Hate Crimes Laws: A Conspiracy to “Eradicate” the Christian Right?


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
defendant.

Claiming
"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.

"Of
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.

(3)
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.

(4)
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
investigation.

"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:

"[Because]
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
opined.

"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.

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  • crowepps

    Maybe their religious principles lead them to believe they get to determine who is in fact a human being deserving of basic human rights?

    Well, yeah, of course. After all, in their view ‘evil’ people and ‘depraved’ people and ‘people who follow evil religions’ can’t be allowed to ‘hide behind’ the same rights everyone else has.

    “Of 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,”

    This is such a beautiful example of circular reasoning. Local jurisdictions send in crime reports which are compiled by the FBI. If the local jurisdiction doesn’t have a law protecting LGBT rights, then the local jurisdiction doesn’t report it as a hate crime. The fact that the local jurisdiction doesn’t report it as “motivated by the victim’s sexual orientation” then hate crimes hardly ever happen.

     

    We had this conversation here in Alaska recently — gay people asserted they were being discriminated against and wanted protection, the local Mayor said there was no need to create a law because there were no reports of such discrimination with our anti-discrimination agency, the anti-discrimination agency said they WOULDN’T TAKE REPORTS on such discrimination because there wasn’t any law protecting gays.

  • bobbarnes-0

    I’ve often referred to the FBI hate crime data tables for research and am a bit disturbed by the numbers produced by the Thomas More Law Center.

     

    For the reporting year of 2008, the data is as follows:

    Anti-Male Homosexual 921 

    Anti-Female Homosexual 156 

    Anti-Homosexual 336 

    And the top 2 groups subject to hate crimes are: Blacks and Gays 

     

    I wonder why they would intentionally misreport and mis-categorize these stats?

     

    http://www.fbi.gov/ucr/hc2008/data/table_01.html

  • catseye71352

    If a law preventing this group from assaulting and murdering gay people is going to “eradicate” them, maybe they don’t deserve to exist.

    Catseye  ( (|) )

  • kate-ranieri

    I thank you, Bob Barnes, for the clarification of the stats. But I have to tell you that I laughed out loud when I read your question "I wonder why they would intentionally misreport and mis-categorize these stats?"

     

    It has been my experience with the American Catholic Lawyers Association and many of the so-called prolife organizations that they have so much respect for the truth that they seldom use it.  

  • colleen

    What is the homosexual agenda by the way?

    As far as I’ve been able to tell from several conversations over the years ‘the homosexual agenda’ like ‘the contraceptive culture’ is a cultural change the end result of which is a society in which the targeted population experiences widespread social acceptance.

    I am pleased by the social progress in that direction and equally pleased by the religious right’s loss of social authority they are not entitled to(as their posters here demonstrate daily) and have always abused.

    The only difference between the American anti-abortion movement and the Taliban is about 8,000 miles.

    Dr Warren Hern, MD

  • embell

    Antis protesting where I escort are domestic terrorists. If an overweight person stood outside an ice cream store, carrying a huge poster showing body fat, shouting and trying to block people from getting in, they would be behind bars or in a padded room in short order. Politicians refuse to protect women entering clinics, because they’re afraid of losing votes. Without political support, police are stymied.