Yesterday a group calling itself the High Impact Leadership Coalition, including our own Reverend Ken Hutcherson, started a campaign to convince congress that "The Matthew Shepard Act" (S1105) is an attack on religious liberty.
Here's is the shocking poster for their campaign:
Existing Hate Crimes legislation already protects U.S. citizens regardless of race, color, religion, or national origin. HR1592 includes protection against speech that incites action in others. An example would be a racist hate speech at a rally directing violence against a specific group that results in people attending the rally beating and killing a member of that specific group.
Is this what the Dirty Thirty are opposing? It sounds remarkably like a necessary protection for African Americans and other racial groups against hate advocacy groups like the Ku Klux Klan.
Forget the neutral categories of race, color, religion and national origin. Hate crimes overwhelmingly affect African Americans, Muslims, Jews, and Gays, Lesbians, and Bisexuals (Transgender hate crimes are not even tracked) more than any groups. Based on a decade of FBI data:
All of the groups most affected by Hate Crimes are already protected, except Gays, Lesbians and Bisexuals.
The HILC.NET web site has this graphic in rotation on the home page:
Read it carefully and spot the Freudian slip.
"It threatens out (sic) religious freedom"
Apparently HR1592 "threatens out religious freedom". Imagine if GLBT African Americans could be out in their churches and be safe from ridicule, moralizing and condemnation. Clearly this campaign isn't focused on the problems of homophobia, men on the down low and unsafe sex in the African American community.
But to address their likely point - according to the First Amendment Center:
Nevertheless, Christian conservatives claim H.R. 1592 would weaken that protection by potentially criminalizing speech against homosexuality. They argue, for example, that the law could be used to prosecute a minister who preaches a strong sermon condemning homosexuality if someone in the pews goes out and commits a hate crime against homosexuals.
But unless the minister, in a manner likely to incite imminent lawless action, directs people to commit violence — speech that isn’t protected by the First Amendment now — it’s difficult to see how this law would restrict what is said from the pulpit, however strongly stated.
Moreover, the danger of hate-crimes laws to free expression isn’t supported by our experience of living under such laws. Under the present federal hate-crimes law (which covers attacks based on race, ethnicity, national origin and religion) and the 45 state hate-crimes laws (32 of which include sexual orientation) nobody has been convicted of a hate crime solely on the basis of thought, belief or speech.
"It violates the 5th amendment."
How exactly? If this refers to the double-jeopardy clause of the Fifth Amendment the Supreme Court has already ruled this as settled law. In Wisconsin v. Mitchell (1993) the court ruled that a person can be tried for the same crime in both state and federal courts.
"Protects adult (sic) rather than children"
Excuse me? Adults and Children are protected equally under existing and proposed Hate Crimes legislation. What is the objection here?
"It's a step away from disaster"
Hysterical much, do you think? I'm not sure what disaster they are talking about. Unreasoned arguments are best defended by offering no justification for their existence so this is at least consistent.
No wonder the Pastors for Prejudice are so riled up. According to a May 1th-13th Gallup Poll on the subject of Hate Crimes, the American people are against them. Almost 8 out of 10 Americans say that they support the current Hate Crimes laws:
Now, thinking about what have been called "hate crimes" -- those crimes committed because the criminal hates the group of people to which the victim belongs. As you may know, federal law currently allows prosecution of hate crimes committed on the basis of the victim's race, color, religion or national origin. Do you favor or oppose these laws?
78% - Favor
18% - Oppose
4% - No opinion
To make matters worse for the Dirty Thirty, a second question makes it clear that support for the expansion of the hate crime legislation to include the victim's gender, sexual orientation, or gender identity is "very substantial".
There is a proposal to expand federal hate crime laws to include crimes committed on the basis of the victim's gender, sexual orientation, or gender identity. Would you favor or oppose expanding the federal hate crime laws in this way?
68% - Favor
27% - Oppose
5% - No opinion
Although many Americans may be unfamiliar with the pending new law, there appears to be little hesitation to offer an opinion. Only 5% of Americans say they don't have an opinion about the expansion of the law.
When the history is written, their will be a special footnote for the hypocritical Dirty Thirty who have lent their names to this shameful campaign.