Don’t believe anything you hear from the Traditional Values Coalition.
Congress will soon vote on H.R. 1913, which adds “sexual orientation” to existing hate crime legislation. Naturally, the religious right — and TVC in particular — is fighting it with lies. They claim:
H.R. 1913 broadly defines “intimidation,” thus a pastor’s sermon could be considered “hate speech” under this legislation if heard by an individual who then acts aggressively against persons based on any “sexual orientation.” The pastor could be prosecuted for “conspiracy to commit a hate crime.”
One problem. The word “intimidation” doesn’t appear in the bill. Anywhere. And this is such an easy lie to catch — so easy I have to wonder if they’ve actually deluded themselves into believing it. As if they have a psychological disorder that clouds their thinking about homosexuality. Hmm, what could we call that?
The right’s primary tactic against H.R. 1913 is to claim it will:
Criminalize so-called “hate speech,” which is any speech that is critical of homosexuality or gender confused behaviors. The suppression of free speech will be justified by the claim that such speech “incites” individuals to commit violence against LGBT persons.
They’re basing this on an exchange between U.S. Representatives Louie Gohmert and Artur Davis:
Mr. Gohmert: [If] 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?
Mr. Davis. No.
Which leads TVC to assert:
Ultimately, a pastor’s sermon concerning religious beliefs and teachings on homosexuality and gender confused behaviors could be considered to cause violence and will be punished or at least investigated.
Let’s leave TVC’s fantasy world behind and deal with facts:
FACT: “Hate speech” appears nowhere in the bill.
A hate crime is when someone:
willfully causes bodily injury to any person or, through the use of fire, a firearm, or an explosive or incendiary device, attempts to cause bodily injury to any person, because of the actual or perceived religion, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability of any person.
Bodily harm. Fire, guns, and bombs.
FACT: If a criminal says someone incited him to violence, the authorities have a duty to investigate.
That’s true whether it’s a hate crime or not. Remember Gohmert’s hypothetical: “[the]minister counseled or induced him through the sermon to commit [violence].”
Here’s a hypothetical of my own, based on Gohmert’s: Suppose a minister says, “Leviticus 20:13 tells us homosexuals shall surely be put to death. Now go kill the faggot running the soup kitchen next door!” TVC is outraged — outraged! — that the minister could be investigated (merely investigated!) if someone ran the faggot over with his car and pinned a note, “Leviticus 20:13” to his body.
FACT: H.R. 1913 has First Amendment protections built in.
Nothing in this Act, or the amendments made by this Act, shall be construed to prohibit any expressive conduct protected from legal prohibition by, or any activities protected by the free speech or free exercise clauses of, the First Amendment to the Constitution.
FACT: H.R. 1913 amends existing law to extend protections already established for hate crimes based on religion.
Right-wing Christians claim to be victims of hate speech these days — and yet they don’t bring charges in the U.S., even though they’ve been protected by federal hate crime law for forty years. Why? Because hateful speech isn’t illegal.
Their own actions — or lack of action — show they’re just fearmongering when they claim the law will criminalize speech. They’re also hypocritical in denouncing protections offered to gays and lesbians without acknowledging that they themselves already have them.
But we have to do more than counter their lies with the truth. When confronted with this campaign of deceit, point out that our extremist opponents can’t mount an argument without dishonesty and hypocrisy. When you see this from a religious group trying to claim the moral high ground, you know you’re not dealing with devout believers trying to protect our culture, but troubled souls working out their own personal demons.