People For the American Way Welcomes Introduction of Federal Hate Crimes Law

Urges Lawmakers Not to be Distracted by Dishonest Tactics Used by Law's Opponents

People For the American Way welcomed the bipartisan introduction of the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act in the U.S. House of Representatives. The legislation would provide federal resources to help local law enforcement departments combat violent hate crimes. H.R. 1913 was introduced this week by Reps. John Conyers (D-MI) and Mark Kirk (R-IL).

"In America, no one should be forced to live in fear of violence based on who they are," said Michael Keegan, interim President of People For the American Way. "It's long overdue that we stand together and take action against violent crimes that kill and injure thousands of individuals every year and subject whole communities to violent intimidation."

During the last Congress, the House and Senate both passed versions of federal hate crimes legislation, but the bills never reached the president's desk.

Keegan denounced the extraordinarily dishonest campaign that was waged against hate crimes legislation in the last Congress, especially false and inflammatory claims that advocates for the law were out to silence pastors and prevent churches from preaching about homosexuality. He said Religious Right leaders were already gearing up a similar disinformation campaign against the new legislation.

"The legislation introduced this week has explicit language affirming the First Amendment's protections of free speech and religious liberty, as did last year's legislation" said Keegan, "but that isn't preventing opponents from spreading fear and lying about threats to religious liberty. We urge Members of Congress not to be distracted by the campaign of distortions and deceptions that has already begun. It's time to get this done."

Keegan said People For the American Way would mobilize its hundreds of thousands of members and activists to help win passage of the legislation.

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