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The problem with the hate crimes bill

WASHINGTON (BP)–The Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act (H.R. 1913) is an irresponsible piece of legislation.

Its most notable flaws are its determination to prosecute people for their beliefs about homosexuality and its creation of a special protected class for homosexuals. How do you prosecute someone for prejudice? You determine what that person believes about a particular issue and then you surmise that his actions were a result of that belief.

Most Christians, as well as many other religious groups, believe that homosexuality and homosexual behavior are contrary to God’s design for humanity. Consequently, this bill puts Christians and many other religious groups in the government’s crosshairs.

Under this law, one’s religious belief about homosexuality can be sufficient reason to prosecute him for a hate crime if he engages in an act of violence against a homosexual. While we should never condone acts of violence against people merely because they are homosexual, the attacker’s religious beliefs about homosexuality should not be a germane issue in his prosecution.

Nevertheless, if a prosecutor determines that someone who committed an act of violence against a homosexual believed that homosexuality was contrary to God’s design, he can request federal assistance in the prosecution of that person. This makes anyone who holds a religiously based belief about homosexuality immediately suspect of engaging in a hate crime if a homosexual is involved, even if the person was unaware that the victim was homosexual.

Those who teach that homosexuality is contrary to God’s design may find that they also are targeted by this law. If someone under their ministry is charged with a hate crime against a homosexual, the minister himself could be accused of inciting that violence because of his teachings.

This bill is designed to condemn and prosecute the belief that homosexuality is an aberrant sexual orientation. It is interesting that sexual orientation and gender identity have been added to this list of specially protected groups. Do those promoting this bill hold the opinion that this vulnerable group deserves special protections over other vulnerable groups? What about overweight people? The homeless? Pregnant women? The prosecution of every act of violence should be treated the same way. To do any less is to reduce all others to lower status.

There is an agenda at work here. The bill is creating a special level of protection for homosexuals that many other vulnerable groups are being denied.
Barrett Duke is vice president for public policy and research for the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission.

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