Ministers Commit False Witness About Hate Crimes Bill
And a challenge: Show me in the bill's text where it infringes on the First Amendment.
June 16th, 2007
When the US House took up the “Matthew Shepard Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2007,” we saw a lot of blatant dishonesty from far-right opponents. We saw them completely make up bogus hate crime statistics out of thin air. We saw them falsely claim that the legislation would “punish some crimes more severely against gay people than they would against any other person.” And we saw them putting forward the “thought crime” canard, even though the proposed legislation deals strictly with actual violence.
The bill passed the House with bipartisan support, and now the Senate is about to consider the measure. And once again, we’re seeing anti-gay extremists cranking up the False Witnessing machine once again. This time, they are renewing their arguments that the proposed hate crime legislation will compromise their freedom of religion. A group of African-American church leaders, including pastor Kenneth Hutcherson of Antioch Bible Church who has been stirring up trouble in Riga Latvia, have appeared in an advertisement featuring a gagged African-American pastor to claim that hate crimes legislation would “muzzle our pulpits.”
Christian clergymen and people of faith are making a stand today for religious liberty. WE OPPOSE S.1105, “The Matthew Shepard Act.” We believe prosecutors and anti-Christian groups will use loop holes in this proposed legislation to muzzle the church. Unnecessary lawsuits will bring a chilling effect to the free speech and religious liberty of our churches and of our members.
No law can usurp the First Amendment, and the sad thing is that these ministers should know that better than anyone. Despite enjoying hate crime protections for a number of years, the African-American community continues to be the target of constitutionally protected hate speech whenever the Klan wins approval to hold rallies on courthouse squares and statehouse lawns. Nothing in the existing hate crime laws has succeeded in muzzling their First Amendment rights to free speech.
And nothing has muzzled anyone’s First Amendment rights to freedom of religion either. There are at least thirty seven racist Christian Identity groups active across America. Some even operate radio broadcasts and “prison ministries.” As patently offensive and dangerous as some of these groups may be, the First Amendment has protected their outlandish religious beliefs despite existing hate crimes legislation on the basis of race.
And like a broken record, I’ll repeat this one again: The law protects everyone equally. If you check the FBI’s latest statistics from 2005, you’ll find there were 935 anti-white hate crime incidents recorded, 58 anti-protestant hate crime incidents recorded, and 23 anti-heterosexual incidents recorded. They all deserve — and receive — protection as well.
Focus on the Family, Exodus, Family Research Council, Traditional Values Coalition, Mission America — all of them have repeated some serious outright lies about what the proposed legislation would do. And several individuals associated with these organizations have done the same.
And so here’s a challenge. I have posted the actual proposed legislation in full on my web site. You will find the text after the jump below. I dare them to do the same. And I challenge them to point to any part of the bill which would usurp the First Amendment. In fact, I challenge them to point to any part of the bill which even comes close to limiting speech. The bill only mentions violence, and it only extends penalties to acts of violence.
Unless placing additional penalties on violent acts somehow limits these pastors’ freedoms of religion, this bill won’t have any affect on them whatsoever.
So where is it folks? Tell us. Is it in the bill or are you lying as God is your witness? Pick one, because it’s either one or the other.
As of June 16, 2007, this is the bill’s text:
To provide Federal assistance to States, local jurisdictions, and Indian tribes to prosecute hate crimes, and for other purposes.
IN THE SENATE OF THE UNITED STATES
April 12, 2007
Mr. KENNEDY (for himself, Mr. SMITH, Mr. LEAHY, Mr. SPECTER, Ms. MIKULSKI, Ms. COLLINS, Mr. MENENDEZ, Ms. SNOWE, Mr. BROWN, Mr. KERRY, Mr. DURBIN, Mr. LAUTENBERG, Mr. DODD, Mr. NELSON of Nebraska, Mrs. FEINSTEIN, Mr. LEVIN, Mr. HARKIN, Mr. WHITEHOUSE, Ms. STABENOW, Mr. BIDEN, Mrs. MURRAY, Mr. BAYH, Ms. CANTWELL, Mr. CARDIN, Mr. LIEBERMAN, Mr. REED, Mr. SCHUMER, Mr. OBAMA, Mrs. BOXER, Ms. KLOBUCHAR, Mr. AKAKA, Mr. BINGAMAN, Mrs. CLINTON, Ms. LANDRIEU, Mr. ROCKEFELLER, Mrs. LINCOLN, Mr. CASEY, Mrs. MCCASKILL, Mr. INOUYE, Mr. NELSON of Florida, Mr. SALAZAR, and Mr. JOHNSON) introduced the following bill; which was read twice and referred to the Committee on the Judiciary
To provide Federal assistance to States, local jurisdictions, and Indian tribes to prosecute hate crimes, and for other purposes.
Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,
SECTION 1. SHORT TITLE.
This Act may be cited as the `Matthew Shepard Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2007′.
SEC. 2. FINDINGS.
Congress makes the following findings:
1) The incidence of violence motivated by the actual or perceived race, color, religion, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability of the victim poses a serious national problem.
(2) Such violence disrupts the tranquility and safety of communities and is deeply divisive.
(3) State and local authorities are now and will continue to be responsible for prosecuting the overwhelming majority of violent crimes in the United States, including violent crimes motivated by bias. These authorities can carry out their responsibilities more effectively with greater Federal assistance.
(4) Existing Federal law is inadequate to address this problem.
(5) A prominent characteristic of a violent crime motivated by bias is that it devastates not just the actual victim and the family and friends of the victim, but frequently savages the community sharing the traits that caused the victim to be selected.
(6) Such violence substantially affects interstate commerce in many ways, including the following:
(A) The movement of members of targeted groups is impeded, and members of such groups are forced to move across State lines to escape the incidence or risk of such violence.
(B) Members of targeted groups are prevented from purchasing goods and services, obtaining or sustaining employment, or participating in other commercial activity.
(C) Perpetrators cross State lines to commit such violence.
(D) Channels, facilities, and instrumentalities of interstate commerce are used to facilitate the commission of such violence.
(E) Such violence is committed using articles that have traveled in interstate commerce.
(7) For generations, the institutions of slavery and involuntary servitude were defined by the race, color, and ancestry of those held in bondage. Slavery and involuntary servitude were enforced, both prior to and after the adoption of the 13th amendment to the Constitution of the United States, through widespread public and private violence directed at persons because of their race, color, or ancestry, or perceived race, color, or ancestry. Accordingly, eliminating racially motivated violence is an important means of eliminating, to the extent possible, the badges, incidents, and relics of slavery and involuntary servitude.
(8) Both at the time when the 13th, 14th, and 15th amendments to the Constitution of the United States were adopted, and continuing to date, members of certain religious and national origin groups were and are perceived to be distinct `races’. Thus, in order to eliminate, to the extent possible, the badges, incidents, and relics of slavery, it is necessary to prohibit assaults on the basis of real or perceived religions or national origins, at least to the extent such religions or national origins were regarded as races at the time of the adoption of the 13th, 14th, and 15th amendments to the Constitution of the United States.
(9) Federal jurisdiction over certain violent crimes motivated by bias enables Federal, State, and local authorities to work together as partners in the investigation and prosecution of such crimes.
(10) The problem of crimes motivated by bias is sufficiently serious, widespread, and interstate in nature as to warrant Federal assistance to States, local jurisdictions, and Indian tribes.
SEC. 3. DEFINITION OF HATE CRIME.
In this Act–
(1) the term `crime of violence’ has the meaning given that term in section 16, title 18, United States Code;
(2) the term `hate crime’ has the meaning given such term in section 280003(a) of the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994 (28 U.S.C. 994 note); and
(3) the term `local’ means a county, city, town, township, parish, village, or other general purpose political subdivision of a State.
SEC. 4. SUPPORT FOR CRIMINAL INVESTIGATIONS AND PROSECUTIONS BY STATE, LOCAL, AND TRIBAL LAW ENFORCEMENT OFFICIALS.
(a) Assistance Other Than Financial Assistance-
(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.
(2) PRIORITY- In providing assistance under paragraph (1), the Attorney General shall give priority to crimes committed by offenders who have committed crimes in more than one State and to rural jurisdictions that have difficulty covering the extraordinary expenses relating to the investigation or prosecution of the crime.
(1) IN GENERAL- The Attorney General may award grants to State, local, and Indian law enforcement agencies for extraordinary expenses associated with the investigation and prosecution of hate crimes.
(2) OFFICE OF JUSTICE PROGRAMS- In implementing the grant program under this subsection, the Office of Justice Programs shall work closely with grantees to ensure that the concerns and needs of all affected parties, including community groups and schools, colleges, and universities, are addressed through the local infrastructure developed under the grants.
(A) IN GENERAL- Each State, local, and Indian law enforcement agency that desires a grant under this subsection shall submit an application to the Attorney General at such time, in such manner, and accompanied by or containing such information as the Attorney General shall reasonably require.
(B) DATE FOR SUBMISSION- Applications submitted pursuant to subparagraph (A) shall be submitted during the 60-day period beginning on a date that the Attorney General shall prescribe.
(C) REQUIREMENTS- A State, local, and Indian law enforcement agency applying for a grant under this subsection shall–
(i) describe the extraordinary purposes for which the grant is needed;
(ii) certify that the State, local government, or Indian tribe lacks the resources necessary to investigate or prosecute the hate crime;
(iii) demonstrate that, in developing a plan to implement the grant, the State, local, and Indian law enforcement agency has consulted and coordinated with nonprofit, nongovernmental victim services programs that have experience in providing services to victims of hate crimes; and
(iv) certify that any Federal funds received under this subsection will be used to supplement, not supplant, non-Federal funds that would otherwise be available for activities funded under this subsection.
(4) DEADLINE- An application for a grant under this subsection shall be approved or denied by the Attorney General not later than 30 business days after the date on which the Attorney General receives the application.
(5) GRANT AMOUNT- A grant under this subsection shall not exceed $100,000 for any single jurisdiction in any 1-year period.
(6) REPORT- Not later than December 31, 2008, the Attorney General shall submit to Congress a report describing the applications submitted for grants under this subsection, the award of such grants, and the purposes for which the grant amounts were expended.
(7) AUTHORIZATION OF APPROPRIATIONS- There is authorized to be appropriated to carry out this subsection $5,000,000 for each of fiscal years 2008 and 2009.
SEC. 5. GRANT PROGRAM.
(a) Authority to Award Grants- The Office of Justice Programs of the Department of Justice may award grants, in accordance with such regulations as the Attorney General may prescribe, to State, local, or Tribal programs designed to combat hate crimes committed by juveniles, including programs to train local law enforcement officers in identifying, investigating, prosecuting, and preventing hate crimes.
(b) Authorization of Appropriations- There are authorized to be appropriated such sums as may be necessary to carry out this section.
SEC. 6. AUTHORIZATION FOR ADDITIONAL PERSONNEL TO ASSIST STATE, LOCAL, AND TRIBAL LAW ENFORCEMENT.
There are authorized to be appropriated to the Department of the Treasury and the Department of Justice, including the Community Relations Service, for fiscal years 2008, 2009, and 2010 such sums as are necessary to increase the number of personnel to prevent and respond to alleged violations of section 249 of title 18, United States Code, as added by section 7 of this Act.
SEC. 7. PROHIBITION OF CERTAIN HATE CRIME ACTS.
(a) In General- Chapter 13 of title 18, United States Code, is amended by adding at the end the following:
`Sec. 249. Hate crime acts
`(a) In General-
`(1) OFFENSES INVOLVING ACTUAL OR PERCEIVED RACE, COLOR, RELIGION, OR NATIONAL ORIGIN- Whoever, whether or not acting under color of law, willfully causes bodily injury to any person or, through the use of fire, a firearm, or an explosive or incendiary device, attempts to cause bodily injury to any person, because of the actual or perceived race, color, religion, or national origin of any person–
`(A) shall be imprisoned not more than 10 years, fined in accordance with this title, or both; and
`(B) shall be imprisoned for any term of years or for life, fined in accordance with this title, or both, if–
`(i) death results from the offense; or
`(ii) the offense includes kidnaping or an attempt to kidnap, aggravated sexual abuse or an attempt to commit aggravated sexual abuse, or an attempt to kill.
`(2) OFFENSES INVOLVING ACTUAL OR PERCEIVED RELIGION, NATIONAL ORIGIN, GENDER, SEXUAL ORIENTATION, GENDER IDENTITY, OR DISABILITY-
`(A) IN GENERAL- Whoever, whether or not acting under color of law, in any circumstance described in subparagraph (B), willfully causes bodily injury to any person or, through the use of fire, a firearm, or an explosive or incendiary device, attempts to cause bodily injury to any person, because of the actual or perceived religion, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity or disability of any person–
`(i) shall be imprisoned not more than 10 years, fined in accordance with this title, or both; and
`(ii) shall be imprisoned for any term of years or for life, fined in accordance with this title, or both, if–
`(I) death results from the offense; or
`(II) the offense includes kidnaping or an attempt to kidnap, aggravated sexual abuse or an attempt to commit aggravated sexual abuse, or an attempt to kill.
`(B) CIRCUMSTANCES DESCRIBED- For purposes of subparagraph (A), the circumstances described in this subparagraph are that–
`(i) the conduct described in subparagraph (A) occurs during the course of, or as the result of, the travel of the defendant or the victim–
`(I) across a State line or national border; or
`(II) using a channel, facility, or instrumentality of interstate or foreign commerce;
`(ii) the defendant uses a channel, facility, or instrumentality of interstate or foreign commerce in connection with the conduct described in subparagraph (A);
`(iii) in connection with the conduct described in subparagraph (A), the defendant employs a firearm, explosive or incendiary device, or other weapon that has traveled in interstate or foreign commerce; or
`(iv) the conduct described in subparagraph (A)–
`(I) interferes with commercial or other economic activity in which the victim is engaged at the time of the conduct; or
`(II) otherwise affects interstate or foreign commerce.
`(b) Certification Requirement- No prosecution of any offense described in this subsection may be undertaken by the United States, except under the certification in writing of the Attorney General, the Deputy Attorney General, the Associate Attorney General, or any Assistant Attorney General specially designated by the Attorney General that–
`(1) such certifying individual has reasonable cause to believe that the actual or perceived race, color, religion, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability of any person was a motivating factor underlying the alleged conduct of the defendant; and
`(2) such certifying individual has consulted with State or local law enforcement officials regarding the prosecution and determined that–
`(A) the State does not have jurisdiction or does not intend to exercise jurisdiction;
`(B) the State has requested that the Federal Government assume jurisdiction;
`(C) the State does not object to the Federal Government assuming jurisdiction; or
`(D) the verdict or sentence obtained pursuant to State charges left demonstratively unvindicated the Federal interest in eradicating bias-motivated violence.
`(c) Definitions- In this section–
`(1) the term `explosive or incendiary device’ has the meaning given such term in section 232 of this title;
`(2) the term `firearm’ has the meaning given such term in section 921(a) of this title; and
`(3) the term `gender identity’ for the purposes of this chapter means actual or perceived gender-related characteristics.
`(d) Rule of Evidence- In a prosecution for an offense under this section, evidence of expression or associations of the defendant may not be introduced as substantive evidence at trial, unless the evidence specifically relates to that offense. However, nothing in this section affects the rules of evidence governing impeachment of a witness.’.
(b) Technical and Conforming Amendment- The analysis for chapter 13 of title 18, United States Code, is amended by adding at the end the following:
`249. Hate crime acts.’.
SEC. 8. STATISTICS.
(a) In General- Subsection (b)(1) of the first section of the Hate Crime Statistics Act (28 U.S.C. 534 note) is amended by inserting `gender and gender identity,’ after `race,’.
(b) Data- Subsection (b)(5) of the first section of the Hate Crime Statistics Act (28 U.S.C. 534 note) is amended by inserting `, including data about crimes committed by, and crimes directed against, juveniles’ after `data acquired under this section’.
SEC. 9. SEVERABILITY.
If any provision of this Act, an amendment made by this Act, or the application of such provision or amendment to any person or circumstance is held to be unconstitutional, the remainder of this Act, the amendments made by this Act, and the application of the provisions of such to any person or circumstance shall not be affected thereby.