It has now been more than five years since the passage of the 2009 Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, which anti-gay activists predicted would lead to the end of free speech and the criminalization of the Bible. None of these predictions has yet to come true, but that hasn’t stopped Rep. Louie Gohmert from warning that the catastrophic consequences of the hate-crimes law will materialize any day now.
The Texas Repubilcan joined Florida talk radio host Joyce Kaufman yesterday to discuss the attempted attack on a Texas anti-Islam event hosted by Pamela Geller. Kaufman was not pleased with Bill O’Reilly for criticizing Geller’s event, which she said was an attack on Geller’s free speech. This made Gohmert think of the hate-crimes law, which he said was also an attack on free speech and was useless anyway because “people who have this kind of hate, they have the best chance of being rehabilitated.”
The government will eventually use the hate-crimes law, he said, to charge Christians who quote the Bible with “hate speech.”
“I mentioned some years back that hate crimes, eventually, somebody is going to bring that up when a Christian says, ‘I believe what Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, the life, nobody goes to the Father but through me,"’” Gohmert said. “That is hate speech. You’re saying that nobody else but you goes to Heaven? That’s hate speech. I mean, this is where it ultimately goes if we’re not free to say what we believe and have disagreements about it without being shot.”
Is the government about to ban Christianity and turn it into a criminal offense? According to one documentary, the answer is 'yes' because the gay rights movement is determined to outlaw the practice of Christianity.
As Kyle reported, the “documentary” will include appearances from Sen. Rand Paul and former Gov. Mike Huckabee, both likely presidential candidates.
Reps. Trent Franks, Louie Gohmert, Steve King and Tim Huelskamp also make appearances, joining the likes of creationist leader Ken Ham, discredited pseudo-historian David Barton and even “ex-homosexuals.”
Porter has built quite a reputation for claiming that President Obama is set to literally imprison, starve and murder his political opponents and that the gay rights movement will destroy freedom as we know it.
Similar dire warnings about the federal hate crimes law that was passed five years ago today have proven to be utterly false.
The apocalyptic rhetoric is a reaction to the advances in LGBT rights, including the legalization of same-sex marriage in dozens of states and the passage of non-discrimination ordinances in municipalities across the country. Along with categories such as race, gender, religion, age and ability, more localities are recognizing sexual orientation and gender identity as traits warranting protection from discrimination in the public domain.
As anti-gay politicians lose in the courts, Congress, state houses, town halls, and perhaps most importantly, at the ballot box, many have taken to conflating political defeat with a loss of rights and liberty. Only by depriving other people of their rights, so they claim, can conservatives and people of faith in this nation truly be free.
This month, many Republicans latched onto a complicated legal case in Houston to justify their hyperbolic warnings about impending doom for Christians in America. After Houston passed an equal rights ordinance this year, a pastor-led group tried — and failed — to collect enough valid petition signatures to force a referendum on repealing the ordinance. When a group of conservative activists and pastors filed a lawsuit demanding that officials accept the invalid petitions, pro-bono attorneys working for the city subpoenaed several pastors’ communications, including sermons, on petition collecting and related issues like homosexuality as part of the discovery process.
While many groups from the left and right alike called out the subpoenas as overly broad and intrusive, the Religious Right cited the legal move as proof that pastors will be, as the Christian Broadcasting Network’s David Brody put it, “hauled off to jail for a hate crimes because they are speaking for traditional marriage.”
Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, who in 2012 warned that America was “at the edge of a precipice” and would soon see non-existent “hate speech” laws used “against Christian pastors who decline to perform gay marriages [or] who speak out and preach biblical truths on marriage,” agreed with Brody’s assessment.
(In a similar episode this month, the owners of a for-profit wedding chapel business filed a lawsuit against their hometown over a nondiscrimination ordinance, arguing that city officials have threatened them with prosecution and jail time for denying service to same-sex couples — even though officials haven’t pursued any legal action against the couple.)
We’ve seen this movie before. In 2007, members of a group called Repent America were charged after disrupting a gay pride event and refusing to abide by police orders. The way conservatives tell the story, godly missionaries were punished by law enforcement for exercising their First Amendment rights and “sharing the gospel,” but as court records show, the group tried to disturb the peace and protest inside an event without a permit.
In fact, if Religious Right were correct in their warnings, America should have experienced a wave of arrests targeting pastors, church-goers and Republicans following the passage of the 2009 Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act. Predictions about the criminalization of the Bible, pastors locked in jail cells and concentration camps for Christians never came true, mainly because these prophecies had no basis in reality.
The Shepard-Byrd Hate Crimes Law was passed by Congress five years ago today, and so far, the far-right’s twisted and baseless claims about the law have all been proven false. But that doesn’t mean they haven’t stopped making the exact same discredited arguments five years after the bill’s passage:
End of Free Speech
Despite the hate crimes law’s provision making clear that it is applicable only to cases of violent crime and nothing “shall be construed to allow prosecution based solely upon an individual’s expression of racial, religious, political, or other beliefs or solely upon an individual’s membership in a group advocating or espousing such beliefs,” Religious Right activists and their allies in the GOP nonetheless predicted that the 2009 law would bring free speech to an end.
“Gay activists will use it against preachers who present the Biblical view of homosexuality,” Rick Scarborough said at the time. “The federal hate crimes law doesn’t target crime, but free speech.” He also warned that the law’s passage would “criminalize pastors and ordinary citizens who speak out biblically against homosexuality,” telling members of his group, Vision America, that he may face arrest for “speaking out against sexual deviancy.”
Scarborough, a Texas anti-gay pastor and political organizer close to Ted Cruz, hasn’t backed down from his claims even years after the law has gone into effect. At the 2013 Values Voter Summit, Scarborough declared that the “infidels” in the Obama administration are “hell-bent on silencing the Gospel of Jesus Christ.” Christians wouldn’t rise up against the attacks, he feared, “until a bunch of us are thrown into concentration camps.”
The Traditional Values Coalition went as far as to claim that the hate crimes law would imprison Jesus Christ.
“I believe that ‘hate crimes’ is the most dangerous bill in America, it is precisely what they are using to silence Christians around the world,” Janet Porter, a Religious Right activist with the group Faith 2 Action, said in an interview the year before the bill was passed. “How much of a stretch is it, really, to say that because I would say to you homosexuality is a sin or it’s dangerous behavior, before that speech alone is worthy of jail time? And that’s what we’re facing.” Porter told a Washington, D.C., rally shortly after the law was passed that it “criminalizes Christianity” and “sends pastors to prison for biblical positions and speech.”
In an 2009 email message with the subject line, “The Senate Will Vote To Silence You!,” Family Research Council President Tony Perkins claimed that “what ‘hate crimes’ legislation does is lay the legal foundation and framework for investigating, prosecuting and persecuting pastors, business owners, and anyone else whose actions reflect their faith.”
He also alleged that the law would “gag people of faith and conviction who disagree with the homosexual agenda” and that it “punishes a person’s beliefs — part of the Left's intolerant agenda to silence the voice of Christians and Conservatives in America and eliminate moral restraint.”
“If federal thought crimes laws are passed, your right to share politically incorrect parts of your Christian faith could become a federal crime,” Perkins warned. At another conservative event, Perkins said hate crimes laws will curtail freedom and breed “chaos in America.”
Rusty Lee Thomas of Operation Save America even encouraged opposition to the law by alleging that “there is a direct connection between the sins and crimes of abortion and the sodomite agenda and the Islamic terrorism that threatens our nation.”
One group of GOP and Religious Right figures claimed the law would be “a savage and perhaps fatal blow to First Amendment freedom of expression.”
E.W. Jackson, a Virginia pastor and GOP politician, told a conservative rally that the law “represents a virulent strain of anti-Christian bigotry and hatred” that is “another step in the process of robbing all Americans of the very freedoms the founding fathers pledged their lives for and the civil rights martyrs gave their lives for.”
Ohio-based televangelist Rod Parsley, best known for his work supporting George W. Bush’s re-election campaign and the passage of his state’s gay marriage ban, said that the hate crimes law would force him out of the pulpit.
“This deceptive ploy of liberal, homosexual agenda begins to lose its allure once you pull the mask back and take a closer look,” Parsley said. “The legislation that’s before our United States senators right now extends to speech and can punish people not for their actions but for their culturally incorrect thoughts. This legislation could become law, and you and I could find ourselves forbidden to speak from God’s word right here in America. I could no longer share my heart with you on critical issues, such as this, through the medium of television, or even in the pulpit of my own church.”
We can report that despite Parsley’s grim predictions, he is still very much “sharing his heart” as a preacher.
Outlawing the Bible
One group of Michigan pastors, joined by local Republican politician and American Family Association state chairman Gary Glenn, filed an unsuccessful legal challenge against the hate crimes law soon after it was enacted. The group’s legal representative, the conservative Thomas More Law Center, contended that “the sole purpose” of the law was “to criminalize the Bible and use the threat of federal prosecutions and long jail sentences to silence Christians from expressing their Biblically-based religious belief that homosexual conduct is a sin.”
Pastor Paul Blair of Reclaiming America for Christ also offered an ominous warning: “If preaching the Bible is now against the law, then let us be arrested.” One WorldNetDaily commentator said the law would “crack down” on Christians for “reading the Bible.”
“Christianity Is Now Outlawed,” declared the Christian Seniors Association, a front group of the Traditional Values Coalition, in a fundraising letter following the law’s passage. “Did you know that the new Hate Crimes Act that President Obama signed into law makes the Bible illegal ‘Hate Literature?’” the letter continued.
“Most Christians might as well rip the pages which condemn homosexuality right out of their Bibles because this bill will make it illegal to publicly express the dictates of their religious beliefs,” said Andrea Lafferty of the TVC. “The ultimate objective of this legislation is to claim that ‘hate speech’ — criticism of homosexuality — incites individuals to violence and must be suppressed and punished. This will violate the First Amendment rights of any person or group that opposes the normalization of homosexuality in our culture.”
In the paranoid conservative alternate reality, pedophilia has been legal for five years now thanks to the updated federal hate crimes law.
“The main purpose of this ‘hate crimes’ legislation is to add the categories of ‘sexual orientation’ and ‘gender identity,’ ‘either actual or perceived,’ as new classes of individuals receiving special protection by federal law. Sexual orientation includes heterosexuality, homosexuality and bisexuality on an ever-expanding continuum. Will Congress also protect these sexual orientations: zoophiles, pedophiles or polygamists?” asked televangelist Pat Robertson.
Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, similarly charged: “We have a record roll call vote that shows every Democrat on the Judiciary Committee voting to have pedophiles protected.”
King’s colleague Rep. Louie Gohmert, R-Texas, went one step further and said that as a result of the hate crimes law, courts would “have to strike any laws against bestiality” along with laws targeting “pedophiles or necrophiliacs.” Gohmert went on to warn that the law would effectively turn the U.S. into Nazi Germany.
Focus on the Family founder James Dobson, for his part, predicted that the law would extend legal protections to “bisexuality, exhibitionism, fetishism, incest, necrophilia, pedophilia, prostitution, sexual masochism, urophilia, voyeurism, and bestiality.”
Richard Thompson of the Thomas More Law Center claimed the law “elevates those persons who engage in deviant sexual behaviors, including pedophiles, to a special protected class of persons as a matter of federal law and policy.”
Porter dubbed the law the “Pedophile Protection Act,” “summarizing” the law by completely making things up: “Pushing away an unwelcome advance of a homosexual, transgendered [sic], cross-dresser or exhibitionist could make you a felon under this law. Speaking out against the homosexual agenda could also make you a felon if you are said to influence someone who pushes away that unwelcome advance. And pedophiles and other sexual deviants would enjoy an elevated level of protection, while children, seniors, veterans and churches would not.”
Pedophilia, bestiality and necrophilia are still against the law and such laws have not been affected by the Hate Crimes Act, while declining “an unwelcome advance of a homosexual” is still very much legal. However, we are still waiting with bated breath for Porter’s lawsuit detailing how she was forced and legally bound to succumb to the charms of a homosexual enticer.
Can the Religious Right Be Trusted?
The many frantic, unfounded warnings about the perils the 2009 Hate Crimes Act are just one example of anti-gay activists’ penchant for manufacturing myths and brazenly distorting cases of supposed persecution.
Apocalyptic warnings and blatantly dishonest remarks have always been characteristic of the Religious Right's crusade against LGBT rights and we can expect such activists to continue to engage in such shameless fear mongering and misinformation before the 2014 election.
But, like the Religious Right’s warnings about the effects of the 2009 Hate Crimes Act, these dire predictions should be taken with a heavy dose of salt.
When Jerry Johnson, president of the National Religious Broadcasters (NRB), told the Values Voter Summit on Friday that the U.S. is witnessing the rise of “self-imposed Sharia law” due to the gay rights movement, it turns out that he was just getting started.
The next day, Johnson — whose group represents evangelical radio and television programs — hosted a panel discussion on how the First Amendment is “under siege” by liberals. Johnson and his fellow panelists Craig Parshall, an NRB official and husband of right-wing talk show host Janet Parshall, and Canadian Religious Right activist Charles McVety, stoked fears about the persecution of Christians in the United States, including warning that Janet Jackson’s decade-old “wardrobe malfunction” could lead to laws criminalizing anti-gay speech.
Johnson suggested that the anti-gay Benham brothers somehow had their constitutional rights violated when HGTV dropped their planned reality show, and repeatedly made misleading claims about a constitutional amendment to overturn the Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling. He warned that without Citizens United, “private citizens” would be barred from “weighing in on elections,” which of course implies that citizens did not have those rights prior to 2010, when the case was decided.
McVety, the Canadian, claimed that the U.S. is on the verge of doing away with the First Amendment because he has heard “whispers of hate speech” laws on the horizon, alleging that even quoting from the Bible may soon become a criminal offense in America. Outside of the “whispers” he claims to have heard, McVety cited no evidence at all substantiating his claim about the imminent passage of unconstitutional hate speech laws.
McVety explained his theory that U.S. activists will use ISIS propaganda videos of hostage beheadings as an excuse to enact laws banning hate speech. “I can see it coming in America,” he said.
Johnson also tried to find evidence to back up the panel’s dire warnings of constitutional collapse, warning that the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) may cite the fines levied against Janet Jackson for her 2004 Super Bowl “wardrobe malfunction” as a precedent for fining conservative TV personalities under the guise of preserving public order and decency.
The halftime show controversy, of course, occurred a decade ago without any of the horrible results that Johnson predicted, and the NRB actually supported the FCC in the case. Seeing that the NRB filed an amicus curiae brief under Parshall’s name defending the FCC’s fine [PDF], Johnson appears to suggest that his own organization is threatening the First Amendment.
Parshall also grasped at straws in an effort to find evidence of imminent dangers to the First Amendment.
After discussing “Spanish inquisition-type investigations” taking place in America and a “tsunami” of threats to the freedom of speech, Parshall could only cite the Supreme Court’s decision in Lawrence v. Texas, the 2003 case that struck down anti-sodomy laws. He said the ruling paved the way for hate speech laws because of the majority opinion’s use of international law in its decision.
Since U.S. courts citing foreign laws isnothingnew, we can only assume that Parshall merely cited Lawrence to raise fears about the gay-Sharia menace that Johnson previously warned about.
Parshall then railed against hate speech policies on social media outlets like Twitter and Facebook, which of course have their own policies that users agree to uphold and do not represent the government.
Parshall also pointed to the Amish beard shaving case — in which a group of people from an Amish sect were charged with breaking federal hate crime laws, among other counts, for forcibly and violently shaving the beards and cutting the hair of former sect members — to claim that the Justice Department used the hate crime charges against the Amish beard-cutters in order to give them more leeway for future prosecutions over hate speech.
An appeals court recently overturned the religious-based hate crime conviction, finding that prosecutors couldn’t prove that the attacks were motivated for religious reasons, rather than familial, political or personal disputes (two of the victims were the parents of their assailants).
Essentially, the NRB panel’s extreme claims about the imminent annihilation of the bedrock of the U.S. Constitution came down to a string of possibly-maybe-this-could-happen incidents that wed together Janet Jackson, ISIS and Amish beard-cutters.
Johnson concluded his remarks by saying that the “NRB will be for the First Amendment what the NRA is for the Second Amendment.”
If that means making completely outlandish statements and developing doomsday conspiracy theories to spur political outrage and raise money, then his comparison is right on.
WorldNetDaily pundits seem to have a habit of substantiating many of their more inflammatory claims by simply saying they “read it somewhere,” and today’s column by Les Kinsolving is no different.
Kinsolving writes that he’s “seen reports that 30 alternative sexual orientations,” such as “coprophilia, incest, urophilia, exhibitionism and klismaphilia,” are now “federally protected by the so-called Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Prevention Act.”
Wasn’t the existence of NAMBLA, the North American Man/Boy Love Association – and the invitation for these child molesters to march with their small-boy comrades in homosexual parades in both Boston and San Francisco – a justification for tolerance?
Well, if that is really tolerance – rather than carnal barbarism. What about a parade allowance for marching self-advertising necrophiliacs (those who prefer fornicating with corpses) and practitioners of bestiality (with either non-reluctant or reluctant beasts)?
I’ve seen reports that 30 alternative sexual orientations are federally protected by the so-called Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Prevention Act, S. 909, and the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act, H.R. 1913.
This would include coprophilia, incest, urophilia, exhibitionism and klismaphilia.
While we don’t doubt that Kinsolving read that somewhere, that doesn’t mean what he read was at all accurate. The phrase “sexual orientation” in the Shepard-Byrd Hate Crimes Prevention Act is explicitly defined as “consensual homosexuality or heterosexuality.”
But Kinsolving read something different somewhere, so it must be true!
As we reported yesterday, conservative activists are livid about a new bill to update a 1993 National Telecommunications and Information Administration report “on the current prevalence of hate crimes and hate speech in telecommunications,” which anti-Muslim activist Pamela Geller said “is Sharia.”
While speaking to Janet Mefferd yesterday, Geller alleged that the bill will “silence” any “criticism of the left and of the Islamic machine,” while Mefferd called the legislation “creeping Sharia like crazy.”
The 1993 report [PDF] unmistakably denounced the very hate speech measures that Geller suggests are included in the bill: “NTIA endorses the belief, expressed by virtually every commenter, that the best remedy to hate speech is not government restrictions, but more speech, to disseminate views that challenge notions of hate and bigotry.”
Geller then cited the disputed claim that Matthew Shepard’s murder was not motivated by anti-gay animus to argue that the bill is like a “steaming pile of dung [packaged] in a Tiffany box with a little white ribbon.”
Mefferd: Boy, you know, this just is creeping Sharia like crazy. What is going on with this legislation? I understand the House version was actually filed back in December but now Senator Markey is on board with it.
Geller: We saw this coming, Janet, and you’ve been on top of it, really on the tip of the spear so I thank you for that, most press folks are ignoring it because it may very well be something that they would support because it would silence, as if we weren’t silenced enough, any criticism of the left and of the Islamic machine.
Geller: This is completely and utterly unacceptable because at the end of the day, this is the Sharia, that’s exactly what this is. Believe me, they’ll package it the way they packaged hate crimes. If you recall they used Matthew Shepard as a vicious gay killing when we then found out that it was really a drug deal gone bad with a previous lover, it doesn’t matter, this is the steaming pile of dung they package in a Tiffany box with a little white ribbon.
Barack Obama, when he was new in the Oval Office, signed a “hate crimes” law that created a two-tier system of punishment, increasing the punishment for a Christian pastor who attacked a homosexual but not for a homosexual who attacked a Christian pastor.
The reasoning was simple. The homosexual is in a protected class of U.S. citizens, but the Christian pastor is not.
American Family Association President Tim Wildmon warned the new law “creates a kind of caste system in law enforcement, where the perverse thing is that people who engage in nonnormative sexual behavior will have more legal protection than heterosexuals. This kind of inequality before the law is simply un-American.”
He pointed out that the legislation also creates possible situations in which pastors could be arrested if their sermons on sexuality can be linked in even the remotest way to acts of violence. For example, if someone hears the biblical description of homosexuality as a sin and uses that message as a reason for acting.
The Alliance Defending Freedom also blasted the “hate-crimes” bill, calling it “another nail in the coffin of the First Amendment.”
The Shepard-Byrd Act was signed into law in 2009, and yet there still hasn’t been a single case of anyone — pastor, politician or activist — prosecuted for speaking out against homosexuality.
As we have noted, the act “strengthens law enforcement's ability to fight violent crime - not vigorous debate, not sermons against homosexuality, not hateful speech, not the infamous ‘God hates fags’ protesters, not the spreading of misinformation that thrives on constitutionally protected right-wing television, radio, and blogosphere,” and the law clearly states that “nothing in this Act, or the amendments made by 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.”
The first amendment protects all speech, not just speech that we like. Or else who would decide what’s good and what’s forbidden? Hakeem? When I was a young girl, the Nazis were given permission to march in a predominately Jewish neighborhood. In those days, Nazi mean something. Morality was still very much in the American DNA. Good and evil was understood — unlike today, where the left has banished such terms. Despite the horror of a Nazi march, they were given permission, and those of us who were repelled by such a monstrous action understood why permission was granted because of the underlying premise — free speech. I didn’t worry that their Nazi ideas would take hold, as long as I could speak and others could speak in the free exchange of ideas. I knew I would win because my ideas were better. Individual rights was the greatest achievement of the enlightened.
Now we are here. Our free speech is threatened by islamic [sic] supremacists and their Democrat [sic] lapdogs under the guise of “hate speech.” The old “hate speech” canard. They will package this revolution against freedom in a pretty package — and will use the Max Blumenthal-inspired racist murderer, Glenn Miller. But do not be fooled.
It’s bad enough they have all but blacklisted the voices of freedom from media, political and national discourse. Shouting into the wilderness is not freedom of speech.
What next? Burning books? Perhaps just as long as it’s not the quran. And yet there is more hate speech in the quran than in Mein Kampf.
The Hate Crime Reporting Act of 2014 (S.2219) is sharia.
Matt Barber of Liberty Counsel appeared this week on Sandy Rios In The Morning, where he told guest host Wendy Wright that hate crimes laws and the Employment Nondiscrimination Act (ENDA) will be used to protect pedophiles:
When you have laws like ENDA, the Employment Nondiscrimination Act, being pushed, hate crimes legislation, that are as you point out so well Wendy, that are very vague in their definition of what is sexual orientation, we will arrive at the point where you know these people who define their sexual orientation by a sexual attraction to children want to be lumped in among those who cannot be discriminated against based upon their sexual orientation.
Religious Right activists have regularly employed such bizarre arguments against ENDA and hate crimes laws. Naturally, they can’t point to a single case where a state job discrimination law or a state or federal hate crimes statute was used to protect a child predator.
Before the passage of the 2009 Shepard-Byrd Hate Crimes Prevention Act, Janet Porter of Faith 2 Action predicted that the hate crimes legislation would “send pastors to prison” and give legal protections to pedophiles. Of course, pastors haven’t been sent to prison and pedophilia wasn’t legalized, but that hasn’t stopped Porter from repeating even more false claims. Today on her radio bulletin, she asserted that President Obama is “declaring war against those who refuse to accept and affirm” the so-called “homosexual agenda” and is bent on “criminalizing dissent.”
Forcing acceptance of homosexuality.
If there’s one thing that President Obama made clear in his second inaugural address, it’s this. To a nation dealing with high unemployment and debts that threaten to crush everyone, he is committed to pushing the homosexual agenda forward and is declaring war against those who refuse to accept and affirm it.
After putting homosexuals who battled a police raid on a homosexual bar in the same category as those who fought for civil and women’s rights, Obama said “our battle is not complete until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law.”
Sounds nice, but like the pastor who was pushed out of praying at the inauguration for a sermon on homosexuality he gave twenty years ago, this agenda is really about silencing and criminalizing dissent.
President Obama signed the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act into law on October 28, 2009. Two and a half years later, its sexual orientation protections are being use for the first time.
An update to last year's report detailing the Religious Right’s anti-anti-bullying efforts. After the Religious Right's obstinate resistance to common-sense measures against bullying stunned even some conservatives, many of these groups are now proposing their own "remedies" — remedies that would ultimately weaken endeavors to prevent bullying.
President Obama signed the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act into law on October 28, 2009. Two and a half years later, its sexual orientation protections are being use for the first time.
American Family Association president Tim Wildmon yesterday hosted conservative writer Neil Mammen on Today’s Issues, where Wildmon warned that “if President Obama is re-elected again” he will “threaten our religious freedoms” by making hate speech laws to “shut you down if you have anything critical to say about homosexuality.” Conservatives have been warning, dishonestly, of impending hate speech laws for years now, with groups warning of churches being closed and pastors getting arrested and going to prison. While their nightmare vision never seems to come true, Religious Right leaders like Wildmon never fail to make such claims in order to rile up their supporters and stoke fears of equal rights for gays and lesbians.
Wildmon: If President Obama is re-elected again, he will appoint more ACLU lawyer type judges to the Supreme Court and to the federal bench, all right, that will threaten our religious freedoms in this country as we’ve known them. I guarantee you it will. Now President Obama would reject that idea but I’m telling you they will, for instance they will take hate speech, if you speak out against homosexuality, and they will impose that as unacceptable and they will shut you down if you have anything critical to say about homosexuality.
Mammen: Look at this new contraception law thing that they pushed through.
Wildmon: Exactly. Prime example, prime example right there.
Early in 2010, Gary Glenn of the American Family Association of Michigan and three Michigan pastors filed a lawsuit against the federal Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2009. The group was represented by the ultra-right wing Thomas More Law Center, which argued that "the sole purpose of this law is to criminalize the Bible and use the threat of federal prosecutions and long jail sentences to silence Christians from expressing their Biblically-based religious belief that homosexual conduct is a sin."
The lawsuit was dismissed in September of that year and that was the last we had heard about it, though Glenn continued with his anti-gayactivism and then decided to make a bid for the US Senate.
A three-judge panel of the 6th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals in Cincinnati is taking up the claim of three Michigan ministers that a federal hate crime law infringes on their First Amendment rights and should be declared unconstitutional.
Oral arguments are scheduled Wednesday.
The law expands federal hate crimes to those committed against people because of sexual orientation, gender identity or disability.
The ministers say they could be targeted for their sermons against gay behavior. The law's supporters say it's aimed at acts of violence, not speech by clergy.
A lower court judge dismissed the lawsuit last year.
The ministers are Jim Combs of Waterford, Rene Ouellette (oo-LET') of Bridgeport and Levon Yuille (YOOL) of Ypsilanti. Another plaintiff is Gary Glenn, head of the American Family Association of Michigan.
President Obama signed the legislation in October 2009 and, to date, not one person has been charged for preaching against homosexuality ... but that obviously is not going to stop anti-gay activists from filing lawsuits claiming that is exactly what will happen.
In addition to protections for race, color, religion, national origin, and ethnicity, federal law now protects victims of violent crimes committed based on a person's actual or perceived sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, and disability. And in areas where the law already stood, it is now stronger.