Honestly, I am so tired of having to write about the constant stream of lies and misrepresentations from the Religious Right about hate crimes legislation. If I never had to write about this issue again, I would be eternally grateful… but since they keep egregiously lying about it, it doesn’t look like that will happen any time soon.
Here is the latest example, compliments of Bill Donohue and the Catholic League:
The driving force behind the Matthew Shepherd Hate Crimes Prevention Act is the desire to provide additional penalties to criminals who assault homosexuals because of their sexual orientation. Without commenting on the propriety of hate crimes legislation in general, the central problem with this bill is its chilling effect on religious speech.
To be specific, the bill would criminalize religious speech that was critical of homosexuality if it were linked to a crime against a gay person. How do I know this? Because when the bill was considered in the House, that is exactly what Rep. Louie Gohmert was told when he raised this issue. While assaulting anyone, independent of sexual orientation, is rightly considered a criminal offense, the prospect of criminalizing religious speech that proscribes certain sexual practices is beyond worrisome–it is downright dangerous.
Let’s apply the simple test I laid out yesterday whereby we replace the references to “sexual orientation” with references to religion, as religion is already protected under existing hate crimes laws, to see if the concerns still hold up:
The driving force behind the Matthew Shepherd Hate Crimes Prevention Act is the desire to provide additional penalties to criminals who assault CHRISTIANS because of their RELIGIOUS orientation. Without commenting on the propriety of hate crimes legislation in general, the central problem with this bill is its chilling effect on FREE speech.
To be specific, the bill would criminalize FREE speech that was critical of CHRISTIANITY if it were linked to a crime against a CHRISTIAN person. How do I know this? Because when the bill was considered in the House, that is exactly what Rep. Louie Gohmert was told when he raised this issue. While assaulting anyone, independent of RELIGIOUS orientation, is rightly considered a criminal offense, the prospect of criminalizing FREE speech that proscribes certain RELIGIOUS practices is beyond worrisome–it is downright dangerous.
Now, when looked at this way, it quickly become obvious that all these sorts of concerns are completely overblown because current hate crimes law already applies to violent crimes targeting religion and people are not being charged with hate crimes for criticizing religion or seeing their free speech rights wiped away.
This sort of flagrant and intentional misrepresentation of the legislation is bad enough, but I don’t even know what to say about this demand:
The First Amendment protects freedom of speech and religious liberty, both of which are jeopardized under this bill. The chilling effect this legislation could have on the right of the clergy to address sinful behavior flies in the face of the spirit of the First Amendment. Surely there are ways to protect homosexuals from being singled out by anti-gay thugs without trespassing on the constitutional rights of priests, ministers, rabbis, imams and others. Accordingly, language that would accomplish this end should be included as an amendment.
Has anyone at the Catholic League even bothered to take a look at the legislation? If not, here it is and guess what is says?
SEC. 8. RULE OF CONSTRUCTION.
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.
That’s right – aside from the fact that First Amendment rights are in no way threatened by the legislation, the authors also added explicit protection for them just to make that clear.
But still the Religious Right is claiming that the legislation does things is patently does not do and claiming that it doesn’t contain protections that is clearly does.
Do you have any idea how much easier my job would be if the Religious Right would be willing to do some basic research before spouting off?