Hate Crimes Law Defy Testimony of Experience

Evidence is mounting that supporters of new federal “hate crimes” legislation, both Republicans and Democrats, are either greatly deceived or are greatly deceiving.

In newspapers across the country recently the Religion News Service ran an interview with Congressman James Clyburn (D-S.C.), the House majority whip and head of the Democrats’ Faith Working Group, in which he said opponents of the hate crimes bill are dong “a disservice to themselves and their faith…”

In the interview, Clyburn, the son of a Pentecostal preacher, was asked this question: “A number of conservative religious groups say that hate crimes legislation regarding sexual orientation that’s been circulating on the Hill would muzzle them from preaching against homosexuality. Are they right to be concerned?” His response: “I don’t understand what’s going on with that. They know better than that. This bill is about criminal activity. It’s not going to muzzle pastors in their pulpit on Sunday morning.”

Rep. Clyburn probably made that claim based on the language in the bill authorizing federal hate crimes prosecution when someone “willfully causes bodily injury” or “attempts to cause bodily injury.” But an understanding of how criminal law works requires us to also read between the lines — as some Congressmen did during a House Judiciary Committee hearing on the bill (a transcript of which has been sent to Rep. Clyburn.)

The following is from the transcript of the hearing where Congressman Louie Gohmert (R-Tex.) repeats a question to Congressman Artur Davis (D-Ala.) regarding the reach of the hate crimes legislation:

“…if a minister preaches that sexual relations outside of marriage of a man and a woman is [sic] wrong, and somebody within that congregation goes out and does an act of violence, and that person says that that minister counseled or induced him through the sermon to commit that act, are you saying under your amendment that in no way could that ever be introduced against the minister?

“Mr. Davis: No.”

In other words, Congressman Gohmert was confirming that, under this legislation, a minister who preaches a message on homosexuality could, under the “rules of evidence,” have his sermons and other information regarding his church subpoenaed by the court and he, himself, could become an accessory to an independent act that was classified as a “hate crime.”

For anyone who thinks this is a reach, let me point to two additional facts for consideration.

On June 15, 2007, just weeks after the House passed the “hate crimes ” legislation, Congressmen John Dingell (D-Mich.), a chief sponsor of the hate crimes legislation and chairman of the Committee on Energy and Commerce which has jurisdiction over the communications industry, and Rep. Ed Markey, the third-ranking member of the committee, sent a letter to the National Telecommunications and Information Administration. In the letter Dingell and Markey requested that the agency conduct a study on “the role of telecommunications in the dissemination of speech that may encourage or advocate hate crimes.” [Emphasis added]

If Congressman Clyburn is correct and “hate crimes” legislation is just about criminal activity, why would Congress be looking into speech that is communicated through the internet or by radio or television unless there was some desire to connect the speech to the purported hate crime? Note that the language of the letter refers to “encouragement,” an inherently elastic term that must mean something beyond “advocate,” the word that follows it.

This is the precise scenario that is occurring to our north in Calgary, Alberta, where Pastor Stephen Boissoin was recently hauled before the Alberta Human Rights and Citizenship Commission for a letter he wrote to a local newspaper. In the letter he expressed concern for the growing influence of the “militant homosexual agenda” and he said that individuals need to "take whatever steps are necessary to reverse the wickedness" of the "homosexual machine."

Two weeks later in the same town, a young homosexual man was beaten up, an act that Rev. Boissoin did not suggest nor condone and that every good citizen condemns. However, a complaint was filed against Boissoin for “hate-mongering” and he is now before the Human Rights Commission on charges that his letter "expos[ed] people to hatred" and, therefore, shouldn’t be protected speech.

This is why bible-believing pastors and Christians, indeed anyone who holds to moral convictions about sexual activity outside of marriage, are concerned about the “hate crimes” legislation that is now before our Congress. By punishing thoughts as well as actions, it sets us on the slippery slope toward the day when the thoughts alone will be punished. In the long run, homosexual activists will be satisfied with nothing less. These concerns are confirmed as valid by the very words and actions of “hate crimes” supporters as well as by how similar laws have been enforced elsewhere. Anyone who thinks that pastors will not be muzzled on the moral issues of our day is ignoring the testimony of experience.