I'm a stealth subscriber to the American Family Association. Today I got this email:
...with your help we have successfully beaten back attempts to pass so-called "hate crimes" legislation since the 1990s. However, as the president points out, this legislation is now closer to becoming law than it ever has been. The House passed this bill last Thursday, and our last chance to stop this dangerous bill is when your senators vote on it this week. Here's what wrong with the "hate crimes" bill:
• It criminalizes thought. For the first time in American history, criminal penalties are being attached to thoughts, not actions. Perpetrators will receive extra punishment not for what they did but for what they were thinking when they did it.
• It endangers freedom of religion and speech. Everywhere in the world "hate crimes" laws have gone into effect, they have quickly been used to harass, intimidate, silence and punish people of faith. Your pastor could go to jail if even a tenuous link could be established between a sermon on homosexuality and some act of violence.• It destroys the American principle of equality under the law. It creates a judicial caste system, in which some victims get more legal protection than others. It actively discriminates against heterosexuals by giving them less protection in law than victims who engage in non-normative sexual behaviors.• In a devious maneuver by Democrats, it's attached to a Defense Appropriations bill. Our military deserves a stand-alone vote on funding.Thank you for caring enough to get involved. If you feel our efforts are worthy of support, would you consider making a small tax-deductible contribution to help us continue?
Fascinating. Completely, 100% empirically false except for the part about their being a tax-exempt organization funded by tax-deductible donations. Nonetheless, a fascinating glimpse into the mind of the Christian right wing.
1. Hate crimes laws don't criminalize thought, they criminalize motive. Motive has always been relevant in criminal law. Only where the motive of a crime is an attempt to intimidate a community is hate-crimes penalty enhancement invoked.
However, even if it was true that hate crimes legislation criminalized thought, it would hardly be "the first time in American history, criminal penalties [were] attached to thoughts, not actions." Conspiracy is the crime of agreeing to commit a crime. Conspiracy doesn't require a criminal act, but only a thought plus some action to advance the crime.
2. The Matthew Shepard Act explicitly excludes religious speech. Pastors and religious people will continue to be free to spew all the venom and ignorance they're spewing today.
3. The MSA actually enhances "equality under the law." There are already several special classes of people protected by existing federal hate-crimes law (18 U.S.C. § 245). One of those classes is religion.
If a gang of gays stalked and beat the hell out of a Mormon because of his religion, existing federal law permits the feds to bring a hate-crime case. However, if the tables were turned and Mormons stalked and beat a gay man because he was homosexual, the feds cannot bring the case as a bias crime because gays are not covered. The MSA puts LGBT and disabled citizens on equal footing with other groups who have tended to be victims of bias crimes — including religious people. Sounds like progress toward equality under the law to me.
4. Attaching the MSA to the Defense Appropriations Bill isn't a "devious maneuver," it's a chicken-shit maneuver. This MSA adds the disabled and LGBT community to an existing list of groups who are typical victims of bias crimes. There's nothing controversial about that unless you don't have a particular problem with certain people being the victim of violent intimidation. So for that reason, it should have been a standalone bill if only the Democrats had a spine among them. Anyway, there was a voice vote, so everyone got a chance to say they were for one part of the bill but not another.
Also attached to the Defense Appropriations Bill: the Victims of Iranian Censorship [VOICE] Act. It appropriates $55 million to the State Department to propagandize in Farsi. The VOICE Act was "deviously attached" to the Defense Appropriations Bill by Senator John McCain. Does the AFA have any problem with this? Apparently not. Gee, I wonder why?
Anyway, if the AFA is so profoundly against hate-crimes legislation, I'd suggest that they work at least as diligently to exempt Christianity from 18 U.S.C. § 245. After all, religion is a choice, and why should people who choose to live a certain lifestyle be entitled to additional rights? Heh, just kidding.
Finally, I'm no expert on the Bible, but I seem to recall it saying something about "bearing false witness." In fact, I believe that sin even made God's Top 10 List.
Conspicuously absent from that list: homosexuality.