Message Posted: Oct 18, 2007 9:50:16 AM
The House of Representatives has voted to urge a conference committee to add "sexual orientation, gender and disability" to federal hate-crimes law, a development some observers say would muzzle Christians who speak out against homosexuality.
On Sept. 28, the House voted 213-186 to pass a procedural motion encouraging a conference committee to include the hate-crimes legislation in the final version of the Defense Authorization Act (H.R. 4200).
In June, Sens. Gordon Smith, R-Ore., and Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., introduced the new language meant to protect homosexuals as an amendment to the Senate's version of the Defense Authorization Act. The Senate measured passed by a vote of 65-33.
The bill imposes special fines for those who commit a "hate crime" against a protected class and provides federal assistance to those prosecuting such crimes. Existing hate-crimes law provides federal help to states and localities in prosecuting crimes based only on the victim's race, religion or national origin.
Christian activists believe that if passed and signed into law, the legislation could be used to target Americans who voice their opposition to the homosexual lifestyle – including pastors preaching and reading the Bible.
"Passage would literally throw open the door to attacks against people of faith, who could be prosecuted with federal monies for expressing their views on homosexuality!" warns Gary Cass, executive director of the Center for Reclaiming America.
Bob Knight, director of the Culture and Family Institute, says if it becomes law the legislation could be used to "muzzle public discussion of homosexuality and even someday silence pastors."
Knight commented, "It's a very dangerous bill, because it adds 'sexual orientation' to hate-crimes law, and it greatly expands federal jurisdiction.
"If your grandmother is mugged, it won't be a big deal [unless she is a lesbian]," Knight said. "And the law-enforcement authorities may have to put more of their revenues toward the mugging, say, of a homosexual guy walking down the street. Both deserve protection, but certainly the gay guy doesn't deserve more than your grandmother."
Wrote Knight in a WorldNetDaily column: "Homosexual activists have redefined any opposition to homosexuality as 'hate speech.' Laws already criminalize speech that incites violence. It's easy to imagine a scenario in which any incident involving a homosexual can be blamed on people who have publicly opposed homosexual activism."
Because it offers special protection to specific class of people, the legislation "violates the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution," Cass stated.
The Human Rights Campaign hailed last week's House vote.
"Congress should work to protect Americans, not discriminate against them," said HRC President Cheryl Jacques. "We laud Congress for this vote, especially Minority Leader Pelosi for offering this motion and working to get the overwhelming support of her peers. We urge conference committee members to take it to heart – keep the federal hate-crimes bill in conference committee."
According to HRC, the House passed a similar motion in September 2000 by a 232-192 vote, but that amendment was removed in conference committee. The homosexual-advocacy group claims the new hate-crimes language has been endorsed by more than 175 law-enforcement, civil-rights, civic and religious organizations.
As WorldNetDaily reported, a new law was passed in Canada that adds sexual orientation as a protected category in the nation's genocide and hate-crimes legislation, which carries a penalty of up to five years in prison.
Opponents of the new law fear the Bible will be deemed "hate literature" under the criminal code in certain instances, as evidenced by the case of a Saskatchewan man fined by a provincial human-rights tribunal for taking out a newspaper ad with Scripture references to verses about homosexuality.
Earlier this year in Sweden, which also has strict hate-crimes laws, a pastor was arrested at his church after he began reading Bible verses condemning homosexuality.
Some states have included sexual orientation in their state hate-crimes laws. Last month, California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed into law a bill expanding that state's statute to include not only homosexuals and transgendered people but also people who merely associate with those who are part of a protected class.
"While every hate crime represents a personal tragedy for the victim, hate crimes also are an attempt to intimidate a larger group or community of people," the bills' author, Senator Sheila Kuehl, told 365gay.com. "Hate crimes tear at the fabric of our society and it is important that we have a strong and effective response to them."
In Pennsyvlania, pastors are concerned they could be targeted under that state's new hate-crimes law, which added "sexual orientation" and "gender identity" as motives that trigger heavier penalties for the crime of "harassment."
The Center for Reclaiming America is urging citizens to contact the House members and senators who are on the conference committee to ask them to remove the hate-crimes language from the final bill.
A spokeswoman from the House Armed Services Committee told WND the conference committee's goal is to finalize the bill by Friday, the day Congress is scheduled to adjourn for the month.
Certain passages of the Bible can be construed as hate literature if placed in a particular context, according to a Canadian provincial court.
The Court of Queen's Bench in Saskatchewan upheld a 2001 ruling by the province's human rights tribunal that fined a man for submitting a newspaper ad that included citations of four Bible verses that address homosexuality.
A columnist noted in the Edmonton Journal last week that the Dec. 11 ruling generated virtually no news stories and "not a single editorial."
Imagine "the hand-wringing if ever a federal court labeled the Quran hate literature and forced a devout Muslim to pay a fine for printing some of his book's more astringent passages in an ad in a daily newspaper," wrote Lorne Gunter in the Edmonton, Alberta, daily.
Under Saskatchewan's Human Rights Code, Hugh Owens of Regina, Saskatchewan, was found guilty along with the newspaper, the Saskatoon StarPhoenix, of inciting hatred and was forced to pay damages of 1,500 Canadian dollars to each of the three homosexual men who filed the complaint.
The rights code allows for expression of honestly held beliefs, but the commission ruled that the code can place "reasonable restriction" on Owens's religious expression, because the ad exposed the complainants "to hatred, ridicule, and their dignity was affronted on the basis of their sexual orientation."
The ad's theme was that the Bible says no to homosexual behavior. It listed the references to four Bible passages, Romans 1, Leviticus 18:22, Leviticus 20:13 and 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 on the left side. An equal sign was placed between the verse references and a drawing of two males holding hands overlaid with the universal nullification symbol – a red circle with a diagonal bar.
Owens, an evangelical Christian and corrections officer, said his ad was "a Christian response" to Homosexual Pride Week.
"I put the biblical references, but not the actual verses, so the ad would become interactive," he told the National Catholic Register after the 2001 ruling. "I figured somebody would have to look them up in the Bible first, or if they didn't have a Bible, they'd have to find one."
Leviticus 20:13, says, according to the New International Version, "If a man lies with a man as one lies with a woman, both of them have done what is detestable. They must be put to death; their blood will be on their own heads."
"Owens denies that, as a Christian, he wants homosexuals put to death, as some inferred from the biblical passages," the Catholic paper said. He believes, however, that "eternal salvation is at stake," both for those engaging in homosexual acts and for himself, if he fails to inform them about "what God says about their behavior."
Exposure to hatred
Justice J. Barclay wrote in his opinion that the human-rights panel "was correct in concluding that the advertisement can objectively be seen as exposing homosexuals to hatred or ridicule."
"When the use of the circle and slash is combined with the passages of the Bible, it exposes homosexuals to detestation, vilification and disgrace," Barclay said. "In other words, the biblical passage which suggests that if a man lies with a man they must be put to death exposes homosexuals to hatred."
In the 2001 ruling, Saskatchewan Human Rights Board of Inquiry commissioner Valerie Watson emphasized that the panel was not banning parts of the Bible. She wrote that the offense was the combination of the symbol and the biblical references. Owens, in fact, published an ad in 2001, without complaint, that quoted the full text of the passages he cited in the offending 1997 ad.
But the Canadian Civil Liberties Association sides with Christian groups that criticize the panel for stifling free speech. Opponents of the ruling say it illustrates the dangers of a bill currently in Parliament, C-250, that would add "sexual orientation" as a protected category in Canada's genocide and hate crimes legislation.
That legislation would make criminals of people like Owens and others who have been charged under provincial human rights panels, they argue.
Two years ago, the Ontario Human Rights Commission penalized printer Scott Brockie $5,000 for refusing to print letterhead for a homosexual advocacy group. Brockie argued that his Christian beliefs compelled him to reject the group's request.
In 1998, an Ontario man was convicted of hate crimes for an incident in which he distributed pamphlets about Islam outside a high school. In one of the pamphlets, defendant Mark Harding listed atrocities committed in the name of Islam in foreign lands to back his assertion that Canadians should be wary of local Muslims.
Janet Epp Buckingham, legal counsel for the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada, says cases like this are worrisome precedents that an expanded hate law could build upon, reported the Hamilton, Ontario, Spectator newspaper.
"Mark Harding really went overboard," Epp Buckingham said. "He said some quite nasty things about Muslims – that they are really violent overseas and that Muslims in Canada are the same and people need to be careful of them.
"But the court almost ignored the religious exemption," she said. "Harding himself said he wasn't trying to incite violence against Muslims. But the court said he did promote violence and hatred against Muslims and therefore the exemption doesn't apply, that it was not a good faith expression of religion."
She said that, at the very least, Bill C-250 could place a significant chill over the Christian community and, at worst, it could cause undue restrictions on religious expression.The Truth
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