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Christians Protest for the Right to Preach Hate

I kid you not...

The evangelical right is up in arms over Senate Bill S. 1105, the Matthew Shepard Act, which is currently making its way through Congress.

The Act would, according to the official bill summary, provide greater prosecutorial assistance in pursuing crimes that are "...motivated by prejudice based on the actual or perceived race, color, religion, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability of the victim or is a violation of state, local, or tribal hate crime laws." Pro-family church groups fear the bill will curb their ability to teach hate to their congregation, so they are massing for a protest tomorrow in Washington.

The Christian Post reports:

As the U.S. Senate reviews a bill that many Christians say may threaten their right to express their biblical view on homosexuality, more Christians have been accused of being "homophobic" and threatened with penalties for expressing opposition to homosexuality, leading several concerned Christian groups to stage a protest this week against the bill.

A coalition of pro-family organizations against the Senate bill S. 1105 will take a public stand against the hate crimes legislation by holding a news conference followed by a demonstration on Capitol Hill this coming Wednesday.

Opponents of the bill argue that it is unnecessary because the people the legislation seeks to protect are already covered by other laws. Yet in addition to being redundant, the bill further threatens to censor the free speech of pastors and Christians who, for example, speak out about their biblical views on the sin of homosexuality.[...]

Repent America - a Philadelphia-based evangelistic organization that is an outspoken critic of homosexuality, abortion and evolution - is one of the main organizers of the rally.

"As Christians we do not advocate violence against other people, so that's not an issue," he said. "However, the lawmakers in Washington are attempting to criminalize Christians because of their faith in Jesus Christ and because they choose to speak the truth of God's Word."

The article cites a recent court case as emblematic of the fight pro-family group must undertake against this bill.

Last month, in Oakland, Calif., a case concluded in defeat for pro-family advocates seeking the right to use the phrase "marriage is the foundation of the natural family and sustains family values" in public flyers when the ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the decision of Oakland administrators to exclude pro-family speech as divisive and hateful.

A group of African-American Christian women working for Oakland's city government had requested permission to distribute the flyers through the city's email system, noting that the "natural family" is the foundation of society in 2002.

Although administrators have allowed homosexual employees to use the system to promote a gay pride rally and similar events, they rejected the Christian flyers as "homophobic" and "disruptive," claiming that it intended to "create a hostile environment," according to the World Congress of Families (WCF) - the international network of pro-family organizations that popularized the expression "natural family."

Their flyers were removed from the municipal bulletin board and the women were warned similar action could result in disciplinary action "up to and including termination."

"Under this standard, interest groups of which the left approves are free to promote their views through a government apparatus," Allen Carlson, international secretary of WCF, said in a statement. "If pro-family forces seek to counter that advocacy, their views are labeled 'hate speech' and accordingly suppressed."

Highlighting fears that the federal hate crimes bills will further encroach on freedom to express religious beliefs, many prominent Christian leaders have publicly criticized the legislations .

"The Hate Crimes Act will be the first step to criminalize our rights as Christians to believe that some behaviors are sinful," Dr. James C. Dobson, founder and chairman of Focus on the Family Action, said in a message for a petition to oppose the bill.

"Pastors preaching from Scripture on homosexuality could be threatened with persecution and prosecution," he noted.

In finding against the pro-family advocates in Oakland the three-judge appeals expressed the opinion that:

"Public employers are permitted to curtail employee speech as long as their legitimate administrative interests outweigh the employees' interest in freedom of speech."

In addition, the opinion called the city's interference with Rederford and Christy's free speech rights "minimal," and noted that the supervisors had a "more substantial interest in maintaining the efficient operation of their office."

The ruling also upheld the city's policy banning discrimination or harassment based on sexual orientation, dismissing claims that it was unconstitutionally vague and over broad.

While the White House has vowed to veto the Act if it reaches the President's desk, this is a battle that must be fought nonetheless, and if it comes to a veto then so be it. We cannot continue to allow those who preach hate to continue unchallenged.

And who is "Repent America"? From their website:

REPENT AMERICA (RA) is an evangelistic organization based in the birthplace of America, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and desires to be in the full Will of God and to adhere entirely to the teachings of the Bible. We have a passion to serve the Lord and are devoted to reaching the lost, so that they might come unto the knowledge of the truth and be saved.

As Christians, we know that there is a literal hell and a lake of fire where the unsaved will burn for all eternity; therefore, we act upon this truth without reservation and GO OUT into the streets and communities of America declaring the Word of God and proclaiming the Good News.[...]

For so long, as followers of Christ, we have allowed Satan to invade our communities through abortuaries, the entertainment and pornography industries, religious institutions, sexually perverse establishments, homosexual parades and other sin celebrations without a word from the Christian therein. God has called us to "Cry aloud, spare not, lift up thy voice like a trumpet, and shew my people their transgression..." (Isaiah 58:1)

We must lift up our voice like a trumpet. We must go out into the world and declare the Word of God in front of the abortuaries and sexually perverse establishments, and at the homosexual parades and other sin celebrations, calling "all men every where to repent." (Acts 17:30) Our light must invade the darkness!


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Comments (16)

Paul Hamilton:

Yo, as a libertarian-progressive I have worries about anything that infringes on our constitutional rights. The catch is that freedom without responsibility is anarchy. It does the cause of liberty no good at all for bigots and terrorists to hide behind freedom of speech as an excuse to spew their hate.

My own defintion of "hate speech" would be words or publications which incite criminal behavior against a person or group. So there would be two components at work -- both the incendiary words *and* a criminal act which followed. And like any criminal charge, you'd have to prove it beyond reasonable doubt in a court of law so the idea that a legitimate minister who spoke against homosexuality (without inciting violence among his listeners) would have nothing to fear from this.

But it's not surprising that this is taking place. Obviously there's nothing REALLY there that would interfere with ministers, so they have to argue a "slippery slope," and those arguments are invalid on the face of it.

J.R.:

We cannot continue to allow those who preach hate to continue unchallenged.

And who decides what is hate? You Lee Ward? Or is it like the porn excuse: I know it when I see it. Would radicals shouting "death to America" and burning an American flag in a public park be hate speech? Is calling someone a f*ggot, hate speech?

Hate crime legislation is the biggest joke out there and everyone should by rallying against this stupid waste of taxpayer money.

And your insinuation above is an affront to the basic rights granted to citizens and guaranteed by the Constitution of the United States.

Paul Hamilton:

Let me ask you something, JR... If you called someone a "faggot" and that person took umbrage and punched you in the nose, what would your reaction be?

Are you really so oblivious that you couldn't see a link between your words and that person's reaction?

And if you DO acknowledge it, can't you see that words might inspire someone to go out and commit a criminal act for which the speaker should bear some responsibility.

Freedom of speech is not and has NEVER been absolute. Those who respect it should be the very first ones to recognize that its power and its potential for harm in the wrong hands.

Lee Ward:

"And who decides what is hate?"

With respect to hate crimes, the portion of the Act's summary which I included in the post is this:

The Act would, according to the official bill summary, provide greater prosecutorial assistance in pursuing crimes that are "...motivated by prejudice based on the actual or perceived race, color, religion, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability of the victim or is a violation of state, local, or tribal hate crime laws."

What part of that warrants your estimation that this is a huge waste of money and just a "big joke" J.R.?

As to my call that "We cannot continue to allow those who preach hate to continue unchallenged."... if the folks at Repent America feel that the Matthew Shepard Act is a threat to their religious practices then that is reason enough to pursue this and any similar effort.

The act is very specific, it deals with "crimes" and only crimes, and I can't imagine what crimes Repent America fears will be limited by this act -- but scaring criminals who are afraid of a law like this is a good thing in my book.

If they don't commit crimes, they have no reason to fear hate crime legislation.

J.R.:

Let me ask you something, JR... If you called someone a "faggot" and that person took umbrage and punched you in the nose, what would your reaction be?

I'd hit him back. What would you do, cry?

Are you really so oblivious that you couldn't see a link between your words and that person's reaction?

Of course I see the link. There will always be reactions to words, whether violent or otherwise. I call someone that, that person can insult me back, no harm done whatsoever, just words.

And let me ask you something Paul, let's say I called your mother a wh*re, what would your reaction be? I know mine would be to take umbrage and knock that person clear across the room. So should that be outlawed as hate speech as well? Where do you draw the line?

mantis:

I have to agree with conservative friends here, hate crime legislation is stupid and pernicious. It is, in effect, prosecution of "thought crimes."

If you support increased punishment for criminals motivated by bigotry, then oppose any legislation limiting judicial discretion in sentencing. Judges can give the maximum sentence to such criminals, and usually do.

There are two very high profile cases that have brought hate crimes legislation to the national forefront which I think highlight the absurdity of these laws. The first is the murder of Matthew Shepard and the second is the lynching of James Byrd, Jr. in Texas (while GWB was governor). In both cases one of the murderers testified against his accomplice(s) (one accomplice in the Shepard case, two in the Byrd case). In both cases, those who testified were given life sentences, and those testified against were given the death penalty. How could a hate crime law make those punishments more severe?

On the other hand, the argument that this would somehow infringe on free speech (and the ridiculous and irrelevant reference to the Oakland case), is bullshit. The bill contains a severability clause, which states:

"Nothing in this Act... shall be construed to prohibit any expressive conduct protected from legal prohibition by, or any activities protected by the free speech or free exercise clauses of, the First Amendment to the Constitution."

So, in short: hate crime laws are stupid, and those arguing against hate crime laws are also stupid. Stupid all around.

J.R.:

can't you see that words might inspire someone to go out and commit a criminal act for which the speaker should bear some responsibility.

No, I believe in personal responsibility. Just because I say something hateful about, let's say Catholic priests, and someone hears my words and then goes and beats the crap out of the nearest priest, no I wouldn't feel the least bit responsible for that.

So do we limit this to just spoken words or are we going to start banning books too.

Now mind you, I realize this is not what the bill in the Senate is necessarily about, but you and Lee Ward have chosen this angle of attack.

J.R.:

What part of that warrants your estimation that this is a huge waste of money and just a "big joke" J.R.?

All of it Lee Ward, all of it. And the reason is simple, every thing covered is already a crime and thus already has a punishment. The idea that we have to punish more severely because of the thoughts behind the crime is a joke and a waste.

Lee Ward:

Most if not all of the push behind the Act is to provide prosecutorial assistance for the pursuit of hate crimes. From the bill's summary (which I've linked to three times now):

Matthew Shepard Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2007 - Authorizes the Attorney General to provide technical, forensic, prosecutorial, or other assistance in the criminal investigation or prosecution of any crime that: (1) constitutes a crime of violence under federal law or a felony under state, local, or Indian tribal laws; and (2) is motivated by prejudice based on the actual or perceived race, color, religion, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability of the victim or is a violation of state, local, or tribal hate crime laws.

Directs the Attorney General to give priority for such assistance: (1) with respect to crimes committed by offenders who have committed crimes in more than one state; and (2) to rural jurisdictions that have difficulty covering the extraordinary investigation or prosecution expenses. Authorizes the Attorney General to award grants to assist state, local, and Indian law enforcement agencies with such extraordinary expenses.

Directs the Office of Justice Programs to: (1) work closely with funded jurisdictions to ensure that the concerns and needs of all affected parties are addressed; and (2) award grants to state, local or tribal programs designed to combat hate crimes committed by juveniles.

Amends the federal criminal code to impose criminal penalties for causing (or attempting to cause) bodily injury to any person using fire, a firearm, or any explosive or incendiary device because of the actual or perceived race, color, religion, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability of such person.

Amends the Hate Crimes Statistics Act to require Attorney General to: (1)acquire data on crimes that manifest evidence of prejudice based on gender and gender identity; and (2) include in an annual summary of such data crimes committed by, and against, juveniles.

The "thought crime" argument is specious, and I don't see anywhere in that summation where you'd have cause for concern over 'greater criminal penalties that aren't needed.'

You've apparently taken the bait from the right that this bill is bad, bad, bad... but point to the specific section of the bill you find objectionable, please....

MunDane:

It is funny, I have never heard of such a publication as the "Christian Post". While the site looks slick and polished, but the circulation is pretty limited. From the presskit, the total daily uniques seems to be less than Wizbang's, which one would have to say, makes it somewhat less than a universal spokesman for the US Christian or even the Evangelical Right Wing.

That having been said, most of the time, Right Wingers tend to be pretty much Strict Constructionist interpreters of the Consistitution. There isn't a lot of penumbras in most of the interpretations they see. So this becomes a Very Important Issue for that idea alone, as it treads on two of the First Amendment prohibitions (Gov't restrictions of Religion and Speech). So the fact that such a law would be contemplated would, I think, be quite a bit nervous making to those who think a Bible is something more than something you find in a nightstand at the motel.

Look, history is replete with unpopular individuals who became martyrs to their causes when they were rendered dead or silent by government fiat. Those of you who think that it is somehow noble and good to silence dissent because of the "greater good" served really are deluding yourselves because you add the nebulous term "hate" to the concrete reality of a crime. How to determine actual "hate"? If I refer to a person as a "motherf*cker" do I actually believe them to be engaged in incest? Or am I just responding to them with a vituperative curse? If I call someone a "son of a B*tch", do I really think them born of a female dog, the the person'sw father was engaged in beastility? Or is it a angry response to a heated situation?

mantis:

The "thought crime" argument is specious

It's not specious at all. Such laws seek to prosecute and punish more severely crimes based on the thoughts of the criminal, as a matter of course. That's thought crime. Judges have sentencing discretion. Let them use it. There is no need to criminalize thought.

and I don't see anywhere in that summation where you'd have cause for concern over 'greater criminal penalties that aren't needed.'

You don't see this part? You highlighted it:

Amends the federal criminal code to impose criminal penalties for causing (or attempting to cause) bodily injury to any person using fire, a firearm, or any explosive or incendiary device because of the actual or perceived race, color, religion, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability of such person.

You do understand that means criminal penalties over and above those already in place for the very same crimes, right?

You've apparently taken the bait from the right that this bill is bad, bad, bad... but point to the specific section of the bill you find objectionable, please....

Don't condescend to me like I'm not familiar with what I'm talking about. I object to the very portion I quoted above. I object to the part that "Authorizes the Attorney General to provide technical, forensic, prosecutorial, or other assistance in the criminal investigation or prosecution of any crime that..." in so much that it prioritizes so-called "hate" crimes over other crimes. Someone killed your mother? Sorry, can't help you there. Oh, they did it because of one of our "hate" criteria? Well, let's bring all our resources to bear, then. It's absurd. Crime is crime, and "technical, forensic, prosecutorial, or other assistance in the criminal investigation or prosecution" should be available whenever needed.

I have no problems with keeping statistics or funding juvenile rehabilitation projects (though I wouldn't want juveniles who commit "hate crimes" to get more access to programs than those who just commit "regular" crimes).

Now you tell me how you think a hate crime law could have made a difference in the Shepard or Byrd cases?

Lee Ward:

"Such laws seek to prosecute and punish more severely crimes based on the thoughts of the criminal, as a matter of course. That's thought crime."

Hmm, And here I thought that was 'motive.'

"You do understand that means criminal penalties over and above those already in place for the very same crimes, right?"

Yes, but the bill summation doesn't quantify the difference in penalties proposed by the act, so I was hoping that you or someone else who knows more could state what the difference is.

I mean, if you oppose the different penalties you do know what the difference is, right?

But then, if your opposition to the Act was that there should be NO difference, the difference doesn't matter.

Aren't there greater penalties for dealing drugs in a school zone? Killing a cop? The precedent is there to have varying penalties, so it isn't the mere fact that there is a difference that's bunching your shorts over this bill, right?

Don't condescend to me like I'm not familiar with what I'm talking about. "

Well, them prove that you do. What's the difference? (and I apologize if I was condescending)

"Now you tell me how you think a hate crime law could have made a difference in the Shepard or Byrd cases?

I don't know if it would have made a difference in those two instances.

One example I could see where it could make a difference is in forcing reluctant prosecutors whose own bias might persuade them to drag their heels over the killing of a gay man to get off the stick and prosecute the damn crime.

Authorizes the Attorney General to provide technical, forensic, prosecutorial, or other assistance in the criminal investigation or prosecution of any crime that...

That means that pressure can put upon the local prosecutor by the feds to prosecute the crime. It would make a world of difference in Alabama, for example, if the feds could be brought in to lean on the local Good Ol' Boy prosecutor.

I'm not suggesting that would be the highest or best example, just one that comes to mind at the moment. Making hate crimes a "federal offense" (which is what this bill would actually do) is a good thing, imho.

If mail fraud is a federal offense, why isn't killing a gay man?

Another example of why this Act is needed. The Matthew Shepard Act would allow for the FBI to be brought in to help solve this type of crime. Who could be against that (besides people who hate homosexuals anyway, which I assume doesn't include you)?

Here's a list of the crimes which qualify as federal offenses. Let's check out a few examples:

Chapter 3 Section 42, "Importation or shipment of injurious mammals, birds, fish (including mollusks and crustacea), amphibia, and reptiles; permits, specimens for museums; regulations."

How about Chapter 11A, Section 228 ""Failure to pay legal child support obligations.""

Those are "federal offenses" but hate crimes against homosexuals aren't?

I disagree. Why are people so up in arms over this Act? I just don't understand it.

mantis:

Hmm, And here I thought that was 'motive.'

Motive itself is not a crime. These laws make it a crime.

I mean, if you oppose the different penalties you do know what the difference is, right?

Sure do. Up to ten years for a violent offense with injury, and any number of years or life for an offense that results in death of the victim or "the offense includes kidnaping or an attempt to kidnap, aggravated sexual abuse or an attempt to commit aggravated sexual abuse, or an attempt to kill." You know, you could just read the bill yourself. In any case, this is a doubling up of penalties for violent offenses. It is unnecessary and pernicious in intent. Motive, as I said before, should not be a crime in and of itself. It can be an aggravating or mitigating factor, to be considered during sentencing, but to make it a separate crime is wrong.

But then, if your opposition to the Act was that there should be NO difference, the difference doesn't matter.

True, and it doesn't.

Aren't there greater penalties for dealing drugs in a school zone? Killing a cop?

First, dealing drugs around children presents a clear harm to all children. Plus, the location of a crime is easily provable. Thoughts are not. As far as cop-killing, I don't really understand that law either. Were cop-killers getting light penalties before? I don't think so. Anyway, it's easy to prove the victim was a cop, not so easy to prove the thoughts of the killer.

The precedent is there to have varying penalties, so it isn't the mere fact that there is a difference that's bunching your shorts over this bill, right?

Well, it isn't greater penalties for different crimes I'm opposed to on principle, it's the criminalization of thoughts I'm opposed to. Neither of your examples qualify.

One example I could see where it could make a difference is in forcing reluctant prosecutors whose own bias might persuade them to drag their heels over the killing of a gay man to get off the stick and prosecute the damn crime.

...

Another example of why this Act is needed. The Matthew Shepard Act would allow for the FBI to be brought in to help solve this type of crime.

Thinking about it, I wouldn't be opposed to this part of the legislation, especially in regards to providing funds for investigating such crimes in rural areas that have difficulty with such investigations.

If mail fraud is a federal offense, why isn't killing a gay man?

...

Those are "federal offenses" but hate crimes against homosexuals aren't?

Murder is a federal crime. It is also a state and local crime, and they have jurisdiction in most murders.

Why are people so up in arms over this Act? I just don't understand it.

As you can probably tell, I'm against it, and other hate crime laws, on principle. I don't think we should be making thoughts into crimes, and increasing sentences due to motive should be left to the judge (or jury, if they are in charge of sentencing). If we can criminalize the thoughts of people when committing a crime, can't we also criminalize the thoughts of those yet to commit one?

Lee Ward:

I'm going to leave this thread behind now, but I'm wiser now than I was 12 hours ago. It's always a pleasure, mantis.

Joe:

Interesting title. "Christians protest for the right to preach hate" The problem with this fallacious assertion is what some constitute what Christians believe as hate, others would conclude it's advocating for the truth. Someone can have a difference of opinion about something and not be hateful. As a Christian, I have a gay friend that knows where I stand on his lifestyle because I've voiced my beliefs and I know where he stands, but yet we still have a mutual respect for one another. This bill as far as I can see is a feeble attempt to indirectly promote restrictions on religious people groups as well as others who voice their opinions in public. Sure the package of this bill on the outside looks nice, but inside there is a lot more that a lot of people who are less naive have been able to pick up on. I don't really see any good reason why this bill should be passed. There are laws already in place that protect any individual of hateful action taken against them which of course is a given.

Lee Ward:

"The problem with this fallacious assertion is what some constitute what Christians believe as hate, others would conclude it's advocating for the truth."

Well - I believe that Christian beliefs are just that -- beliefs -- not truths. To believers it may be very believable -- but they're still beliefs, not truths.

And it's a perfectly fine thing to have "beliefs" -- just don't try to legislate them into "truths."


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