Skip to content
Catholic Online Logo

By Deal W. Hudson, Ph.D.

10/16/2009 (5 years ago)

Inside Catholic (

The legislation raises the question of whether religious leaders could be subject to prosecution based on their preaching or teaching.

The recent experience of Catholics in Canada should be a loud warning to American Catholics about how hate-crimes laws can be used to target the Church.

The recent experience of Catholics in Canada should be a loud warning to American Catholics about how hate-crimes laws can be used to target the Church.


By Deal W. Hudson, Ph.D.

Inside Catholic (

10/16/2009 (5 years ago)

Published in Politics & Policy

WASHINGTON, D.C. (Catholic Online) - Last Saturday night, President Barack Obama spoke to the nation's leading homosexual-rights lobbying group, the Human Rights Campaign, in Washington, D.C. Among the several promises Obama made were "to repeal the so-called Defense of Marriage Act" and "to pass an inclusive hate crimes bill."

As I reported a few days ago, the USCCB has yet to make any comment on Obama's intention to put an end to DOMA and, as he puts it, ensure "that committed gay couples have the same rights and responsibilities afforded to any married couple in this country." The hate-crimes legislation passed recently in the House, attached to a defense spending bill, is explicitly designed to combat hate crimes based on sexual orientation and "gender identity."

A number of religious leaders and members of Congress have voiced concern about the threat of the hate-crimes bill to religious liberty and freedom of speech. According to the USCCB legislative report for the 111th Congress, the bishops are "monitoring" the measure and "taking no position."

The legislation raises the question of whether religious leaders could be subject to prosecution based on their preaching or teaching. For example, if a priest told a congregation that homosexual acts were sinful, and someone in that congregation acted violently against a homosexual, could that priest be charged with a hate crime?

Catholic League president Bill Donohue is on the record warning against the potential "chilling effect on religious speech."Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, described hate-crimes legislation as a "thought-crimes bill" that creates "special protection for a particular group" in violation of the principle of equal justice under the law."

A leading social conservative in the House, Mike Pence (R-IN), objected to the legislation, arguing:

"Hate crimes provisions... are antithetical to those First Amendment traditions and unnecessary. Violent attacks on people are already illegal regardless of the motive behind them, and there is no evidence that the underlying violent crimes at issue here are not being fully and aggressively prosecuted under current law.... But these hate crimes provisions, including those that will be added to federal law today, are broad enough to encompass legitimate beliefs, and protecting the rights of freedom of speech and religion must be first and foremost and paramount on the floor of this chamber."

Are the concerns of leaders like Donohue, Perkins, and Pence unreasonable? Certainly the recent experience of Catholics in Canada should be a loud warning to American Catholics about how hate-crimes laws can be used to target the Church. Similar legislation has already been used in Canada as the excuse for an official investigation of a well-known pro-life activist, Rev. Alphonse de Valk, by the Canadian Human Rights Commission. Father de Valk's supposed crime was publicly defending Catholic teaching against the notion of same-sex marriage.

Canadian Bishop Fred Henry was required to testify before the Commission for the same reason. Though the complaint from a single individual was eventually withdrawn, the bishop spent thousands of dollars on his legal defense. One journalist summarizing all the cases of Catholics targeted for human-rights violations titled his article, "Catholicism -- a Hate Crime in Canada?"

Yes, there is a final clause in the legislation saying it cannot be used in any way that "infringes on any rights under the first amendment... or substantially burdens any exercise of religion."

But the problem is this: This hate-crimes bill allows prosecution of any speech that may "incite an imminent act of physical violence." What guarantees do we have that religious liberty and freedom of speech for people of faith will be respected? For example, President Obama, in his speech to the HRC, proclaimed that, "We must all stand together against divisive and deceptive efforts to feed people's lingering fears for political and ideological gain."

Those "people" Obama is talking about include those pastors and priests who preach and teach that homosexual acts are a sin and those of the same sex cannot be considered married. It's difficult to believe a hate-crimes law will be respectful of those who are considered "divisive and deceptive" simply for being witnesses to their faith and defenders of their Church.


Deal W. Hudson is the director of and the author of Onward, Christian Soldiers: The Growing Political Power of Catholics and Evangelicals in the United States (Simon and Schuster).


The mission of is to be a voice for authentic Catholicism in the public square.We believe that truth is both attractive and compelling and that in the marketplace of ideas, it will invariably win out.


More Politics & Policy

President Obama faces uphill battle with Pacific Rim trade pact Watch

Image of The Trans-Pacific Partnership is being battered on both sides of the right and the left in the U.S.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

United States President Barack Obama has hailed the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) the largest free-trade agreement in a generation, as its completions will open new markets for U.S. goods and services. While Obama says the agreement will give "our workers the fair ... continue reading

California Governor Jerry Brown signs 'End of Life Option Act' Watch

Image of

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

California Governor Jerry Brown has signed the "End of Life Option Act" into law this week. While he remained largely ambiguous about the bill, he came forward with the statement that the "Crux of the matter is whether the state of California should continue to ... continue reading

Trans-Pacific Partnership faces criticism in Congress Watch

Image of Citizen protests the Trans Pacific Partnership (AFP).


The controversial Trans-Pacific Partnership has been finalized and will be presented to business leaders by US President Barack Obama. However, Congress has already shown skepticism over the pact. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Twelve countries in the Pacific Rim ... continue reading

#IAmaChristian: Ben Carson honors the Oregon shooting's fallen students Watch

Image of Ben Carson (Facebook).


Nine were shot dead during the recent horrifying shooting at the Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Oregon where a student claimed the gunman specifically targeted the religious. Following the claim, Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson started a social ... continue reading

Supreme Court to render decisions on sensitive topics of abortion, birth control, race Watch

Image of An even more pressing issue to go before the court will be the issue of religious freedom coupled with President Obama's health care reform.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

The Supreme Court is rolling up its sleeves to render decisions that have long roiled the United States: abortion, birth control, religious freedom, and race. None of the pending decisions is likely to have the same import as the recent decision regarding ... continue reading

False ambassador has been working in government affairs for five months Watch

Image of Brett McGurk (C-Span).


For five months, an Obama administration official falsely presented himself as an official U.S. ambassador.  LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Brett McGurk, who is a deputy special presidential envoy to the Global Coalition serving under General John Allen, was ... continue reading

Will slow and steady win presidential race? Bernie matches Hillary with far smaller donations Watch

Image of

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Longtime - if recently troubled political warhorse Hillary Clinton and avowed socialist Bernie Sanders are currently duking it out for the lead in the Democratic Presidential Race of 2016. Something highly significant has emerged in the contest ... the poor, ... continue reading

Donald Trump meets with 40 religious leaders and prays Watch

Image of Donald Trump meets religious leaders inside the Trump Tower.


Forty religious leaders and pastors met with presidential candidate Donald Trump in his Trump Tower office Monday afternoon. Trump shared a few minutes of prayer with the religious leaders, some of whom are noted televangelists. LOS ANGELES, CA  (Catholic Online) ... continue reading

DOUBLE DIPPING? Hillary Clinton aide paid by consulting firm to while also with State department Watch

Image of Some sources agreed to describe Huma Abedin's work for Teneo on the New York event, along with her subsequent work at the State Department for a Teneo-connected event in Ireland four months later in December.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

There are new revelations that Huma Abedin, Hillary Clinton's confidante, was paid both by the State department alongside the private consulting firm Teneo Holdings. Recent newspaper reports say Abedin staged a star-studded reception that included her boss' ... continue reading

Handing hat to Obama, Russia begins to do America's job at the UN Watch

Image of Vladimir Putin and Barack Obama dueled verbally at UN headquarters in New York, debating the course of action the world should take in Syria.

By David Drudge, Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

The Theater of the Absurd continues at the United Nations headquarters in New York as President Obama and Vladimir Putin recite harsh lines at one another over strategy in Syria. Ironically, it is Putin, not Obama, who is calling for UN action against the Islamic ... continue reading

All Politics & Policy News


Newsletter Sign Up icon

Stay up to date with the latest news, information, and special offers

Subscribe to Catholic OnlineYouTube Channel

Daily Readings

Reading 1, Jonah 3:1-10
1 The word of Yahweh was addressed to Jonah a second ... Read More

Psalm, Psalms 130:1-2, 3-4, 7-8
1 [Song of Ascents] From the depths I call to you, ... Read More

Gospel, Luke 10:38-42
38 In the course of their journey he came to a ... Read More

Saint of the Day

Saint of the Day for October 6th, 2015 Image

St. Bruno
October 6: Bruno was born in Cologne of the prominent Hartenfaust family. ... Read More