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Three pastors and family advocate file challenge to federal Hate Crimes Act

Commentary by Kay B. Day

Congress passed the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act by including it in the National Defense Authorization Act/2010. At the time Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) said, “It is indeed unfortunate that we are using the brave men and women in uniform as leverage to pass hate crimes legislation.”

Months before President Barack Obama signed the Act, as the legislation bounced around Congress, I remarked that language in the Act appeared to be unconstitutional. The Thomas More Law Center appears to agree, having filed a federal lawsuit against Att. Gen. Eric H. Holder to challenge the constitutionality of the Hate Crimes Act.

An announcement from TMLC said, “The lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan, on behalf of Pastor Levon Yuille, Pastor Rene Ouellette, Pastor James Combs, and Gary Glenn, the president of the American Family Association of Michigan (AFA-Michigan).”

Each of the plaintiffs believes in a literal interpretation of Biblical scripture.

The US Report pointed out problems with the way the Act is constructed.

I believed then and I believe now the Act intrudes on free speech and other Constitutional rights. Whether I agree with what is being said bears no relevance to the right of the person to say it.

The complaint filed by TMLC said, “52. Section 249(a)(2) of the Hate Crimes Act subjects Plaintiffs to increased government scrutiny, questioning, investigation, surveillance, and intimidation on account of their strong, public opposition to homosexual activism, the homosexual lifestyle, and the homosexual agenda, thereby causing a tangible and concrete deterrent, inhibitory, and chilling effect on Plaintiffs’ activities and their rights to freedom of speech, expressive association, and the free exercise of religion.”

The plaintiffs also regard the Act as a “tool of intimidation” for the federal government.

The complaint cites an example from testimony before the House Judiciary Committee: “[I]f a minister preaches that sexual relations outside of marriage of a man and woman is wrong, and somebody within that congregation goes out and does an act of violence, and that person says that that minister counseled or induced him through the sermon to commit that act, are you saying under your amendment that in no way could that ever be introduced against the minister?”

A congressional supporter of the Hate Crimes Act responded bluntly, “No.”

As it now stands, the Act makes sections of holy books such as The Bible and The Koran illegal.

TMLC also cites statistics on violence: “According to statistics gathered by the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs (NCAVP), a homosexual advocacy group, during the 1999 to 2003 time period, homosexuals were 244% more likely to be the perpetrators of violence against other homosexuals than were heterosexuals.”

The complaint makes a strong statement against violence of any type.

I view hate crime legislation as contrary to the equal rights conferred upon every American. Any violent crime should be punished to the full extent of the law, and no one should be targeted for wanton violence for any reason. But establishing special laws to confer extraordinary protection to groups based on sexual identity conflicts with the premise of equal rights for all.

TMLC said, “Eric Holder, a supporter of the new federal law, was asked by Senator Orrin Hatch in a hearing whether there was any evidence of a trend that ‘hate crimes’ were going unpunished at the State level.  Holder stated without reservation that there was no such evidence and that, in fact, States were, by and large, doing a fine job in this area. Consequently, as the lawsuit alleges, there is no national problem associated with ‘bias’ motivated crimes on account of the victim’s ‘sexual orientation’ to warrant federal involvement.”


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