Evangelicals split on hate crimes bill
    April 30 2009 by Bob Allen

    WASHINGTON (ABP) -- Hate-crimes legislation passed April 29 in the U.S. House of Representatives drew mixed reviews in the religious community.
     
    The Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act, H.R. 1913, which passed the Democratic-controlled House by a vote of 249 to 175, would provide federal assistance to prosecute hate crimes. It also would add sexual orientation and gender identity to current classes protected against hate crimes, including race, religion and national origin.
     
    Many religious conservatives oppose the measure, saying it could be used to stifle free speech.
     
    Barrett Duke, vice president for public policy and research of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, called it "an irresponsible piece of legislation" that "puts Christians and many other religious groups in the government's crosshairs."
     
    "While we should never condone acts of violence against anyone, for whatever reason, including whether or not that person is a homosexual, this bill proposes to prosecute someone based on their belief about homosexuality and therefore makes religious belief a germane issue in this debate," Duke said in Baptist Press. "Anyone who holds a religiously based belief about homosexuality is immediately suspect of engaging in a hate crime if a homosexual is involved, even if the person was unaware that the victim was a homosexual."
     
    Andrea Lafferty, executive director of the Traditional Values Coalition, called it "anti-Christian" legislation that could allow a pastor's sermon against homosexuality to be prosecuted as hate speech.
     
    The American Family Association said that since the bill doesn't define sexual orientation, it could be interpreted to protect 30 practices including incest and pedophilia.
     
    Progressive evangelicals including Jim Wallis of Sojourners, mega-church pastor Joel Hunter and Derrick Harkins, pastor of Nineteenth Street Baptist Church in Washington, meanwhile, called the measure both moral and necessary.
     
    David Gushee, distinguished university professor at Mercer University and a columnist for Associated Baptist Press, said he supports the bill "because its aim is to protect the dignity and basic human rights of all Americans, and especially those Americans whose perceived 'differentness' makes them vulnerable to physical attacks motivated by bias, hatred and fear."
     
    Gushee said he believes the bill "poses no threat whatsoever to any free speech right for religious communities or their leaders" and its passage would "make for a safer and more secure environment in which we and all of our fellow Americans can live our lives."
     
    "For me, the case for this bill is settled with these words from Jesus," Gushee said. "As you did it to one of the least of these, you did it to me."
     
    Sens. Edward Kennedy and Patrick Leahy introduced a companion measure in the Senate April 28, titled the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Prevention Act, after a young gay man fatally beaten in 1998.
     
    If the bill passes both houses of Congress, President Obama is expected to sign it. The House and Senate both passed similar legislation in 2007, but under threat of veto by President Bush failed to agree on a final version. 
     
     
    Bob Allen is senior writer for Associated Baptist Press.
     
     

     

    4/30/2009 4:02:00 PM by Bob Allen | with 4 comments




Comments
Gary Bryson
The very idea of "hate crimes" is absurd. But to add sodomites, and other sexual perverts as a class to be protected is not only insane, but immoral. God's judgment is falling right now on a wicked America, in part because of our tolerance of sexual perverts.

Sodomite enablers and apologists, like Ray Crawford from Rutherfordton, are a big part of the problem. By the way Ray, if sodomites are your "brothers" then that means you are a child of the Devil, not a child of God.
5/2/2009 9:45:33 PM

Dr. James Willingham
The Hate Crimes bill will likely lead to what has already begun to occur in other countries, and, so I understand, it has already occurred in Canada where a pastor was tried and found guilty for preaching on the issue of homosexuality in his church (it is well known fact that such occurred in Sweden) and received a sentence a well as a $5,000 fine. Such legislation violates the very spirit of freedom of speech, religion, and press. I live about a 55 minute drive from one of the battlefields where one of my ancestors fought in the American Revolution, and I ca say from my knowledge of the Revolution that the Founders would be ready to start the Revolution all over again with such violations of human rights. OUR GOVERNMENT IS ON ITS WAY TO BECOMING A DICTATORSHIP, IF SUCH A LAW IS ALLOWED TO STAND.
5/1/2009 10:33:13 PM

Ray Crawford
If one thinks the hate crime bill hits free speech; what does he want? to be able to call people names. Let me tell you how not to get punished for hate crimes. follow the teaching of Jesus. He did not say to love your brother, unless he is black or gay did he? I can think of no crime meaner than to hurt your brother because he does not look or act like you. Matthew Shephard was murdered; he was gay; To say it was over drugs seems to excuse it. Just as lynching a black a few years ago was ok with some folks, killing gays seems to be now. How far fom the taching of Christ can some self righteous evangels go?
Ray Crawford
Rutherfordton
5/1/2009 9:59:14 AM

Alan Davis
Why should one crime that is equal to another be punished differently? If someone kills my father because they want his money or if they kill him because of the color of his skin he is still just as dead and I am still deprived of my father. Is it fair to punish the one differntly than the other for the exact crime? And would each family really receive justice if the same type of crime was punished differntly? It is obvious this is to punish thoughts and speech, not to punish criminal acts. By the way Matthew Shepard was not murdered because he was gay he was murdered over drugs which he was a part of, read the police report.
4/30/2009 10:24:01 PM

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