Federal Hate Crimes Law Challenged
Special Report - February 16, 2010
The recently passed federal hate crimes bill, which provides elevated protection for individuals based on “actual or perceived” “sexual orientation” or “gender identity” is being challenged as a violation of the First, Fifth, and Tenth Amendments of the U.S. Constitution and the Commerce Clause. The Thomas More Law Center filed the suit against U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder on February 2 in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan on behalf of three pastors, and the president of the American Family Association of Michigan.
The suit argues that the Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2009, which was passed as an attachment to the defense authorization bill that President Obama signed in October 2009, “creates a special class of persons whose protection of the law will be, in George Orwell’s phrase, ‘more equal than others,’” based on nothing more than their engagement in specific sexual behaviora violation of equal protection under the Fifth Amendment.
The plaintiffs also argue that the law subjects them “to increased government scrutiny, questioning, investigation, surveillance, and intimidation on account of their strong, public opposition to homosexual activism, the homosexual lifestyle, and the homosexual agenda, thereby causing a tangible and concrete deterrent, inhibitory, and chilling effect on Plaintiffs’ activities and their rights to freedom of speech, expressive association, and the free exercise of religion.” Richard Thompson, president of the Thomas More Law Center and chief counsel on the case, noted that “in many other jurisdictions, so-called ‘hate crimes’ legislation is being used to prosecute and jail pastors and priests for giving sermons or homilies that reflect the Christian view toward homosexuality.” According to Thompson, “The sole purpose of this law is to criminalize the Bible and use the threat of federal prosecutions and long jail sentences to silence Christians from expressing their Biblically-based religious belief that homosexual conduct is a sin.”
Finally, the suit alleges that Congress lacked authority under the Tenth Amendment and Commerce Clause to pass the law, which excessively expands the jurisdiction of federal law enforcement and intelligence agencies by making crimes allegedly motivated by sexual orientation or gender identity a federal matter. “There is no legitimate law enforcement need for this federal law,” according to Thompson. FBI statistics show that 243less than one tenth of one percentof the 1.38 million violent crimes committed in the U.S. in 2008 were believed to be motivated by the sexual orientation of the victim.
Robert Muise, the attorney who is handling the case, charged that the law “creates ‘thought crimes’ by criminalizing certain ideas, beliefs, and opinions, and the involvement of such ideas, beliefs, and opinions in a crime will make it deserving of federal prosecution.” For these reasons, Thompson argued, a lawsuit challenging the new hate crimes law is crucial. “This anti-Christian agenda must be stopped now,” Thompson added.
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