AP reports that the Senate just approved an expansion of the federal hate crimes bill since 1968. It now adds gender, sexual orientation, gender identity or disability. Prior to this expansion the hate crimes law covered a person’s race, color, religion or national origin.
"This bill simply recognizes that there is a difference between assaulting someone to steal his money, or doing so because he is gay, or disabled, or Latino or Muslim," Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said.
Really? That person is just as injured or just as dead. I couldn’t say that I would feel better because I was attacked only because of my money (it will be interesting if anyone is charged with a hate crime after attacking a straight, white male… not going to hold my breath). In both instances total disregard for the person being attacked is shown. Crime is crime, really does the reason for the crime make it much worse? I don’t think so. What this does is punish thought.
According to Christianity Today is concern among Christian groups.
Opponents envision a world where pastors could be arrested for preaching against homosexuality. But supporters say the bill does plenty to protect the freedoms of speech and religion.
The disputes center on a section of the bill that purports to guard constitutionally protected speech, expressive conduct, and activities. Protected activities include "the exercise of religion protected by the First Amendment and peaceful picketing or demonstration," according to the legislation. The bill also states that no one can be prosecuted solely for expressing racial, religious, political, or other beliefs.
However, the bill adds that "speech, conduct or activities consisting of planning for, conspiring to commit, or committing an act of violence" is not constitutionally protected. That sentence is alarming to conservative Christian groups such as Focus on the Family and the Family Research Council, who say the law would severely hamper Christians’ freedom to address homosexuality in sermons, radio programs, and other public venues.
The problem with that phrase is how that could be interpreted. Are these fear founded? Perhaps… perhaps not. But it could be a nightmare.
Ashley Horne, a federal policy analyst for Focus on the Family, said that if passed, the law could expose pastors to federal prosecution if an attendee of their church committed a crime and blamed it on sermons about homosexuality. The bill does not adequately protect Christians from gay activists, she says. She worries that the prosecution would be based on evidence of motivation.
"Don’t ask me how they’re going to figure out what you perceived and how you perceived that," she said. "It’s a nightmare."
Erik Stanley, senior legal counsel for the Alliance Defense Fund, said that while churches and their ministers will probably not be directly prosecuted, pastors could still be called upon to testify in the prosecution of a hate crime just because they preached on homosexuality.
The simple fact is this… a crime shouldn’t be considered worse because it was done to a gay person instead of a straight person. A straight person is capable of attacking another straight person with the same intensity and malice. We have laws on the books that should be applied equally and justice is supposed to be blind, but the blinders are now definitely off.
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