U.S. hate crime bills/laws - 2009
Deceptive, misleading and/or
negative reactions to the law
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.
|The 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."
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.
|The 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
|One News Now used the story title "Congress
extends hate crime protections to homosexuals." The first paragraph
"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.
|Craig 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!
"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
Negative reaction to the passage of the bill:
|Senator 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.
|Tony 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."
|The Family Research Council wrote in their newsletter:|
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
|Craig 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:
|Canada 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.|
|A 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
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
|Attorney 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."
He predicts that pastors will be charged and prosecuted. Liberty Counsel plans
to challenge the hate crime law's constitutionality.
|Rep. 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.
The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above
essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.
Text etc. of the "Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Prevention Act," GovTrack,
- Haris Tarin, "Senate finalizes hate crime legislation," MPAC News,
- "Congress extends hate crime protections to homosexuals," Associated
Press, 2009-OCT-23, at:
- Jennifer Riley, "Senate Passes Hate Crimes Bill; Obama Expected to Sign,"
Christian Post, 2009-OCT-23, at:
- Richmond Shreve, "Hate Crimes Bill Passes," OpEdNews, 2009-OCT-25, at:
- "US Senate Passes Expanded Hate Crimes Legislation," Equality Maryland
EQMD E-News, 2009-OCT-23.
- "Senate Crime Scene," Family Research Council newsletter, 2009-OCT-23.
- Charlie Butts, "Christians on high alert over hate crimes passage,"
OneNewsNow, 2009-OCT-24, at:
- Stuart Shepard, "House Republicans Speak Out Against 'Hate-Crimes'
Amendment," CitizenLink, 2009-OCT-09, at:
- Steve Jordahl, "Hate-Crimes Bill Passes Senate," CitizenLink, 2009-OCT-23,
- Barrett Duke, "Gay hate crimes bill and the assault on evangelical
belief," ERLC, 2009-OCT-27, at:
- Charlie Butss, "Obama signs 'hate crimes' bill - Christian broadcasters
concerned," OneNewsNow, 2009-OCT-28, at:
- Adelle M. Banks, "Faith leaders divided over passage of hate crimes bill,"
The Pew Forum, 2009-OCT-23, at:
Copyright © 2009 by Ontario Consultants on Religious
First posted: 2009-AUG-23
Latest update: 2009-AUG-30
Author: B.A. Robinson