NewsThu Apr 26, 2007 - 12:15 pm EST
Democrats Refuse Religious Freedom Amendment to Hate Crimes Bill
By Peter J. Smith
WASHINGTON, D.C., April 26, 2007 (LifeSiteNews.com) – Congressional Democrats on the US House Judiciary Committee quashed 25 amendments to the hate crimes bill H.R. 1592, the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act – including an important amendment protecting freedom of religion – before sending the bill to the House of Representatives for a vote.
According to the Traditional Values Coalition (TVC), Congressional Democrats rammed through the hate crimes bill defeating all 25 Republican amendments, which would have clarified the bill’s language, included other special groups under “hate crimes” protections, and ensured Christians would not be prosecuted for expressing religious convictions opposed to homosexuality.
Congressional representative Dan Lungren (R-CA) raised the objection that the “hate crimes” bill failed to define the terms “sexual orientation” or “gender identity” and demanded the Committee include a definition. Committee Democrats, however, who hold a 23-17 majority on the committee, refused to define either “sexual orientation” or “gender identity” saying they were accepted definitions and need not be stated in the bill.
Republicans offered proposals to protect other categories of citizens on the basis that other groups were particularly vulnerable and deserving of added protections if homosexuals were going to be a protected class.
Rep. Randy Forbes (R-VA) stated that US military personnel are well-known as being targets of hate and physical attack simply because they belong to the armed forces and thus ought to be protected by the bill.
One proposal suggested senior citizens should be a protected class to discourage thugs from beating up and robbing from the elderly, such as civil-rights icon Rosa Parks, who recently was mugged in Detroit.
Another suggested pregnant women who are battered by boyfriends, live-in boyfriends, or husbands because they are pregnant ought also to be a protected class in the “hate crimes” law.
Rep. Louis Gohmert of Texas moved to remove "sexual orientation" and "gender identity" from the bill, but was defeated 19 to 13.
However, a dispute over an amendment offered by Rep. Mike Pence (R-IN) revealed that H.R. 1592 will have severe limitations on First Amendment guarantees of freedom of religion in America.
The Pence amendment read: “Nothing in this section limits the religious freedom of any person or group under the constitution,” meaning Christians and any other religious group that professed its beliefs against homosexual behavior would not suffer persecution for their convictions.
A number of Republicans then spoke in support of the need for such an amendment.
Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX) asked, “If a minister was giving a sermon, a Bible study or any kind of written or spoken message saying that homosexuality was a serious sin and a person in the congregation went out and committed a crime against a homosexual would the minister be charged with the crime of incitement?”
Chairman John Conyers and Congressional Democrats kept evading the issue, providing reasons why they could not accept the amendment until Rep. Lundgren demanded, “What is your answer? Would there be incitement charges against the pastor?”
At that point Democrat Congressman Artur Davis from Alabama candidly said, “Yes.”
“By refusing to accept this amendment the Democrats on this committee have proven their purpose, to remove freedom of religion from the U.S. Constitution,” concluded Rev. Lou Sheldon, Chairman of TVC, who attended the day-long proceedings with TVC CEO Andrea Lafferty.
Rather than prosecute all crimes equally as motivated by “hate”, H.R. 1592 would grant the federal government sweeping and entirely subjective authority to regulate the thoughts, words and actions of American citizens who could be accused of “hate crimes” by opposing the lifestyle of a special class of citizens.
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