Saturday, April 25, 2009

'Hateful Words' May be Prosecutable

( Jim Brown

A Democratic congresswoman's candid remarks in the House Judiciary Committee yesterday bolster the fears of Americans who are concerned they one day may be convicted of a "hate crime" for merely publicly expressing their opposition to homosexuality.

The Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act was reported out of the Judiciary Committee yesterday in the House (see earlier story). The bill, which is expected to face a vote in the full House on Wednesday, would add gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, and disability to the list of protected categories under federal hate crimes law.

Proponents of the hate crimes bill claim that Christians and others who speak out publicly against homosexuality are not threatened with the same type of prosecution that criminals would face for committing acts of violence against homosexuals and transgender people.

In response, Judiciary Committee chairman John Conyers (D-Michigan), a co-sponsor of the measure, stated: "The bill only applies to bias-motivated violent crimes and does not impinge public speech or writing in any way."

However, during the Judiciary Committee markup yesterday, Congresswoman Sheila Jackson-Lee (D-Texas) reinforced the notion that people could be prosecuted for having a particular belief. "We also need to protect those potential victims who may be the recipients of hateful words or hateful acts, or even violent acts," said the Democratic lawmaker.

Congressman Louie Gohmert (R-Texas), a former judge, offered several amendments that would have provided religious-freedom protections from hate crimes prosecution, but they were all rejected by Democrats on the Judiciary Committee.

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