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Conservatives Nervous as Hate Crimes Bill Advances

posted by akornfeld

WASHINGTON — As the House took up a hate crimes bill that would add sexual orientation to a list of federally protected classes, Andrea Lafferty of the Traditional Values Coalition stood outside the Capitol and warned of dire consequences for clergy.
“They know the purpose of this bill is to silence pastors, to silence youth pastors, to silence people of faith,” said Lafferty, joining her conservative Christian leaders and Republican lawmakers to oppose the bill.
But would it? The bill’s supporters say it wouldn’t, and accuse critics of spreading “absurd lies.”
Despite growing conservative outcry, the House passed the legislation along party lines by a vote of 249-175 on Wednesday (April 29). On Tuesday, the Senate introduced companion legislation.
The hate crimes bill, which would include physical attacks motivated by “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” among the crimes subject to special federal prosecution, has long been a top priority of gay rights groups. But some conservative Christian groups say it will reduce their ability to preach that homosexual behavior is sinful.
And with a Democrat in the White House who has stated his support for the legislation, they’re more concerned than ever that the legislation could become law.
Groups ranging from Lafferty’s coalition to the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention have mounted a last-ditch campaign to try to kill the bill as it heads to the Senate.
Barrett Duke, vice president for public policy at the Southern Baptist commission, said he is concerned that the legislation could lead to prosecution of clergy whose words against homosexuality get tied to a crime committed by someone who listened to them.
“This bill puts Christians and many other religious groups in the government’s cross hairs,” he said at a news conference spearheaded by Rep. Louie Gohmert, R-Texas. “Those who teach that homosexuality is contrary to God’s design may find that they as well are targeted by this law.”
Rep. Steve Cohen, D-Tenn., criticized those who said the legislation could stifle preaching against homosexuality.
“People who submit that preachers could be arrested for preaching against homosexuality, which they do today, that they could be arrested, there is a commandment about that,” said Cohen, speaking on the floor of the House on Wednesday. “Don’t bear false witness.”
In a daily memo circulated on Capitol Hill, House Majority Whip James E. Clyburn stressed that the bill is aimed at criminal behavior, not religious speech.
“The bill will NOT limit religious expression,” he wrote. “Some churches have stated that with passage of this bill, ministers may be arrested for speech and words said in the pulpits. This is false. This bill is about violent crime. It is not about and does not prohibit thought, speech or expression protected by the First Amendment.”
More liberal religious groups, including the United Methodist Board of Church and Society, the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, and the Transgender Religious Leaders Network, support the bill, while other religious leaders have blasted critics for saying pulpit free speech rights are at risk.
“As the bill heads for the Senate, its opponents are spreading absurd lies, claiming it would send pastors to jail for giving anti-gay sermons,” said the Rev. Susan Russell, president of Integrity USA, an Episcopal gay rights group.
David Gushee, a Christian ethicist at Mercer University, said he examined the bill and had no concerns.
“I am persuaded that the bill poses no threat whatsoever to any free speech right for religious communities or their leaders,” Gushee said. “Its passage will make for a safer and more secure environment in which we and all of our fellow Americans can live our lives.”
President Obama has signaled his support for the legislation. In a statement released Tuesday, he urged quick action on “this important civil rights issue by passing this legislation to protect all of our citizens from violent acts of intolerance.”
It’s language like that from Obama that causes the Rev. Louis Sheldon, chairman of the Traditional Values Coalition and Lafferty’s father, to start planning for a law that seems all but inevitable.
“Only a miracle in the Senate will defeat it,” Sheldon said. “We are preparing pastors. There needs to be, I think real quickly, a court challenge immediately that this is unconstitutional.”
By Adelle M. Banks
Religion News Service
Copyright 2009 Religion News Service. All rights reserved. No part of this transmission may be distributed or reproduced without written permission.



  • Henrietta22

    The Conservative Clergy and members should stop worrying about their selves being persecuted for their religious beliefs. It’s not about them, it’s about persecuting and killing LGBT. They might get in touch with their conciousness however and do some reading and studying on the subject though. Why would people who profess to love our Christ Jesus think it is o.k. to treat people the way they do the most vulnerable of our society? I’ve read their reasons for years, and they still do not make sense. If they want to keep putting them down and calling them sinners that’s their right for free speech in America. They must remember that God is listening to them and seeing what their words are creating, if this creation suits them it’s between God and themselves.

  • nnmns

    Barrett Duke, vice president for public policy at the Southern Baptist commission, said he is concerned that the legislation could lead to prosecution of clergy whose words against homosexuality get tied to a crime committed by someone who listened to them.

    It should be simple to include with all such words the admonishment to love the homosexual no matter how they feel about the homosexual act. Isn’t that Christianity 101? Or is there some hate, not love, transmitted with these messages?
    If I considered myself moral but found myself on the side of people who want to beat and kill people for how they were born I hope I’d rethink my position!

  • cknuck

    I don’t understand the bill, homosexuals that are people/humans and i American citizen are like anyone else it is already a crime to harm them. What’s the point? One assault is different from another one murder is different from another?

  • nnmns

    I look at it as building a fort around a city. If there were a direction it was harder to defend you’d build the fort higher there. Because of conditions they can’t control some people are more likely to be targeted for attack so you build their defense, the law, a little tougher.

  • Your Name

    Conservatives needn’t worry. Violent haters do. And should.
    Pastors? I will never forget nor forgive ‘reverend’ Jimmy waggart (yes, the one that got caught with a hooker – TWICE!) saying on his nationally televised hate-a-thon that, “If a man so much as looked at me ‘funny’, I’d kill him and tell God he died.”
    Perfect example of what the ‘religious’ ‘right’ mean when they say they “love” the “sinner”.
    Advocating for the deaths of God’s gay and lesbian children is not how you show “God’s love” (TM). (Nor is treating them unequally before the law, either.)

  • cknuck

    nnmns I disagree because the rate of murder?violence is higher among other groups. What ignore the other victims to express our outrage for one set of victims? I think it is one sided and not equal.

  • nnmns

    There are groups that are already protected. What are the groups in greater danger than homosexuals that are not already covered? There may be some; I’m asking.

  • Plus ca change, plus c’est le meme chose.

    Most things conservatives say about hate crimes legislation is wrong on many levels. Hate crime legislation is about levels of sentencing based on intent. Just as planning to murder someone beforehand gets someone a harsher sentence than just *oopsie* killing a guy in a bar fight, so it is that targeting a person for a beating *because* they are gay is different than, say, a simple assault resulting from an argument. One shows a level of premeditation – one does not.
    Different crimes, different times.
    About what am I supposed to be concerned, again?

  • Henrietta22

    Cknuck it isn’t one set of people being protected. It is any person who has a different religion that is hated by someone, any person that belongs to groups that some other groups hate, any person of a different race that someone hates, anyone who has a different sexual orientation that someone hates. Any murder that is clearly done because of hate. The F.B.I. can be brought in with other law enforcement to get the hater. There are more small print pluses for it as well.

  • cknuck

    H22 quote “Any murder that is clearly done because of hate.”
    Now look at the murder rate and the answer is very clear powerful lobbyist have pushed this while ignoring the fact that murders of homosexuals are so rare in comparison to murders of poor minorities. So if there should be special legislation then it is misdirected in this case.

  • Husband

    ck,
    Did some “powerful lobbyist” “push” for you to be included? I mean, you are both Christian (included) and a person of colour (included), no? Since both minorities are already included, tell us, was their/your inclusion somehow likewise “misdirected”?
    Kudos to Plusca change. Your clarification about the very nature of hate crimes does, indeed, mean there is premeditation. The ‘Let’s go out and kill us a kweer’ school of ‘thought’. Trouble is, even with that kind of ‘thinking’, the target is sometimes not even gay (a case recently reported), but is perceived to be or believed to be. I sure wouldn’t want to be Ned Flanders on the streets of “real America” (TM).

  • cknuck

    Husband make sense and I would be happy to reply

  • Mordred08

    cknuck: “Now look at the murder rate and the answer is very clear powerful lobbyist have pushed this while ignoring the fact that murders of homosexuals are so rare in comparison to murders of poor minorities. So if there should be special legislation then it is misdirected in this case.”
    You’re already covered (black and Christian) so I don’t really think you need to be complaining to us LGBT folks about being underrepresented.

  • cknuck

    Mordred, if you only had a b…,
    Of the 1500 murders in the U.S. about 15 of them are of homosexuals and maybe 2 to 5 are because of hate. The persons who do the homosexual hate murders are sick and not normal. The bill is just as Jesus said straining out a gnat to swallow a camel.

  • Mordred08

    cknuck: “The persons who do the homosexual hate murders are sick and not normal.”
    That’s funny. I thought WE were the ones who were sick and not normal. Where could I have gotten that idea?

  • Henrietta22

    If there was only 15 murders of Homosexuals in the U.S. (in what yr. cknuck?) out of the 1500, who decided who was Gay? If there were only 5 or 6 of the 15 that was caused by hate, who decided that? especially in the anti-gay states. If there were 15 deaths of gay people I think it is most likely they were all hate crimes. Now with the Hate Crime Bill, there will not be any cover-ups for any hate crime against anyone.

  • cknuck

    That’s your problem H22 “you think”, well what do you think about murder/violence between homosexuals that have nothing to do with heterosexuals. Figure out other ways of wasting tax payer’s money

  • Husband

    “Husband make sense and I would be happy to reply

    In what way did I not make sense, ck?

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