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Is telling lawyer jokes a hate crime? The Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2007 is dangerous, not only on its own terms, but because of its role in the culture wars that will shape America for generations to come.

Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!

--Isaiah 5:20

We live in a topsy-turvy world. From early youth, most of us have been taught that homosexual conduct is contrary to Scripture, contrary to Judeo-Christian teaching, and contrary to good morality.

Then, a few decades ago, the "gay rights" movement arose and demanded the fight to practice the homosexual lifestyle. "We do not ask you to approve or agree with us," they would say, "we only ask that you recognize our fight to our practices."

But that isn't enough anymore. Today, the "gay rights" movement demands that we not only accept their right to practice homosexual conduct, but also approve and affirm it as an acceptable lifestyle.

What's next? Will their next step be to silence their critics by making criticism of homosexual conduct illegal?

Homosexual conduct, which virtually every civilization at all times in history has condemned as immoral, harmful, and aberrant, is now lauded as an acceptable lifestyle; and a defense of traditional Biblical morality is condemned as the most vile sin of all--intolerance. As the prophet Isaiah warned, evil is now called good, and good is now called evil.

On January 5, 2007, the David Ray Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2007 was introduced in Congress. Section (2)(A) of this bill (H.R. 254) provides that "Whoever, whether or not acting under color of law, willfully causes bodily injury to any person or, through the use of fire, a firearm, or an explosive device, attempts to cause bodily injury to any person, because of the actual or perceived religion, gender, sexual orientation, or disability of any person," shall be imprisoned not more than 10 years, or fined, or both. If the crime involves kidnapping, aggravated sexual abuse, or attempts to commit either of the foregoing, or if death results from the crime, the imprisonment shall be from 10 years to life.

Given today's hyped rhetoric, anyone who opposes this bill is likely to be accused of supporting hate crimes. But there are many legitimate reasons to oppose this bill.

First, although the bill contains the usual recitations about effects upon interstate commerce, thereby giving the law a coloring of legality, the interstate commerce clause of Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution is interpreted so broadly that almost any crime could be classed as affecting interstate commerce and therefore subject to federal prosecution. If this bill becomes law, police and prosecutors will routinely seek federal prosecutions, instead of or in addition to state prosecutions, because of the enhanced penalties. The practical result will be more federal intrusion into areas properly reserved to the states, more federalization of the judicial process, and expanded power of the federal courts.

Second, the acts prohibited by this hate-crimes bill are already crimes, in most cases felonies that carry substantial punishment. Why, then, is enhanced punishment necessary? Backers of the bill argue that the hate-crimes law is needed because crimes against homosexuals are especially heinous as they constitute discrimination at its worst.

However, the bill itself is discriminatory because it singles out certain classes for its protection while leaving others unprotected. If A commits a crime against B because he hates B's race, color, religion, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, or disability, the hate-crimes bill applies, and he is subject to enhanced punishment.

But there are many kinds of hatred. What if A assaults B because he hates the fact that B is handsome and A isn't? Or because B is overweight, or has body odor, or bad table manners, or an obnoxious personality? Are those kinds of hate crimes any less reprehensible than those that are covered by this bill?

What, then, is the real purpose of this bill? I'm convinced the real purpose is to gain legitimacy for homosexual groups and practices. If an interest group is able to persuade Congress to adopt a law specifically recognizing them and providing enhanced penalties for crimes motivated by hatred against them, that is one more act of official recognition of that interest group. And if "gays" and lesbians have enough political muscle to gain that kind of legal recognition, they must be a powerful force indeed.

But others will want similar protection, and vote-hungry politicians will be quick to comply. Weight watchers, migraine sufferers, those who are too tall or too short--every interest group will seek their special recognition. Perhaps even certain despised professions will demand to be included. Will telling lawyer jokes become a hate crime?

An ultimate goal of those seeking passage of this hate-crimes legislation may be to silence opposition. If A speaks out against homosexuality today, and five years from now he is accused of committing a crime against a homosexual, could his words of today be used to prove that his crime was motivated by unacceptable hatred? Could this have a chilling effect upon speech?

And what constitutes hate speech? Many in the gay-rights movement today brand any kind of opposition as hate speech. By so doing, they remove the legitimacy or morality of their actions from public discussion. Several years ago a widely distributed bumper sticker proclaimed, "Hate Is Not A Family Value." I agree. But I wanted to create a bumper sticker of my own: "Moral Conviction Is Not Hatred."

Would a law prohibiting hate speech be limited to vitriolic, emotional denunciations of homosexuality as vile and sinful? Would the law also prohibit calm, reasoned arguments expressing the same conclusions in more moderate terms? Could a scientist be prosecuted for publishing a study that concludes that the homosexual lifestyle is unhealthy and destructive? Where would the line be drawn?

I emphasize that the Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2007 prohibits only actions, not speech, although speech could be used as evidence that a crime is motivated by an unacceptable class of hatred. But the act could be a step toward further repression of criticism of homosexual conduct. In Kalmar, Sweden, in 2003, Pentecostal pastor Ake Green preached a sermon in which he cited Biblical passages and called homosexuality a "horrible cancerous tumour in the body of society." For this "crime," Rev. Ake was sentenced to a prison term, but after he served a month in prison, the Supreme Court of Sweden overturned his conviction by a 5-0 vote.

And the danger is even closer to home. The Swedish hate-speech law was patterned after a similar Canadian law. Under that law, a Calgary professor filed a complaint against Pastor Stephen Boissoin for his letter to the Red Deer Advocate warning that children are being "strategically targeted, psychologically abused and brainwashed by homosexual and pro-homosexual educators." The Human Rights Tribunal ruled in favor of Pastor Boissoin and against the professor, but the complaint undoubtedly had a chilling effect upon others.

But this is America. It can't happen here. Or can it? In Illinois, a former employee has sued Allstate, claiming the insurance company fired him for writing an article opposing same-sex marriage, even though he did so in his own home on his own time and never suggested that Allstate shared his views. In 2006, Maryland Gov. Robert Ehrlich fired a metro transit board member for speaking against sodomy during a local cable television discussion.

The Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2007 is dangerous, not only on its own terms, but because of its role in the overall culture wars that will shape America for generations to come.

John Eidsmoe is Senior Staff Attorney with the Alabama Supreme Court.
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Title Annotation:HATE CRIMES
Author:Eidsmoe, John
Publication:The New American
Date:Apr 2, 2007
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