Yesterday, a collection of extremist right-wing groups, including BOND and Repent America, along with former Navy chaplain and fringe-right folk hero Gordon Klingenschmitt, held a press conference at the U.S. Capitol to protest Senate hate crimes legislation. The event continued the right-wing’s on-going effort to falsely portray an upcoming Senate bill that would add sexual orientation, gender, and disability to the existing federal hate crime law, as an attack on Christianity.
BOND’s Jesse Lee Peterson puts the legislation into perspective:
“If Christians don’t wake up to what is happening, they will look around one day and realize that they cannot even mention the name of God or disagree with homosexuality.”
Klingenschmitt then more specifically describes the threat:
“If this bill passes, they will come into our churches, they will grab your sermon notes, they will go after your congregation if any pastor preaches against the sin of homosexuality and then a nut in the crowd later goes out and commits a crime. They will accuse him as a codefendant and charge him with a hate speech crime.”
Of course there’s no such thing as a “hate speech crime” in this bill or the existing federal hate crimes law, which targets only violent crimes that cause people bodily harm. In fact, the “Hate Crimes Prevention Act” already passed by the House includes explicit language protecting the First Amendment rights that Klingenschmitt and his colleagues claim are being threatened.
Repent America’s Michael Marcavage says that the bill’s focus on violent acts is somehow part of a secret strategy:
“[Hate-crime legislation proponents are] doing this in a strategic manner because they say it only applies to violence or violent acts.”
Sure, the law may SAY it only applies to violent crimes, and sure, it may include clear protections for religious leaders and anyone else to speak out against homosexuality, but it’s all part of a slippery slope that will lead to preachers being dragged from their pulpits.
Ah, the old slippery slope argument. Remember then-Senator Rick Santorum insisting that overturning laws against sodomy would lead to acceptance of man-dog sex? Coincidently, this contention also happened to be presented during the press conference by Rev. Jonathan Hunter of LEARN:
“Pastors not only have a right, but an obligation to state emphatically that, according to scripture, a man or woman should not perform a sex act with a person of the same sex, nor with a dog, nor with a snake, nor with a hamster or any other creature.”
As we previously noted, even the urban legend website Snopes.com has debunked the Religious Right’s claims about the hate crimes law. And a group of religious leaders held their own press event in support of the law a day earlier. But when it comes to portraying supporters of legal protection for gay Americans as enemies of religious liberty, right-wing leaders don’t let the truth get in the way of a good story.