News Intelligence Analysis
From the Baptist Press
Senate hate-crimes vote is 'terrible precedent,' Land says
By Tom Strode
Jun 21, 2004
WASHINGTON (BP)--The U.S. Senate's vote to expand hate-crimes legislation to include homosexuals is a miscarriage of justice that could restrict the freedoms of others, opponents said.
The Senate voted 65-33 to include "gender, sexual orientation or disability" among categories protected by hate-crimes legislation and to provide federal assistance to state and local officials to investigate and prosecute such crimes. "Sexual orientation" is a classification that includes homosexuality. The classes currently protected by hate-crimes legislation are race, color, religion and national origin.
"This is a terrible precedent, making sexual preference in any way, shape or form a protected right," said Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission. "Making sexual preference a protected right in any federal legislation will lead to litigation that will be extremely damaging to the freedoms of Americans. The senators who voted for this ought to be ashamed of themselves."
Robert Knight, director of Concerned Women for America's Culture and Family Institute, said the senators who voted for the proposal are "setting up our children and grandchildren for persecution as activist courts rule that biblical morality is 'bigotry.' Using similar laws, the mere criticism of homosexuality is considered a 'hate crime' in Sweden and Canada."
Both Land and Knight said the concept of hate crimes is flawed.
"People should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law when they do violent acts, period," Land said. "Whether it's racially motivated or motivated because of the sexual preference of the person should be irrelevant. They should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law when they break the law for any reason and when they perpetrate crimes of violence."
Knight said in a written statement, "Equal protection means your grandma and your friend who lives as a homosexual have the same rights when they walk down the street. Under a hate-crimes law, someone who mugs your grandmother will not be prosecuted as vigorously as someone who commits the same crime against a homosexual. Hates-crimes laws aren't about justice; they are about favoritism and special rights.
"As the beacon of freedom to the world, America must resist this trend toward thought control and the twisting of the legal system into a grab bag of 'special rights' and special claims. There is no evidence that police and prosecutors are not enforcing the law against those who would prey on homosexuals or any other citizens," Knight said.
The Senate approved the measure as an amendment to the Department of Defense authorization bill for 2005. The House of Representatives approved a Defense authorization bill in May without the hate-crimes proposal. Negotiations will take place to resolve the differences in the two bills and to present a final report to both houses for approval.
Eighteen Republicans joined with 47 Democrats to support the amendment. Sen. Gordon Smith, R-Ore., sponsored the measure, which is titled the Local Law Enforcement Enhancement Act. All 33 "no" votes were by Republicans. The June 15 roll-call vote, No. 00114, may be accessed on the Internet at www.senate.gov.
In his defense of the measure on the Senate floor, Smith said it would punish "thought and speech that amounts to conduct, and that conduct then becomes criminal."
"I cannot think of a more Christian or decent thing to do than come to the aid of someone who is in physical peril or to prosecute their case when they have been wronged, regardless of what you think of their life or lifestyle," Smith said. "I believe the moral imperative that underpins hate-crimes legislation is simply this, and it comes from sacred writ: When people are being stoned in the public square, we ought to come to their rescue."
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