"The truth shall set you free, but first it will piss you off"--Gloria Steinem
I AM NOT NECESSARILY FOR THIS BILL OR THE IDEA OF HATE-CRIME LAWS IN GENERAL BECAUSE THERE ARE ALREADY LAWS THAT PROTECT ALL PEOPLE FROM VIOLENT CRIMES. HOWEVER, IF A HATE-CRIME LAW UPS THE PENALTY FOR PEOPLE LIKE KKK MEMBERS, NEO-NAZIS, OR OTHER TERRORIST GROUPS THAT COMMIT RANDOM ACTS OF VIOLENCE TO STIR FEAR AND INTIMIDATION WITHIN AN ENTIRE PEOPLE GROUP, RACE, OR COMMUNITY, THEN I HAVE NO HAVE OBJECTIONS ABOUT SUCH A LAW.
Alas, the following is not an argument for this hate-crime bill, but a criticism of the DISHONEST tactics employed to dissuade people from supporting it. I take NO issue with those opposed to hate-crime legislation. However, I DO take great issue with people on either side of the political isle that use lies and fear to manipulate people into supporting their agendas.
For instance, I think certain democrats did a great disservice by shadily attaching hate-crime legislation to an unrelated war bill that would give funding to the troops to put President Bush in a catch-twenty two (if he vetoes the bill because of the constitutionally-questionable hate-crime proposal, then he simultaneously denies funding for badly needed supplies for the troops). This is NOT the right tactic. It is unethical and borders on extortion.
But I am more appalled by how certain Christian political groups have responded to the new hate-crime legislation. First off, hate-crime laws already exist, protecting racial, religious, and ethnic groups from those who seek to harm them because of the color of their skin, the place where they worship, or the country from which they were born. Hate-crime law not only ups the penalty for such violent crimes, but provides more resources to federal and state investigators to more aggressively prosecute such cases. The new legislation aims to add the disabled, both genders, and sexual orientation to the list of those protected under hate-crime law. The sexual orientation clause would include homosexuals (as well as heterosexuals) and this, of course, is controversial for many Christians.
Organizations like The American Family Association (AFA) have come out in full force against this bill. I am deeply ashamed of THE WAY in which they are opposing this bill, not the fact that they are against it.
AFA sends out all sorts of massive e-mail alerts to rally people to act on upcoming legislation and other current issues. This is completely fine. However, with this bill, their e-mail alerts FLAT OUT LIE. AFA claims that if THIS bill is passed with the sexual orientation clause, it will make it illegal for Christians to teach that homosexuality is immoral or even discuss homosexuality, resulting in HUGE fines and imprisonment.
HERE IS A SEGMENT OF THEIR JUNE 2007 E-MAIL ALERT:
A bill in Congress could make it a crime for pastors and churches to speak against homosexuality
If pastors and other Christians don’t aggressively oppose a bill now in Congress, in the near future they could be subject to huge fines and prison terms if they say anything negative about homosexuality.The proposed law could make it a crime to preach on Romans Chapter 1 or I Corinthians Chapter 6. Or even to discuss them in a Sunday School class. If churches and individuals want to keep the government from telling them what they can and cannot preach and teach about homosexuality, they better get involved now!This bill could make negative statements concerning homosexuality, such as calling the practice of homosexuality a sin from the pulpit, a “hate crime” punishable by law. This dangerous legislation could take away your freedom of speech and your freedom of religion.
The AFA does not provide readers with the actual bill to read for themselves, but only a link to THEIR summary of it. At best, this is a display of reckless and irresponsible fact-checking and at worst, a blatant lie designed to stir up fear among their readers to ensure unquestioned allegiance to their agendas.
The bill itself, which I have read in its entirety several times, has NOTHING TO DO with prohibiting freedom of speech, or even "hate speech" (for statements to qualify as hate speech in the U.S., a person must be INCITING or ORDERING others to commit a crime, not voicing disapproval of a race, religion, people group, or a sexual practice). A scenario for a Christian to be charged with hate-speech would be if they are telling people to stone gays (OK, so Gary Demar might be in trouble, but I say it's about time). But this bill does not even deal with hate-speech laws. This bill keeps the previous hate-crime criteria that protects racial and religious groups (us Christians, too) intact and is only adding other groups that would be covered under it. This legislation does NOT redefine or broaden hate-crime guidelines. It only deals with PHYSICAL VIOLENT CRIMES, and not speech whatsoever, NOT ONE MENTION!
We've had THE SAME criteria for hate-crimes for races and religions since the late sixties and preachers can still openly criticize other religions without violating the law or undergo threat of GOVERNMENT penalty. Teachers on Christian radio and television have regularly denounced Islam as "an evil religion," their prophet as a "pedophile," it's people as "under Satan's control" and "condoners of terrorism and violence." Recently Bill Keller was taken off the air because of such language, not by the government, but by the station owners who did not approve. They reserve the right to regulate what programming is on their stations.
The point is that Christians in the U.S. (other countries without free speech rights is a different story) have been living with the religion protection clause in hate-crime law without facing LEGAL opposition for teaching that other religions are immoral, false, etc. etc. Why would it be any different for gays protected under THE SAME law that ONLY deals with violent crimes committed against them? Plus, more than 30 states have enacted hate-crime laws that ALREADY include protection for people of all sexual orientations and preachers in those states have not been legally forced to alter their views or public teachings on sexual morality.
For crying out loud, authorities can't even successfully prosecute NAMBLA members (North-American Man Boy Love Association) for putting out propaganda that explicitly teaches pedophiles how to lure children!!! If this is not hate speech, I do not know what is! Regardless, THIS particular law has nothing to do with people's right to free speech or expression of religious freedom. In fact, the bill clearly acknowledges protection for all voices, even ugly ones, guaranteed under the First Amendment! For the Family Association to propagate that this hate-crime legislation would negate free speech and religious expression is a BLATANT LIE, period.
The worst part about this is that sincere believers are duped into opposing this bill on what SEEMS to be legitimate grounds, but because what they've been presented with is a big fat lie, it appears to the gay community that Christians despise them and want everyone else protected from harm except them (notice no one is calling for a repeal for the other categories protected under hate-crime law). People's hearts will be as hard as the stones we throw at them.
Instead of selfishly (and falsely) harping on how this law will impede on our freedoms (which it won't), wouldn't the better tactic be to stand up for gays and say, "Even though we do not agree with your lifestyle, we will not tolerate or give credence to anyone who seeks to physically harm you, degrade you, abuse you or terrorize your communities." Even for the segment of Christians that view gays as "enemies," couldn't this be an opportunity to bless them (as we are commanded to do to our enemies) by ensuring their safety and demonstrating our concern for any injustice done to them? Couldn't this be an opportunity to build bridges to a community we've managed to alienate? The answers to those questions must be thought about and prayed about by each believer that is informed with the WHOLE truth. The American Family Association has done a grave disservice to its audience by spoon feeding them politically-motivated lies. Lies are never the right way to get a viewpoint across, no matter what the cause.
And if after you get ALL the information and are still against hate-crime laws, there are truthful and honorable ways to oppose it. Argue for equal rights for all and not special rights for some. Argue against hate-crime law as a whole and not just the fact that gays will be included. Argue that there are already laws to protect all people from violent crimes. Just argue with truth and integrity and do not stoop down to deceiving propaganda and fear-filled manipulation.
This is not the first time the AFA has conveniently omitted information, stretched the facts, and blatantly lied. Please, I implore, TEST ALL THINGS sent out by agenda-driven organizations, even Christian ones. Read the ACTUAL legislation in question, and not only the biased summaries of them. It's not only the smart thing to do, it's the right thing to do.
Here are the URLS to the FULL versions of the two hate-crime bills currently being debated.
The following link is to an article that clearly articulates the unsavory tactics of the fanatics on BOTH sides of the issue.