Is Your Minister a 'Hate Crime' Peddler?

The George Orwell congress resumed its session yesterday.  Not content to attempt to end the secret ballot by the “Employee Free Choice Act,”  the House Judiciary Committee is scheduled to mark up and pass the equally-Orwellian “Hate Crimes” bill, HR 1913.

Just as the “Employee Free Choice Act” would end free choice, the “Hate Crimes” bill would criminalize free speech.  No, it’s not another version of the “Fairness Doctrine” — which is fair to all except conservatives.  The “Hate Crimes” bill wants to criminalize speech that insults politically-fashionable minorities, such as gays.

Even if it means sacrificing religiousl freedom to do it. [Take action here]

The bill justifies itself by rehearsing the most peculiar set of fibs and exaggerations. Right there in Section 2 of the “Findings” portion of the bill it states:

•    Gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgenders are fleeing across state lines to avoid persecution;
•    Perpetrators are crossing state lines to commit crimes against them;
•    Gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgenders are so persecuted they have trouble purchasing goods and services or finding employment.

As I started South on I-95 this weekend through Virginia I looked for downtrodden groups of these persecuted refugees pulling carts loaded down with antiques and Barry Manilow CD’s along the highway.  From the other direction, I expected carloads of extremists pouring into my state to attack these persecuted folks.

The interstate was crowded this weekend but I don’t think any of the HR 1913 “smoke and mirrors” rhetoric about homosexuals fleeing their homes  had anything to do with it.  This is just a tip of Mr. Orwell’s homburg to the Constitution.  If the Congressional types can wiggle their way into the Commerce Clause — which empowers congress to regulate interstate commerce — they can do so, even with criminalizing it.

Don’t think so?  Tell it to Bonnie and Clyde.  Interstate bank robbers were among the first to benefit from this application of the Commerce Clause.  But I digress.

Of course, this idea that gays, lesbians and transsexuals comprise a persecuted class is pure fabrication.  As a demographic, they are among the wealthiest, best-educated, most travelled Americans.

So-called hate crimes involving sexual orientation are a relatively small percentage of such crimes investigated by the Justice Department.

The Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department publishes statistics each year.  As a matter of fact, the Justice Department reported that crimes against lesbian, gay, bi-sexual and transgender citizens numbered at 1,521 in 2007.   That’s a distant third to crimes based on race (4,956) and those based on religion (1,628).

So there are no facts to support invoking the Commerce Clause of course.

Rather than offering protection to a class of Americans, the effect of enacting HR 1913 into law will be to create a new persecuted class in order to correct these imaginary crime waves against the richest and most politically active part of the Democratic Party’s and President Obama’s base.

HR 1913 targets mainstream religious people for prosecution because their sincerely-held religious beliefs and centuries of theology inform them that homosexuality is a disordered behavior and a sin.  Just expressing that belief will amount to a crime under this bill and pastors across America will be risking their freedom to quote certain passages of the Bible from their pulpits.

This hate crimes bill creates that climate with its chilling effect on the First Amendment’s “free exercise” of  religion, taking rights away from one group of citizens in a phony ploy to protect another group of citizens from a contrived threat.

Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas) debated Rep. Artur Davis (D-Alabama) last Congress.  Here is a very telling portion of that exchange:

Mr. Gohmert:  Even with your amendment, you still have to go back to the “rule of evidence” at page 15 of the underlying bill. And it says that these things may not be introduced as substantive evidence at trial unless the evidence specifically relates to the offense.

And if I understood the gentleman’s amendment — and I will put the question back to you — if a minister preaches that sexual relations outside of marriage of a man and woman is 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.

If you parse your way through that thicket of legalisms and double negatives, you’ll find that Cong. Davis was saying that the sermon could be used as evidence against the minister.
H.R. 1913 broadly defines “intimidation.”  A pastor’s sermon could be considered “hate speech” under this legislation if heard by an individual who then acts aggressively against persons based on any “sexual orientation.”  The pastor could be prosecuted for “conspiracy to commit a hate crime.”

And while HR 1913 says many things which are not true, it also leaves a number of important things unsaid and therefore undefined.

The question of which “sexual orientations” will be protected is left wide open so a great deal of discretion will be granted to judges and prosecutors to determine what is a “sexual orientation” and which ones will be covered.  Who knows how many the courts will recognize, or invent.

No reasonable person could conclude that the Founders had any of this in mind when they drafted the Constitution and said which “rights” should be protected and which should be prohibited.

The legislation is very confusing and I believe that is by design.  At least one source involved in the drafting of this bill told me that the Justice Department purposefully left some of the ambiguity in the bill in order to permit “some mischief” as the bill is translated to regulations.

Perhaps, like doctors, the lawmakers need to be reminded to “first, do no harm” because this legislation hurts many and helps no one.

We can only wait for the next hate crime bill which undoes most of this one in order to aid the real and newest damaged class — Americans with religious beliefs.

[Take action to stop HR 1913 here]