Federal "Hate Crimes" Bill Threatens Religious Freedom

Oct 12, 2005

The United State Senate is considering a so-called "hate crimes" bill (S. 1145 entitled the "Local Law Enforcement Act of 2005"). The text of the bill was added as an amendment to the Child Safety Act (H.R.3132) and passed by the House in September. That bill will soon be considered by the Senate. These bills would allow federal prosecution for crimes based on "actual or perceived" sexual orientation and, if signed into law, would pose a grave threat to ministers and religious organizations. Now is the time to sign an Urgent Petition to Congress to stop the hate crimes bills.

If passed by the Senate, the hate crimes bill would be the first and only law by the federal government that in any way gives special protection or benefits based on the status of sexual orientation. Giving special protection to certain groups devalues the lives of others who are not members of those groups. All crime victims suffer, and all should be treated equally under the law.

On a more sinister note, if the hate crimes bill passes the Senate, it will be coupled with the Hate Crimes Reporting Act of 1990 which mandated that the FBI include intimidation in its reporting of statistics on hate crimes. Therefore, because intimidation may also be considered a hate crime, ministers or religious organizations who speak out against homosexuality are in danger of being labeled with a hate crime. Such speech is already under attack:

• Eleven Christians were jailed under Pennsylvania's hate crimes law in 2004 for singing in a public park and preaching against homosexuality.
• In 1998 the San Francisco Board of Supervisors passed a Resolution blaming religious people for hate crimes, declaring: "It is not an exaggeration to say that there is a direct correlation between these acts of discrimination, such as when gays and lesbians are called sinful and when major religious organizations say they can change if they tried, and the horrible crimes committed against gays and lesbians."
• A Canadian citizen was fined over $6,000.00 for running an ad in the newspaper where he quoted Leviticus 18:22, which states that homosexuality is a sin.
• A mayor in Canada was found to violate a human rights ordinance when she refused to declare Gay Day.
• A minister in the United Kingdom was fined £20,000 (approximately $35,000.00) for an ad that described homosexuality as an abomination.
• A complaint was filed in a Dutch court against Pope John Paul, II for his statement that "homosexual acts are contrary to the laws of nature." The Dutch court ruled the Pope's status as the leader of the Roman Catholic Church and the Vatican State afforded him immunity from prosecution. Other religious leaders would not be immune.

In 2001, we created a legal memorandum addressing a similar hate crimes bill. For more details on the dangers of such laws to minsters and religious organizations, you can read the memo on our web site. You must be informed about this threat to free speech and religious freedom.

It is not too late for you to make a difference! Please sign the Urgent Petition to Congress to stop the hate crimes bill. We need thousands of people like you to rise up and let your voices be heard!

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