The Federal Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2009 was passed in the U.S. House of Representatives today. Federal law currently states it is a crime to assault individuals based on race, color, religion or national origin. The bill passed today expands those covered by it to include sexual orientation, sexual identity, or disability. President Obama in a statement to Congress said, “I urge members on both sides of the aisle to act on this important civil rights issue by passing this legislation to protect all of our citizens from violent acts of intolerance,” according to Reuters. If a similar law also passes the Senate, both House and Senate versions will be reconciled to be presented to the President who has promised to sign it into law.
If the bill makes it all the way into law, crimes against gays, transgenders, transsexuals, and others who embrace abnormal sexual practices will be investigated and prosecuted more vigorously with stiffer penalties than other crimes against persons. Christian conservative groups and leaders have been speaking out against such a law out of concern that it will be used to violate the constitutional right to freedom of speech of Christians who preach against such practices. Bishop Harry Jackson, senior pastor of Maryland’s Hope Christian Church was quoted at ChristianPost.com as saying, “It is going to cause, in a critical moment in U.S. history, a chilling effect in the pulpit where we cannot preach about biblical morality and sexuality.”
The President claims he also wants the rights to freedom of speech of Christians to be protected even if the act becomes law. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer has also stated that the act is focused only on punishing violent acts and will not affect freedom of speech or thought. However, in the same article quoting Hoyer, Andrea Lafferty of the Traditional Values Coalition criticized Hoyer for overlooking the case of the Philadelphia 11 who were sharing Bible scriptures at a gay pride rally when they were arrested and charged with hate crimes. “We know what these supposed ‘hate crime’ laws are meant to do. In Philadelphia, Christians were arrested and jailed based on hate crime law. So we know that what the other side is saying — that it will not affect pastors or youth pastors or Christians — we know that is not true,” stated Lafferty. She contends that any pastor preaching from the pulpit against homosexuality or related behaviors has the potential of being arrested for hate speech.
Some lawmakers even tried to amend the bill to exclude pedophiles from being covered, but their amendment was voted down by the Democrats. The truth is that no matter how many times politicians promise us that this law will not be used against Christians, history tells us something different. When administrations change in Washington, the application of federal laws can change. For example, when the RICO laws against racketeering were established, they were put into effect to prosecute mobsters. But the Clinton administration came along in the 90s and decided that the law could and should be applied to peaceful pro-life demonstrators and several of them were put on trial under RICO for exercising their right to free speech in front of abortion clinics. The current administration can make all the promises they want, but that is no guarantee for us in future administrations if someone even more liberal than Obama should ever take office. [updated 5-1-09]
Could this be the end of religious freedoms as we know them in the U.S.? Although gay rights activists have spoken out against censorship when censorship hinders their views, they embrace censorship when it is against people who express views that they don’t agree with. I believe that this bill, if made into law, will hand them the tool to persecute Christians all across the U.S. and its territories. People like Perez Hilton will not only be able to call our beloved Miss California a “dumb b…h”, but they will be able to press charges and have her, and those like her, put on trial and imprisoned. Yes, it’s wrong for anyone to physically attack a person for being gay or whatever, but current law already states that assaulting or killing any person is against the law. The freedom to express one’s views against something is not, and should not be, a crime. And violating the established constitutional rights of a majority of people just to please a very slim minority, whose rights aren’t really being violated in the exaggerated numbers they claim, is unjustifiable. If the act is signed into law, I hope and pray that a lawsuit will be filed and that it will be ruled as unconstitutional by the federal courts.
–posted by Harry A. Gaylord–
Update on S 909 (Senate version of the Hate Crimes Bill): Thus far the Senate has not called the Hate Crimes Bill to a vote on the floor. Although the bill has not been mentioned through most media outlets, word has spread about it over the Internet mainly through WorldNetDaily and through Focus on the Family by James Dobson. Liberals in both houses of Congress were hoping the bill would be passed quietly without anyone noticing, then the law would be thrust on the American public. But thanks to mainly Christian media outlets word has gotten out and WorldNetDaily has mounted a letter writing campaign to all members of the Senate expressing concerns about how the bill which passed the House gives protection to pedophiles and other sexual deviants. The Senate presently has the bill in committee to determine if it’s worthy of being presented for a full Senate vote. I believe the campaigns started by WorldNetDaily, Focus on the Family, and other Christian organizations has given the Senate some pause about the whole situation.
I find it somewhat hypocritical that the President on one hand speaks of making sure he chooses the right replacement on the Supreme Court for Justice Souter–someone he says that should understand the importance of the spirit of the Constitution while balancing thoughts on how their decisions will affect everyday Americans–but on the other hand pushes the passage of a bill such as the Hate Crimes Bill that will violate the constitutional rights of everyday Americans. [added 09/05/17]
The hate crimes bill was passed by the U.S. Senate on Thursday, Oct. 22, 2009 with a vote of 68-29.
It was signed into law by President Barack Obama on Wednesday, Oct. 28, 2009.