WASHINGTON � As the U.S. House of Representatives is set to vote tomorrow (Thursday) on H.R. 1592, the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act, anti-gay extremist organizations have embarked on a desperate last attempt to derail passage of the bill. Marking a new low in politics, these groups have embraced the work of a known white-supremacist filmmaker, callously invoked the Virginia Tech massacre, blatantly lied about the congressional record and even used the name and image of Jesus Christ in vain.
The Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act would strengthen the ability of law enforcement officials to investigate and prosecute hate crimes when a crime is committed because of a person�s sexual orientation, gender, gender identity or disability. The current hate crimes law applies only to violent crimes committed due to the victim�s race, color, national origin and religion.
According to the FBI, 25 Americans each day are victims of hate crimes � that means approximately one hate crime is committed every hour. One in six hate crimes are motivated by the victim�s sexual orientation. The Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act has broad public and bipartisan support � including 73 percent of the American people and more than 210 law enforcement, civil rights, civic and religious organizations � and has previously passed both houses of Congress in recent years, but was ultimately derailed by Republican leadership bowing to pressure from Republican extremists.
In recent weeks, religious right leaders have been caught outright lying about the hate crimes bill: claiming that no federal hate crimes law yet exists (it does, has for 40 years and already includes them (i.e., people of faith)) and that the proposed amendment to the hate crimes law would criminalize hate speech (it does not). Some of these same leaders have also been caught disseminating the anti-gay works of a white-supremacist filmmaker. And just last week, the head of the Family Research Council invoked the Virginia Tech victims to argue against the hate crimes bill. Details of these incidents can be found below.
"It�s no surprise the religious right is so concerned about hate speech � for them, hate appears to be a cottage industry," Solmonese added. "But they have nothing to fear. Even after the hate crimes legislation is passed, the religious right will continue to have the federally protected right to preach hatred from the pulpit and disseminate the videos of white supremacists.
"The religious right�s attempts to derail hate crimes legislation and block equality for all Americans are about as predictable as the sun rising each day," said Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese. "There are two differences this year from past years. First, the American people have demonstrated they have no tolerance for the right wing�s divisive agenda and will hold them accountable for playing wedge politics across this country. Second, it�s clear that the right wing understands that the tides are against them because their tactics to stop hate crimes legislation have become more desperate and disgusting each day. Instead of engaging in a civil debate on the merits of this bill, they have instead chosen to spread lies and embrace white supremacists and hate groups. It is unconscionable that these groups could use the memory of Virginia Tech, one of the greatest tragedies in American history, to twist and contort the truth about this bill."
Desperate Attempts by Right-Wing Groups to Defeat Hate Crimes Bill
Concerned Women for America Embraces White-Supremacist Filmmaker
Last week, Stephen Bennett, a spokesman for the Concerned Women for America, used his action network to promote the anti-gay videos of John Smith, a white-supremacist filmmaker with numerous videos posted on YouTube.com. The filmmaker�s hateful online video collection includes such titles as "Keep America White,""Black Intelligence" (a video about how blacks are mentally inferior to whites) and "Hitler" (an homage to Hitler on the occasion of his birthday).
When YouTube pulled the videos for violating its terms of service, another former employee of both Concerned Women for America and the Family Research Council, Peter LaBarbera, continued to promote the white supremacist�s anti-gay videos, now posted on a religious right website in Massachusetts.
Tony Perkins, President of Family Research Council, and Matthew Barber, Spokesman for the Concerned Women for America, Invoke Virginia Tech Massacre
In an action alert to members nationwide, Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, incredibly used the memory of the Virginia Tech massacre to argue against H.R. 1592, the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act.
"Under this legislation, the crimes at Virginia Tech, which some are calling one of the deadliest rampages in U.S. history, would not be punishable to the level of these so-called �hate crimes.� If the House approves H.R. 1592 and the Senate follows, a homosexual would have more federal protection under the law than the 32 victims of last week�s massacre."
"The FBI�s latest statistics show that there were zero �hate crimes� murders committed against homosexuals or those perceived to be homosexual in 2005 yet we already know of 32 so-called �hate crimes� murders committed against perceived �rich kids� in a single day. But under H.R. 1592, those �rich kids� would shamefully be denied the same protections and justice as homosexuals. The whole �hate crimes� concept really places logic and reason on its head."
Traditional Values Coalition Manufactures False Judiciary Committee Record
The Traditional Values Coalition created and disseminated a fake transcript of last week�s House Judiciary Committee hearing on the hate crimes bill to "prove" that the legislation would punish anti-gay thoughts. The falsified transcript doesn�t even remotely resemble the official transcript of the proceeding.
A full accounting, complete with the Traditional Values Coalition�s forged transcript alongside the real transcript of the hearing, can be viewed at: http://tinyurl.com/yvncxp
Jesus Christ �Wanted Poster�
The Traditional Values Coalition produced a "wanted poster" in which Jesus Christ, wearing a crown of thorns, is wanted for violating the proposed hate crimes bill. The poster states that Christ is "wanted for revealing the truth about homosexuality in �The Bible� and encouraging his followers not to offend God by committing such behavior."
A former lawyer for the American Family Association, Joe Murray, explained:
"How could a group purporting Christian values denigrate the image of their, and my, savior, by placing Him in the same category as Willie Horton? When did it become acceptable to turn a man who preached �love thy neighbor� into a biblical billy club? Christ is a source of salvation, not spin.
"This is how far separated Christian activists, possessed by a deep-seeded hatred of homosexuals, have become from Christian principles."
To view the poster go to: http://traditionalvalues.org/pdf-files/tvc-jesus-wanted-poster.pdf
James Dobson, Tony Perkins, Concerned Women for America, Etc. Falsely Claim Hate Crimes Bill Would Make Anti-Gay �Thoughts� Illegal
One of the most frequently promoted lies by the opposition is that the hate crimes law will make anti-gay bigots criminally liable for their hate speech. While it is certainly un-American and un-Christian to embrace the message of white supremacists and hate groups, the religious right has nothing to fear from the hate crimes bill as it applies only to acts of violence. Nothing in this act would prohibit the lawful expression of one�s deeply held religious beliefs. As hurtful as these comments can be, people will remain free to say things like: "Homosexuality is sinful,""Homosexuality is an abomination" or "Homosexuals will not inherit the kingdom of heaven."
The truth is that neither the current hate crimes law nor the expanded measures criminalize thoughts or speech they only criminalize violent acts. The hate crimes statute is only invoked to allow a federal investigation and the prosecution of bias-motivated violence if � and only if � it is necessary to achieve an effective and just result. That only happens after a violent crime is committed, which debunks their "thought crimes" talking point.
"There�s a vote coming up on some insidious legislation in the United States Congress that could silence and punish Christians for their moral beliefs," he said on his radio broadcast yesterday. "That means that as a Christian � if you read the Bible a certain way with regard to morality � you may be guilty of committing a �thought crime.�"
Andrea Lafferty, executive director of the Traditional Values Coalition:
"Most Christians might as well rip the pages which condemn homosexuality right out of their Bibles, because this bill will make it illegal to publicly express the dictates of their religious beliefs."
The ultimate proof: The federal hate crimes law has been on the books for 40 years and not a single person has ever been charged with having "illegal thoughts." The claim is absurd.
The Human Rights Campaign is America�s largest civil rights organization working to achieve gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender equality. By inspiring and engaging all Americans, HRC strives to end discrimination against GLBT citizens and realize a nation that achieves fundamental fairness and equality for all.
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