"H.R. 1582," text, at: http://thomas.loc.gov/
"US Senate Candidate Wants Death Penalty for Homosexuals," WTOL-TV Toledo,
- Rev. Lou Sheldon, "The so-called Hate Crimes bill is very dangerous to your
rights ..." Traditional Values Coalition
Copyright © 2007 to 2009 by Ontario Consultants on Religious
First posted: 2007-APR-18
Latest update: 2009-JUL-25
Author: B.A. Robinson
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