Another step forward for civil rights:
WASHINGTON — The U.S. House of Representatives today voted to pass the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act, H.R. 1592, in a vote of 237 to 180. The proposed legislation, which has the endorsement of 230 law enforcement, civil rights, civic and religious organizations and the support of 73 percent of the American people, was introduced in March by Reps. John Conyers, D-Mich., and Mark Kirk, R-Ill., along with more than 100 other members of Congress. The Senate will soon consider an identical companion bill called the Matthew Shepard Act.
“This is a historic day that moves all Americans closer to safety from the scourge of hate violence,” said Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese. “Today, legislators sided with the 73 percent of the American people who support the expansion of hate crimes laws to include sexual orientation and gender identity.
Take a look at the huge list of supporters of this legislation – including the United Church of Christ and other religious bodies. The Religious Right did every thing in their power to stop the House from voting on this bill – and I mean everything. Take a look at this list put together by the Human Rights Campaign:
- Concerned Women for America Embraces White-Supremacist Filmmaker
Last week, Stephen Bennett, a spokesman for the Concerned Women for America, used his action network to promote the anti-gay videos of John Smith, a white-supremacist filmmaker with numerous videos posted on YouTube.com. The filmmaker’s hateful online video collection includes such titles as “Keep America White,” “Black Intelligence” (a video about how blacks are mentally inferior to whites) and “Hitler” (an homage to Hitler on the occasion of his birthday).
When YouTube pulled the videos for violating its terms of service, another former employee of both Concerned Women for America and the Family Research Council, Peter LaBarbera, continued to promote the white supremacist’s anti-gay videos, now posted on a religious right website in Massachusetts.
- Tony Perkins, President of Family Research Council, and Matthew Barber, Spokesman for the Concerned Women for America, Invoke Virginia Tech Massacre
In an action alert to members nationwide, Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, incredibly used the memory of the Virginia Tech massacre to argue against H.R. 1592, the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act.
“Under this legislation, the crimes at Virginia Tech, which some are calling one of the deadliest rampages in U.S. history, would not be punishable to the level of these so-called ‘hate crimes.’ If the House approves H.R. 1592 and the Senate follows, a homosexual would have more federal protection under the law than the 32 victims of last week’s massacre.”
“The FBI’s latest statistics show that there were zero ‘hate crimes’ murders committed against homosexuals or those perceived to be homosexual in 2005; yet we already know of 32 so-called ‘hate crimes’ murders committed against perceived ‘rich kids’ in a single day. But under H.R. 1592, those ‘rich kids’ would shamefully be denied the same protections and justice as homosexuals. The whole ‘hate crimes’ concept really places logic and reason on its head.”
- Traditional Values Coalition Manufactures False Judiciary Committee Record
The Traditional Values Coalition created and disseminated a fake transcript of last week’s House Judiciary Committee hearing on the hate crimes bill to “prove” that the legislation would punish anti-gay thoughts. The falsified transcript doesn’t even remotely resemble the official transcript of the proceeding.
A full accounting, complete with the Traditional Values Coalition’s forged transcript alongside the real transcript of the hearing, can be viewed at: http://tinyurl.com/yvncxp
- Jesus Christ ‘Wanted Poster’
The Traditional Values Coalition produced a “wanted poster” in which Jesus Christ, wearing a crown of thorns, is wanted for violating the proposed hate crimes bill. The poster states that Christ is “wanted for revealing the truth about homosexuality in ‘The Bible’ and encouraging his followers not to offend God by committing such behavior.”
A former lawyer for the American Family Association, Joe Murray, explained:
“How could a group purporting Christian values denigrate the image of their, and my, savior, by placing Him in the same category as Willie Horton? When did it become acceptable to turn a man who preached ‘love thy neighbor’ into a biblical billy club? Christ is a source of salvation, not spin.
“This is how far separated Christian activists, possessed by a deep-seeded hatred of homosexuals, have become from Christian principles.”
To view the poster go to: http://traditionalvalues.org/pdf_files/tvc_jesus_wanted_poster.pdf
- James Dobson, Tony Perkins, Concerned Women for America, Etc. Falsely Claim Hate Crimes Bill Would Make Anti-Gay ‘Thoughts’ Illegal
One of the most frequently promoted lies by the opposition is that the hate crimes law will make anti-gay bigots criminally liable for their hate speech. While it is certainly un-American and un-Christian to embrace the message of white supremacists and hate groups, the religious right has nothing to fear from the hate crimes bill as it applies only to acts of violence. Nothing in this act would prohibit the lawful expression of one’s deeply held religious beliefs. As hurtful as these comments can be, people will remain free to say things like: “Homosexuality is sinful,” “Homosexuality is an abomination” or “Homosexuals will not inherit the kingdom of heaven.”
The truth is that neither the current hate crimes law nor the expanded measures criminalize thoughts or speech; they only criminalize violentacts. The hate crimes statute is only invoked to allow a federal investigation and the prosecution of bias-motivated violence if — and only if — it is necessary to achieve an effective and just result. That only happens after a violent crime is committed, which debunks their “thought crimes” talking point.
“There’s a vote coming up on some insidious legislation in the United States Congress that could silence and punish Christians for their moral beliefs,” he said on his radio broadcast yesterday. “That means that as a Christian — if you read the Bible a certain way with regard to morality — you may be guilty of committing a ‘thought crime.’”
Andrea Lafferty, executive director of the Traditional Values Coalition:
“Most Christians might as well rip the pages which condemn homosexuality right out of their Bibles, because this bill will make it illegal to publicly express the dictates of their religious beliefs.”
The ultimate proof: The federal hate crimes law has been on the books for 40 years and not a single person has ever been charged with having “illegal thoughts.” The claim is absurd.
Today we can be proud that the House took action that will protect the lives of gay and lesbian Americans. This was a defeat for the Religious Right and a victory for progressive religious voices and all those concerned about civil rights. But now the Senate and the President have to decide where they stand on this issue. The president has so far threatened to follow the orders of the Religious Right and veto the bill.