Monday, April 20, 2009

Hate Crimes Legislation - Your Action Is Needed

Everyone please mark your calendars for April 22nd. The House Judiciary Committee is set to vote on H.R. 1913, the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2009. Language in the bill includes “sexual orientation,” which is why this bill has our attention (and why so-called family groups are in a tizzy.) Forty-two congressmen have already signed on as co-sponsors.

Please call your own US Representative today to express your support for H.R. 1913, especially if they are on the House Judiciary Committee (link to members here).  Ask them to sign on as a co-sponsor if they haven’t already.

The right-wing Traditional Values Coalition has already released this statement regarding the bill. Unsurprisingly, they have also organized an effort to lobby Congress.
“The so-called hate crimes bill will be used to lay the legal foundation and framework to investigate, prosecute and persecute pastors, business owners, Bible teachers, Sunday School teachers, youth leaders, Christian counselors, religious broadcasters and anyone else whose actions are based upon and reflect the truths found in the Bible.”
This same argument has been used over and over in the past to defeat similar bills. Their position is inaccurate and irrational. HR 1913, in fact, does not restrict free speech whatsoever. Lawmakers who drafted the bill went out of their way to ensure freedom of speech. Section 10 makes this abundantly clear (see text of the full bill).  A simple google search of “HR 1913 Hate Crimes” will reveal a fierce opposition to this bill by some social conservative groups who have adopted the very same talking points (other groups are gearing up for an all-out fight in the Senate).

When I contacted TVC this morning, I asked them to point out any language that restricted free speech. Of course, the agent could not highlight any portion whatsoever and instead claimed that an appointed group of lawyers had discovered in the language dangerous nuances that would compromise “free speech for pastors at the pulpit.”

Fight back by calling your Representative, and those on the House Judiciary Committee, today. Tell them to vote “YES” on HR 1913. You can bet that organizers on the opposite side of this fight are lobbying Congress, even as you read these words. We cannot allow them to defeat hate crimes legislation again.

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