Thursday, October 29, 2009

Obama Signs 'Hate Crimes' Bill

( by Charlie Butts

The "hate crimes" bill approved recently by Congress could be a problem for broadcasters -- most importantly, Christian broadcasters -- now that it has been signed into law.

President Barack Obama has signed into law a measure that adds to the list of federal hate crimes attacks on people based on their sexual orientation. Congress approved the legislation last week as part of the $680-billion FY 2010 Defense Authorization bill. Appended to the hate crimes amendment was a statement ensuring that a religious leader or any other person cannot be prosecuted on the bases if his or her speech, beliefs, or association.

But Craig Parshall, chief counsel for National Religious Broadcasters (NRB), discounts that statement, pointing out that such laws in other countries have been used to silence people of faith. He believes the law approved by Congress is potentially dangerous as it relates to comments made about homosexuality or another religion.

"Under the criminal law of incitement, if something is said in a broadcast that another person uses as a motivation to go out and commit an act of what they call 'bodily injury' in the statute, then a broadcaster could be held criminally liable," he explains.

Or an outspoken broadcaster could be held to be co-conspirator, adds Parshall. He says the supposed bodily injury could be something as insignificant as someone being jostled during a rally or shoved in a protest march.Parshall acknowledges the amendment that was passed to provide some degree of protection for Christians, but points out that interpretations of such statements are ultimately left up to the court.

"And that's always a problem," he laments. "We have a court system that has been notorious for getting it wrong when it pits the power of government on one hand and the free exercise of religious rights of individuals on the other."

According to the NRB attorney, there could also be repercussions in agencies such as the Federal Communications Commission and the Internal Revenue Service. Parshall says the FCC, for example, could develop rules on what broadcasters can and cannot say about homosexuality, possibly jeopardizing their licenses.

"Public school curriculum could be built entirely on the idea of what is illegal hate in our culture," says the attorney. "And our children could be indoctrinated [to believe that] if you criticize another religion or mention Jesus as being the only way, that's hateful--- [or] if you say that homosexuality is a sin, that's hateful."

And then there is the IRS, which Parshall says could apply the hate crimes law as a national policy on homosexuality and other world religions.

"And [they] could start taking a look at Christian non-profit ministries and [telling them if they] want to be tax exempt, [they] can't speak hatefully about other groups," he suggests. "That would be defined as not criticizing Islam or not being critical of the homosexual lifestyle. Those are just a few of the ripple-out effects."

Parshall contends that an examination of the motive behind the hate crimes law reveals it is not about hate -- and will have no effect on stopping crime, because that is already outlawed in all 50 states. In his opinion, it is designed to shut up the opposition -- Christians specifically -- and close down any debate against the homosexual lifestyle.

The NRB spokesman does expect lawsuits to be filed against the hate crimes law after it is signed.

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