30 April 2007

Hate Crimes and Free Speech HR 1592

Last Tuesday, over 130 people gathered at the Capitol to voice their opposition to H.R. 1592, the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2007. They represent highly motivated U.S. clergy that are responding to a national crisis against religious liberty. These leaders, mostly African-American pastors, had received the call to come to Washington in five days or less. In last week’s commentary, Massacre of the Pulpit, I outlined the major reason for the urgent trip to Washington.

Letter to Congress from various members of the clergy addressing HR 1592:
“…We preface our objections by stating that we stand united against violence targeted at homosexual citizens as we do against all human beings. The love of God would allow us to take no other position. However, we are unaware of any other federal statute which recognizes sexual orientation as a “protected class” of citizens….

“Granting protected class status to homosexuals is not necessary. We believe Congress may combat violence without expanding the protected class status to homosexuals. Indeed, Congress may simply grant additional funding to local governmental units to combat physical violence against all its citizens. This would, indeed, address the concern of homosexual assaults as well.

“Citizens in urban areas throughout the United States grapple with constant violence. The language of H.R. 1592 claims ‘the incidence of violence motivated by the actual or perceived…sexual orientation, and gender identity…poses a serious national problem.’ …We, as Pastors who service many urban dwelling congregants, believe Congress should recognize that violence against all persons in our communities would be at least as worthy of funding and fast-track consideration. The $5,000,000 earmarked for H.R. 1592 should be significantly increased and earmarked to target overall violent crimes.

“The homosexual community intends to use this legislation as a springboard to further its agenda. Lesbian and Gay websites trumpet this legislation as a “tactical” first step for promoting lesbian/gay issues, in order to make other pro-homosexual issues more palatable to the Congress and the society at large. Homosexual activists view this bill as a tactical victory for their agenda, not merely protection from crime.

“We further challenge this proposed legislation on the basis that it does not assure our free speech rights to speak out against homosexuality as a sin. Although it may appear that this legislation does not implicate free speech issues, we are well aware that laws may be interpreted otherwise by the courts. In Plessy v. Ferguson, the 14th Amendment was interpreted to permit segregated facilities. It took 58 years, from 1896 to 1954, for the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn that ‘separate but equal’ doctrine. As Pastors, we are concerned about the potential of being charged with a crime as the result of actions of someone who may have attended our church or heard our sermons. We do not preach hate, but love and repentance… the bill could curtail our speech.

“We are requesting that Congress carefully consider this legislation with the benefit of input from the electorate. We are calling for hearings to further express our dire concerns regarding H.R. 1592. Ultimately, we encourage Congress to vote no.”

From Harry R Jackson, Jr.

I do not support violence against any person, homosexual or heterosexual. However, I am against this hate crime bill. This bill was put on a fast track for approval in about one month, and grants money to fight hate crime. We deal with too much violence in many areas. Why wouldn’t my political leaders think to fast track a bill to stop all violence, with federal grants? Our local law enforcement needs money to fight all types of crime, not only hate crimes.

Also, this bill would be the first time (I am aware of) that federal law will recognize homosexuality as a protected class of citizens. I do not think homosexuals should be beaten, my concern is that freedom of speech and freedom of religion will be permanently damaged in our nation. I want you to vote no on HR 1592 and S.1105.”

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