Saturday, May 5, 2007

Hate Crimes

I get a little frustrated with the mode of civic engagement of most Christians. This week's Hate Crimes legislation provides a handy case-in-point. The Christian radio crowd mobilized lots of their loyal listeners to take up as a holy crusade the opposition of the democratically introduced bill, HR1592, because purportedly it contains within it the Trojan Horse of muzzling pastors and others from speaking publicly against homosexuality.

As best as I can tell, here is the relevant section of HR1592:"(1) IN GENERAL- At the request of State, local, or Tribal law enforcement agency, the Attorney General may provide technical, forensic, prosecutorial, or any other form of assistance in the criminal investigation or prosecution of any crime that--
(A) constitutes a crime of violence;
(B) constitutes a felony under the State, local, or Tribal laws; and
(C) is motivated by prejudice based on the actual or perceived race, color, religion, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability of the victim, or is a violation of the State, local, or Tribal hate crime laws." (

So my interpretation of this in plain language is that non-federal agencies can request federal support in prosecuting acts of violence against certain classes of people which have been motivated by prejudice. Period.

Now, I think there are some good reasons for opposing this legislation. For example, why are hate crimes limited to just these classes of people; why not include the elderly and military personnel (a proposed amendment to the bill that was voted down)? Why not protect short people or balding men?! I think there are reasonable responses to such questions, but equally, I think the objections to the legislation are reasonable.

What upsets me about Christians' reactions is that there is absolutely no language in the bill that says anything about prosecuting speech--not even if it was speech that persuaded someone to do violence to one of the protected classes. The way the knee-jerk crowd is making it sound, you'd think the Congress criminalized Christianity.

I'm fully aware that there is a political strategy going on here with respect to homosexual rights and the recognition of them as a protected class. And this may be worth opposing because of future bills that will be coming making it illegal for faith-based organizations to discrimate against homosexuals in employment practices. But please, in the process of engaging in the political process, let's shed light and proclaim truth rather than obfuscating, misrepresenting, and falsifying.


entirelysimulated said...

Amen! If the language in which some Christians describe their concern is expressive of their self-understanding, I also wonder about their vision of the kingdom of God in his world. "Muzzling the pastors?" Where are the sheep, the doves and serpents?

J. B. Stump said...

Thanks. Yes, I too fear that a faulty understanding of the kingdom is rampant in 21st century christendom. I'll wonder about that out loud in future posts.