Hate Crimes Legislation Threatens Freedom of Speech and Religion

Apr 20, 2009


Washington, DC – On Wednesday, April 22, the House Judiciary Committee is scheduled to vote on so-called “hate crimes” legislation, which would give “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” the same federal protection as race. Rep. John Conyers (D-MI) and Rep. Mark Kirk (R-IL) have reintroduced the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2009 (H.R. 1913). Liberty Counsel has published a legal memo explaining how hate crimes laws threaten freedom.

H.R. 1913 is not about stopping crime but is designed to give sexual preference the same legal status as race. This legislation is just a stepping stone to regulate the speech of people who support family values. Bill sponsors claim that free speech activities are protected in this version of the bill, but exemptions can be overturned by courts or targeted for later removal. In a debate, Rep. Artur Davis, who supported a similar bill, admitted that a minister could be charged with the hate crime of incitement for preaching that homosexuality is a sin, if a congregant later committed a crime against a homosexual.

Hate crimes laws are actually “thought crimes” laws that violate the right to freedom of speech and of conscience. Hate crimes laws will have a chilling effect on people who have moral or religious objections to homosexual behavior. Evidence of a person’s beliefs will be used against any individuals who are even suspected of criminal activity.

Hate crimes laws are unnecessary, as criminal laws already provide criminal penalties for the violent crimes. Additional penalties will subject individuals to scrutiny of their beliefs, rather than focusing on a person’s criminal actions, and will do nothing to prevent crime.

Mathew Staver, Founder of Liberty Counsel and Dean of Liberty University School of Law, commented: “Hate crimes laws that include sexual orientation are a bad idea, because they elevate homosexuality to the same status as race and do nothing to prevent violent crimes. All crimes are motivated by hate. Hate crimes laws will not be used to punish the perpetrators but will be used to silence people of faith, religious groups, clergy, and those who support traditional moral values.”