ROME, October 16, 2013 ( – A citizens’ group has issued a public letter to Pope Francis begging his intercession to stop the government’s proposed “anti-homophobia” bill that was passed in the Chamber of Deputies last month.

The letter states that the bill “threatens to severely restrict freedom of expression and association, especially of Catholics, and if approved, would become the springboard for further legislation detrimental to natural law, such as the legalization of so-called ‘same-sex marriage’ and adoptions by homosexual couples.”

The letter says the group appeals to Pope Francis, “moved by our trust that we will receive a response on a matter of utmost importance” and “encouraged by the fact that his Holiness has often shown himself to be attentive to the demands of more ‘small’ church members.”

The bill would punish with imprisonment up to one year and 6 months or a fine of up to €6,000 anyone guilty of “instigating to commit or who commits acts of discrimination for reasons … based on homophobia or transphobia.”

It proposes imprisonment from 6 months to 4 years for anyone who “instigates to commit or who commits acts of violence or provocation to violence for reasons … based on homophobia or transphobia” and with imprisonment from 6 months to 4 years for anyone who “provides assistance to organizations, associations, movements or groups whose purposes is incitement to discrimination or violence on grounds based on homophobia or transphobia.” The penalty for those who promote or direct such groups is imprisonment from 1 to 6 years.

The group called the bill “extremely dangerous” and warned that “once approved it would give birth to a ‘liberticidal’ law, rightly defined by many a ‘gag law’.”

They note that nowhere does the bill give a definition of “homophobia” or “transphobia,” terms that would appear nowhere else in Italian law that, they said, are “anything but neutral in the cultural and anthropological realm.” “Which definition of homophobia and transphobia will judges apply in specific cases? This indeterminacy of criminal cases already represents a serious glitch, contradicting the legal requirement, constitutionally, of the binding nature of the criminal law.”

“We fear the penalty (up to 1 year and 6 months of imprisonment!) for advocating in public what the Catechism of the Catholic Church says on homosexuality,” the letter continued. This includes the Catholic doctrine that “Sacred Scripture… presents homosexual relationships as a serious depravity” and that “homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered” and “under no circumstances may they be approved.”

The law could also restrict the rights of groups and individuals dedicated to helping homosexuals to “come out of the [homosexual] state,” a state they said that “is not only morally, but also psychologically negative.” Members of such groups could face prison terms up to 6 years, they noted.

The group quotes one of the bill’s promoters, Deputy Ivan Scalfarotto, who said in an interview on August 26th that the debate on homophobia “does not dismiss that on gay marriages,” but indeed, “precedes it.” “Because they are two different things. And one is logically prior to the other,” he said. They point out that on March 15, 2013 two bills were presented for consideration, one against “homophobia” to the Deputies, and another to the Senate proposing “provisions on equality in access to marriage on the part of couples formed by persons of the same sex.”

“For all these reasons we humbly ask you, indeed, we beg you to take a strong public position against this Bill, proportionate to the seriousness and the public nature of the problem,” the letter concludes.

“The faithful have already been hearing from different parts of the Church their voice of protest but they need the voice of their Shepherd. Only you, Holy Father, can shake the conscience of the faithful, Catholic politicians and public opinion in general, to stop this law which threatens to trample the most basic freedoms and will be used to bring changes increasingly harmful to the natural order in our beloved homeland.”