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!!!!!!!! Search error!  If the URL ends something like .htm/  or .htm# delete the character(s) after .htm and hit return.

U.S. hate crime bills/laws - 2009

Deceptive, misleading and/or
negative reactions to the law

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Deceptive or misleading reaction to the bill:

We have noted many postings by social or religious conservatives that don't exactly lie, but that describe a topic in a misleading way -- often by presenting partial truths and not mentioning the full scope of the topic.

bulletThe Christian Post stated:

"Congress passed a bill Thursday evening that would make it a federal crime to attack someone based on the person's sexual orientation or gender identity." 4

While this is true, the bill also covers physical attacks based on a victim's gender or disability. In addition, they do not make it clear that it is only physical attacks that are covered by the legislation. Their article could be interpreted as protecting people from verbal attacks -- a position being promoted by many religious and social conservatives.

To their credit, they do mention later in the article the full list of protected groups. However, many readers would not read that far.
 

bulletThe Family Research Council wrote in their newsletter:

"Democrats like Sen. Michael Bennet (D-CO) fired back, arguing that 'we've seen a marked increase in hate crimes.' But the data doesn't support his claim. In 2007, there were 90,427 forcible rapes and 16,929 murders reported. Less than one-tenth of one percent of the national crime total for those offenses consisted of "hate crimes." This does not constitute a serious national problem or warrant federal interference. ... To use these statistics and claim that there's a hate crimes crisis is misleading. 7

The author of the newsletter neglected to mention any of the surveys which indicate that over 40% of lesbians, gays and bisexuals report having been physically assaulted because of their sexual orientation.

bulletOne News Now used the story title "Congress extends hate crime protections to homosexuals." The first paragraph stated:

"Attacks on people based on their sexual orientation will join the list of federal hate crimes in an expansion of the law Congress approved..." 3

Again, this is a true statement. However, the article implies that only gays and lesbians would benefit from the bill. In fact, all gays, lesbians, bisexuals, heterosexuals, women, men, intersexuals, cisgendered persons, transgender persons, transsexuals, black, white, brown, other colors and races, Asian, European, persons of other nationalities, persons of all religions and none, disabled persons, etc. will be covered.

In addition, their article is unclear whether verbal attacks are covered under the bill. They are not.
 

bulletCraig Parshall, chief counsel for National Religious Broadcasters (NRB) said that the protections for religious hate speech that were added to the bill are not sufficient. He said:

"Under the criminal law of incitement, if something is said in a broadcast that another person uses as a motivation to go out and commit an act of what they call 'bodily injury' in the statute, then a broadcaster could be held criminally liable.

He also said that an outspoken broadcaster could be held to be co-conspirator even if the physical assault was a mere jostling or shove. While this is true, other legal experts have said that it would also require the broadcaster and the perpetrator of the assault to have planned the event together in advance. That is what conspiracy is all about.

He is also concerned that the FCC could cancel licenses of stations that broadcast hate speech. He speculated that school children could be told that if your criticize other religions or say that Jesus is the only way to salvation or say that homosexual behavior is a sin, that this is hate speech.  He is concerned that the IRS might cancel the tax exempt status of Christian non-profit ministries if they are critical of homosexual behavior. In short, religious people would be disinclined to express hatred of sexual minorities. How tragic!

OneNewsNow writes:

"Parshall contends that an examination of the motive behind the hate crimes law reveals it is not about hate -- and will have no effect on stopping crime, because that is already outlawed in all 50 states. In his opinion, it is designed to shut up the opposition -- Christians specifically -- and close down any debate against the homosexual lifestyle."
 
"The NRB spokesman does expect lawsuits to be filed against the hate crimes law after it is signed." 12

That is, of course, a major function of hate crime laws. The other is deterrence.

Negative reaction to the passage of the bill:

bulletSenator Jim DeMint (R-SC) worried that it would still "... serve as a warning to people not to speak out too loudly about their religious views." As noted elsewhere on this site, one method by which religious and social conservatives have attempted to derail the bill was to suggest that it would somehow repeal the guarantee of religious expression and freedom of speech guaranteed by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
 
bulletTony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, said that the bill was:

"... part of a radical social agenda that could ultimately silence Christians and use the force of government to marginalize anyone whose faith is at odds with homosexuality."

bulletThe Family Research Council wrote in their newsletter:

"... The U.S. Senate gave away the store by passing "hate crimes" (68-29) as part of the Defense Authorization bill, effectively opening the floodgates to sweeping social change." 7

bulletCraig Parshal of the National Religious Broadcasters said that a pastor or religious broadcaster might be charged with inciting a hate crime if he delivers a sermon that motivates a person in his or her congregation to go on a gay bashing spree. He notes that such laws in other countries have been used to silence people of faith.

There are countries, like Canada and Sweden, that do have anti-hate propaganda laws on the books that limit speech. However:
 
bulletCanada only criminalizes religious speech if it promotes actual genocide; advocating gay bashing in a religious setting would not be sufficient for a charge to be laid.
bulletA case in Sweden resulted in a pastor charged and convicted of anti-gay hate speech. However, the conviction was overturned on appeal. That particular sermon was extremely nasty and vicious. It it is unlikely that any future sermons could result in charges.

It will be interesting to study whether such a charge is ever laid in the U.S. in future years. There was one case where a well-known fundamentalist teleminister proposed stoning Pagans to death, and a second case where a Baptist pastor proposed having the U.S. Air Force napalm Wiccans. Neither event resulted in criminal charges. Neither event was condemned by religious leaders other than Wiccans.

Parshall aid that Christians are called to obey a higher law "to evangelize the whole world" 3
 

bulletAttorney Matt Barber of Liberty Counsel -- a fundamentalist Christian legal advocacy center, -- said:

" Unfortunately, it places Christians -- people of faith, people who have traditional values relative to sexual immorality -- in an untenable position. [The bill] will chill religious liberty and free speech -- and that is its intended purpose, not to protect anybody from hate crimes. ... "There is a very weak exemption in [the bill] which is totally illusory, and a religious exemption is not going to protect pastors. Renegade prosecutors and politically correct leftists in positions of authority can subjectively determine what is or is not a hate crime." 8

He predicts that pastors will be charged and prosecuted. Liberty Counsel plans to challenge the hate crime law's constitutionality.
 

bulletRep. Steve King, (R-IA) said that the bill classifies people based on their thoughts. He commented:

"Punishing 'thought crimes' will infringe on freedom of speech and religious expression, rights endowed to all Americans in the Constitution. Under this legislation, justice will no longer be equal. Instead, justice will depend on the race, gender, sexual orientation or protected status of the victim, setting up different penalties for the same crime. This 'thought crimes' bill shatters the American tradition of equal justice under the law." 9

Rep. King's quotation may sound strange, as if he has not actually read the text of the bill. He seems to imply that black and white victims of hate crimes will be treated differently; as will men and women; or heterosexuals, bisexuals and homosexuals. But it was definitely the hate crimes bill to which he was referring.

More negative reactions are covered in a separate essay

References used:

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

  1. Text etc. of the "Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Prevention Act," GovTrack, at: http://www.govtrack.us/
  2. Haris Tarin, "Senate finalizes hate crime legislation," MPAC News, 2009-SEP-23, at: http://www.mpac.org/
  3. "Congress extends hate crime protections to homosexuals," Associated Press, 2009-OCT-23, at: http://www.onenewsnow.com/
  4. Jennifer Riley, "Senate Passes Hate Crimes Bill; Obama Expected to Sign," Christian Post, 2009-OCT-23, at: http://www.christianpost.com/
  5. Richmond Shreve, "Hate Crimes Bill Passes," OpEdNews, 2009-OCT-25, at: http://www.opednews.com/
  6. "US Senate Passes Expanded Hate Crimes Legislation," Equality Maryland EQMD E-News, 2009-OCT-23.
  7. "Senate Crime Scene," Family Research Council newsletter, 2009-OCT-23.
  8. Charlie Butts, "Christians on high alert over hate crimes passage," OneNewsNow, 2009-OCT-24, at: http://www.onenewsnow.com/
  9. Stuart Shepard, "House Republicans Speak Out Against 'Hate-Crimes' Amendment," CitizenLink, 2009-OCT-09, at: http://www.citizenlink.org/
  10. Steve Jordahl, "Hate-Crimes Bill Passes Senate," CitizenLink, 2009-OCT-23, at: http://www.citizenlink.org/
  11. Barrett Duke, "Gay hate crimes bill and the assault on evangelical belief," ERLC, 2009-OCT-27, at: http://erlc.com/
  12. Charlie Butss, "Obama signs 'hate crimes' bill - Christian broadcasters concerned," OneNewsNow, 2009-OCT-28, at:  http://www.onenewsnow.com/
  13. Adelle M. Banks, "Faith leaders divided over passage of hate crimes bill," The Pew Forum, 2009-OCT-23, at: http://pewforum.org/

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Copyright © 2009 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
First posted: 2009-AUG-23
Latest update: 2009-AUG-30
Author: B.A. Robinson

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