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Hate Crimes Bill

Q. Do you think the hate crimes bill could negatively affect churches and pastors' freedom-of-speech rights? Our pastor warned this is a slippery-slope issue that could draw Romans-preaching ministers into lawsuits involving parishioners who commit violence against gays.


Left versus Right

I almost don't want to even try to answer your question because so many things lately have turned into left versus right issues. For example, in our area if you are a religious conservative then you must be a right-wing Republican who watches Fox News, listens to radio talk-show host Rush Limbaugh, loves money and get-rich programs and who prefers "babes" to gay activists.

It shouldn't be this way.

Helping the Poor

That's because we also know plenty of left-wing Christians who try to live out their faith admirably. They do a magnificent job of supporting hunger causes, rebuild disaster victims' homes, provide medical care to Third World populations and do their utmost to help the poor. They are as enthusiastic in practicing their faith as the right-wing Christian political activists.

Fear not Fact

However, it seems the issue isn't really the bill itself anyway. The issue appears to be what could come from it. The fear of this bill comes from the potential incrimination of a pastor whose congregant hurts or kills a gay person following an anti homosexual sermon. That hasn't happened yet.

Many of the established legal experts say a firm, direct link between a congregant's actions and his pastor's sermons would be very difficult to prove. Certainly hate speech from a pulpit could indirectly contribute to such crimes. But this link would be an ideological framework within which a crime might occur. To date, providing an ideological framework isn't a criminal offense.

According to free speech advocates, clerics must still be allowed to say things that might very well incite violence, terrorism or sedition. They must be allowed this kind of speech in order to protect the first amendment.

What Should We Preach?

But, for Christian believers who are concerned with these issues I am wondering why this should be an issue at all? Why would conservative Christians preach hate or disgust for certain groups in the first place?

Maybe we need to go back and read Jesus own words recorded in the book of Matthew:

"You have heard that the ancients were told, 'You shall not commit murder' and 'Whoever commits murder shall be liable to the court.' But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be guilty before the court - and whoever says to his brother, 'You good-for-nothing,' shall be guilty before the supreme court - and whoever says, 'You fool,' shall be guilty enough to go into the fiery hell…I say to you love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you…" (Matthew 5:21-22, 44, NASB).

Maybe devout Christians need to reread the New Testament and rethink their reaction to and focus upon groups who are offensive to them. Perhaps redirecting and tempering our preaching with the words of Jesus might be the next necessary step.

What do you think?



Gilgoff, Dan. 2009. Does the hate crimes bill threaten religious liberties? From: U.S. News&World Report. 17 July. Available from: http://www.usnews.com/blogs/god-and-country/2009/07/17/does-the-hate-crimes-bill-threaten-reli…

Novak, Viveca. 2009. Would the 'hate crimes' bill make it a crime to denounce homosexuality from the pulpit and give legal protection to pedophiles? Available from: http://www.factcheck.org/askfactcheck/print_would_the_hate_crimes_bill_make_it.html. (accessed Joly 18, 2009).

Salmon, Jacqueline L. 2009. Hate crime legislation: Liberal vs. conservative. From:The Washington Post. 1 May. Available from: http://newsweek.washingtonpost.com/onfaith/godingovernment/2009/05/hate_crime_legislation_li…

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