U.S. Hate Crimes bill goes to Senate hearing

By June 25, 2009

USA (MNN) — The United States Senate will be holding hearings on a bill that concerns Christians and human rights advocates. Republicans have asked for hearings to be held on H.R. 1913, which amends the U.S. criminal code.

Jeff King is the President of International Christian Concern, a U.S.-based human and religious rights group. He says getting a public hearing is a minor victory. "Over 600,000 letters were delivered to the Senate, and it absolutely put the brakes on this thing. They got the fear of God. They were going to try to sneak this through, add it as an amendment to another bill and try to put it quietly through. It was a bit of a surprise to them."

While he's glad hearings are being held, King is apprehensive. "The witnesses are stacked. It's 5 to 1 in favor of the bill. So it's not really representative at all. Republicans have tried to get people in to the forefront and talk about the dangers of the bill, but it's not happening. They're being blocked."

The contentious bill would elevate some victims of violent crimes over others.

According to Focus on the Family, so-called hate crimes constitute a very small minority of all violent crime, and only a few of those are based on a victim's sexual orientation. But Democrats in Congress are intent on placating growing discontent in the gay community by pushing through the legislation.

Some are calling the legislation "unconstitutional." "It basically gives the federal government a second bite at the apple," said Brian Walsh of the Heritage Foundation, who will testify at the hearing. "If a prosecution fails or if federal officials feel that a state prosecution did not charge a tough enough crime or impose a long enough sentence, they can charge it again at the federal level as a federal crime."

King says how a hate-crime is determined is even more troubling. "Thought is criminalized. The government decides what is moral and what is right to say or to think, all in the name of compassion and mercy. But it's a very dangerous bill."

This version of the hate-crimes bill includes special protections for homosexuality and gender identity, although they are very broadly defined. King believes this is a major issue with the bill. "One of the Republican senators stood up and said, 'I'm not going to oppose the bill, but why don't we put an amendment in there that says 'sexual orientation' cannot apply to pedophiles? Democrats refused the point. That's the insanity of this thing."

"It sends a very specific message that if you disapprove of homosexual conduct, you are a hater. That is a manifestation of hate," says Peter Sprigg of the Family Research Council.

While there is a provision in the bill that says free speech won't be restricted, there's also a provision in the bill that makes that questionable. King says, "Anybody who induces somebody, or counsels somebody, can be charged under the act. So this is a wide open loophole; and if you get an activist judge or activist court, they will grab hold, they will use it, and it will be a bludgeon against the church. Mark my words: it'll happen."

Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., sent a letter to key leaders in the religious community asking them to oppose the bill.

"Please tell your congregation this legislation is not about 'hate' (all violent crimes are hateful); it is about taking away your freedom to speak and preach biblical truth," DeMint wrote. "It will take away your right to say that some things are wrong. We need millions of Americans to call and e-mail their Senators–especially Democrat Senators who are pushing this legislation."

King says Christians need to DO something. "We need to stand up; we need to get on the phone, and we need to write letters. You can go to Senate.gov, find your senator, and write him or her. You can also call them and let them know in no uncertain terms what you think of this bill and emphasize that they need to reject it. They need to vote against it or you will not deliver a vote to them the next time [they're up for re-election].

Prayer is certainly an important aspect of this process. After you call or write your senator, please remember to pray.

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