I have written several dozen posts debunking right-wing lies about hate crimes legislation in the last few weeks and each time I have thought to myself “this is the last time I am writing about this.” And then, inevitably, I see something even more inane than the last thing I wrote about and feel compelled to write yet another post, making the same point one more time.
So here is yet another post making the same point one more time.
First, here’s Pat Robertson saying that if this legislation passes, anyone who so much as speaks out about homosexuality would be charged with a hate crime:
The standard right-wing talking point on this issue is to claim that if a pastor speaks out about homosexuality from the pulpit and then some parishioner goes out at beats up a gay person, the pastor will be charged with a hate crime and tossed in jail.
But apparently even that false claim was too complex for Robertson and his viewers, so he just skipped it entirely and went straight to warning Christians that they would be imprisoned for opposing homosexuality.
In either case, the claim is untrue.
The version that passed the House contains this provision:
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 Constitution.
The version that is now in the Senate contains an even more specific provision:
CONSTITUTIONAL PROTECTIONS- Nothing in this Act shall be construed to prohibit any constitutionally protected speech, expressive conduct or activities (regardless of whether compelled by, or central to, a system of religious belief), including the exercise of religion protected by the First Amendment and peaceful picketing or demonstration. The Constitution does not protect speech, conduct or activities consisting of planning for, conspiring to commit, or committing an act of violence.
FREE EXPRESSION- Nothing in this Act shall be construed to allow prosecution based solely upon an individual’s expression of racial, religious, political, or other beliefs or solely upon an individual’s membership in a group advocating or espousing such beliefs.
Robertson also asserts that this legislation will be struck down as unconstitutional because it infringes upon free speech. But considering that, as I have pointed out time and again, hate crimes laws that protect things like race and religion already exist and they have not been struck down, so there is no reason to think that laws protecting sexual orientation would be stuck down.
The idea that hate crimes laws infringe free speech is ludicrous. Hate crimes protections for race and religion have existed for over a decade and racist or anti-religious speech has not been made illegal and nobody has been charged with a hate crime for engaging in such speech.
But they aren’t – and the reason they aren’t is because hate crimes laws don’t infringe upon the exercise of free speech.