Did you know that the passage of hate crimes laws is actually a conspiracy to squelch religious freedom?
Yes….that weak and long-suffering entity known as the Christian Right is claiming that efforts to outlaw targeted hate crimes against homosexual persons through legislation constitute "a guarded effort to ‘eradicate’ their beliefs."
Stephen Webster of The Raw Story reports that:
A Christian group in Michigan has filed a lawsuit alleging that a
package of hate crimes laws named after murder victim Matthew Shepard
is an affront to their religious freedom.
Webster reports that the suit was:
"filed by the Thomas More Law Center
– which bills itself as the religious answer to the American Civil
Liberties Union — [and] the complaint claims that protecting gay, lesbian,
bisexual and transgendered people "is an effort to eradicate religious
beliefs opposing the homosexual agenda from the marketplace of ideas by
demonizing, vilifying, and criminalizing such beliefs as a matter of
federal law and policy."
The suit was placed on behalf of American Family Association of Michigan president Gary Glenn, along with pastors Rene Ouellette, Levon Yuille and James Combs.
Matthew Shepard was a 21-year-old gay man from Wyoming who was tied to a fence and beaten to death in 1998. A foundation carrying his name played an important role in helping to broaden hate crimes definitions to cover LGBT people. President
Obama signed the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes
Prevention Act in 2009. The Thomas More lawsuit, filed in a U.S.
district court in Michigan, names Attorney General Eric Holder as a
"there is no need" to extend hate crimes definitions, Thomas More chief
counsel Richard Thompson attempted to minimize the impact of violent
crimes against homosexuals.
the 1.38 million violent crimes reported in the U.S. by the FBI in
2008, only 243 were considered as motivated by the victim’s sexual
orientation," Thompson wrote on the group’s Web site.
"The sole purpose of this law is to criminalize the Bible and use the
threat of federal prosecutions and long jail sentences to silence
Christians from expressing their Biblically-based religious belief that
homosexual conduct is a sin."
Let me get this straight: The Christian Right is arguing that basic principles of humanity, and the rights to freedom from violence and discrimination should be decided on the basis of numbers of crimes against a minority group?
Or…that protecting the rights of one group of Americans abrogates their own rights, so we should just keep looking the other way as people are strung up on ranch fences for the "crime" of being gay? And by the way, let’s just forget that the hate speech about homosexuality spewed by these religious organizations contributes to the problem in the first place.
Maybe their religious principles lead them to believe they get to determine who is in fact a human being deserving of basic human rights?
As Webster points out, they are crying wolf in any case: The Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act clearly stipulates that it does not apply to constitutionally protected speech.
CONSTITUTIONAL PROTECTIONS- Nothing in this Act shall be construed to
prohibit any constitutionally protected speech, expressive conduct or
activities (regardless of whether compelled by, or central to, a system
of religious belief), including the exercise of religion protected by
the First Amendment and peaceful picketing or demonstration. The
Constitution does not protect speech, conduct or activities consisting
of planning for, conspiring to commit, or committing an act of violence.
FREE EXPRESSION- Nothing in this Act shall be construed to allow
prosecution based solely upon an individual’s expression of racial,
religious, political, or other beliefs or solely upon an individual’s
membership in a group advocating or espousing such beliefs.
But you know what they say: Why let the facts stand in the way?
It may shock to find out that Webster found the Thomas More Law Center’s argument is "eerily similar to a fundraising letter
circulated by the Family Research Council at the end of 2009, in which
the conservative group claimed that extending workplace
non-discrimination rules is really Obama’s secret plot to "impose"
homosexuality on America."
I have a question: What is the homosexual agenda by the way? My understanding has always been that people who are homosexual–in that they are human beings and all–have the same rights as anyone else, and that this "agenda" involved the struggle to have those rights recognized, protected, and promoted by the state….same as everyone.
And since we are a "tolerant society" we’d still leave members of homophobic, racist, sexist religious organizations free to practice their faith in peace, as long as they don’t violate federal laws, infringe on the human rights of individuals, or use federal money in the process.
Indeed, I think we protect these "religious" groups just fine. According to the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights,
"[the non-discrimination rule] exempts all religious organizations,
which includes corporations, associations, and religious societies. In
addition, all educational institutions are exempt if the educational
institution is at least substantially controlled or owned by a
religious organization or if the institution’s curriculum is directed
towards the propagation of a religion."
But the Christian Right is constantly engaged in rewriting history. The Thomas More suit, for example, goes even further than just challenging hate crimes protection
for LGBT people; it challenges the findings of the Matthew Shepard
"Thomas More attorneys make the case that the
perpetrators of the murder of Matthew Shepard were subject to more
several criminal penalties under existing state criminal law than under
the new federal Hate Crimes Act," religious news outlet Christian Post notes.
"They also say there is evidence demonstrating that the senseless and
brutal attack on Shepard was not motivated by hate or bias; rather, it
was motivated by money and drugs."
Webster quotes writer Timothy Kincaid, blogging for the Box Turtle Bulletin:
the law has no effect on their rights to belief or expression of
belief, the only logical conclusion is that these four Christians wish
to plan for, conspire to commit, or commit an act of violence," he
"Or, perhaps," continues Kincaid, "this is just another example of folks who
think that because ‘homosexual acts, according to Scripture, are acts
of grave depravity that are intrinsically disordered and are contrary
to the natural law’ then their religion trumps civil law."
I could not say it any better.
Read the 27-page Thomas More complaint (PDF link), courtesy of The Raw Story.