Netlore Archive: Email alert circulated by conservative Christian group claims a new bill in Congress would make it a crime for pastors and churches to speak out against homosexuality
Description: Email flier
Circulating since: June 2007
Analysis: See below
Email example contributed by Paul H., 15 June 2007:
FW: A bill in Congress makes it a crime for pastors and churches to speak against homosexuality
June 14, 2007
Please help us get this information into the hands of as many people as possible by forwarding it to your entire email list of family and friends.
A bill in Congress makes it a crime for pastors and churches to speak against homosexuality
Message to pastors and other Christians: Just keep your mouth shut
If pastors and other Christians don't aggressively oppose a bill now in Congress, in the near future they will be subject to huge fines and prison terms if they say anything negative about homosexuality.
The proposed law would 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!
House bill H.R. 1592 and Senate bill S. 1105 would 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 would take away your freedom of speech and your freedom of religion.
Comments: House bill H.R. 1592 ("Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2007") and its companion bill in the Senate, S. 1105, bear no resemblance to the description above. There are no provisions in either bill criminalizing the expression of religious views on homosexuality, for or against.
In fact, the House version, which was passed in a 237-to-180 vote on May 3, 2007 and referred to the Senate, contains a provision specifically acknowledging the protection of free speech under the First Amendment:
Nothing in this Act, or the amendments made by this Act, shall be construed to prohibit any expressive conduct protected from legal prohibition by, or any activities protected by the free speech or free exercise clauses of, the First Amendment to the Constitution.
That would include statements made by religious leaders and/or religious organizations.
Legislation extends hate crime protection to more groups
What the bills are actually designed to do is extend federal hate crime protection -- which currently mandates special penalties for violent acts perpetrated against individuals because of their race, religion, color, or national origin -- to include people victimized because of gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability.
As in existing laws, "hate crime" is defined as causing or attempting to cause bodily injury to another person because of their actual or perceived membership in one of these groups.
Free speech claim specious
Not only is the claim that including sexual orientation and gender identity in hate crime laws would prohibit religious leaders from speaking out against homosexuality unsupported in the actual text of the legislation, it is unsupported by the history of hate crime jurisprudence to date. As Charles C. Haynes, senior scholar at Vanderbilt University's First Amendment Center, has observed, "Under the present federal hate-crime law (which covers attacks based on race, ethnicity, national origin and religion) and the 45 state hate-crime laws (32 of which include sexual orientation), nobody has been convicted of a hate crime solely on the basis of thought, belief or speech."
In any case, the bill is likely to be vetoed by the White House, which has already spoken out against it on other grounds.
Sources and further reading:
Text of House Bill H.R. 1592
U.S. House of Representatives
Text of Senate Bill S. 1105
Bill in Congress Makes It a Crime for Pastors and Churches to Speak Against Homosexuality
Full text of American Family Association Action Alert by Donald Wildmon
House Okays Bill on Anti-Gay Hate Crimes
Associated Press, 3 May 2007
House Votes to Expand Hate Crime Protection
New York Times, 4 May 2007
Hate Crime Bill Veto Vowed
Los Angeles Times, 4 May 2007
Would Federal Hate Crimes Law Inhibit Free Speech?
Op-ed article by Charles C. Haynes
Last updated: 06/16/07