Skip to content
Catholic Online Logo

By Deal W. Hudson, Ph.D.

10/16/2009 (5 years ago)

Inside Catholic (www.insidecatholic.com)

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.

Highlights

By Deal W. Hudson, Ph.D.

Inside Catholic (www.insidecatholic.com)

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 InsideCatholic.com 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 InsideCatholic.com 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.


Rosaries, Crosses, Prayer Cards and more... by Catholic Shopping .com


Comments


More Politics & Policy

Thirteen cases that will dramatically change the American way of life stand before Supreme Court Watch

Image of Heading into the final month of its annual term, the Supreme Court will need to render decisions on 13 very important cases that will dramatically affect the American way of life.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Heading into the final month of its annual term, the Supreme Court will need to render decisions on 13 very important cases that will dramatically affect the American way of life. The high court will decide whether same-sex couples have a right to marry ... continue reading


Mysterious company without assets plays role in Clinton's fortunes Watch

Image of In the meantime, the identities of several U.S. and foreign-based companies that Bill Clinton worked for have been disclosed in Hillary Clinton's recent financial report.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

A mysterious company called WJC, LLC without assets or employees has been discovered in the financial files of Bill and Hillary Rodham Clinton. The former president has legally used the company to provide consulting and other services. This fact demonstrates ... continue reading


Obama's use of social media points to cozy relationship between White House, Silicon Valley Watch

Image of Recognized as the first American president of the social media age, Obama has already established a standard for how politicians connect with a digitally savvy electorate.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

President Barack Obama was swept to victory in an age of tweets, Facebook, texting and social media. While this has gotten the vote out to younger members of the electorate, there are concerns that the instant gratification of the electronic age is trivializing ... continue reading


President Obama's domestic policies under heavy legal scrutiny Watch

Image of Many of President Obama's social policies may not stand up to scrutiny in a court of law.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

United States President, Barack Obama will be leaving office in January of 2017. When we consider his legacy he leaves to the nation, we must take into account that many of his domestic policies - such as those on same-sex marriage, Obamacare and immigration ... continue reading


Obama radically reformed an important American system -- and you didn't even realize it! Watch

Image of

By Abigail James (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

While President Obama's constantly "reforms" areas of our legislation and laws, the traditional patent law has taken a hit. Although most Americans know very little and don't care very much about patent laws, the effect these changes will have on innovative America can ... continue reading


Democrats break ranks with Obama over secret trade bill Watch

Image of Senator Elizabeth, the Senior Democratic Senator from Massachusetts, is leading a bill which would force President Obama to be transparent in regards to his secret trade bill which only Congressional members may review.

By Matt Waterson (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

President Obama's secretive trade bill is coming under fire from some unlikely sources, namely Democratic Senators Joe Manchin (WV) and Elizabeth Warren (MA), who are both leading the charge for immediate consideration of a bill that would require the contents of ... continue reading


ISIS, IRAN, OBAMACARE: President Obama's legacy - very slim indeed! Watch

Image of A very nonplussed looking president, indeed.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

United States President Barack Obama will be out of office shortly. How will historians judge him? Not too well, according to New York Post columnist John Podhoretz. "After the failure of the Arab Spring, the collapse of Libya, the failure to act on his ... continue reading


CREDIT WHERE IT'S DUE? Hillary Clinton had 'Leadership, Ownership, Stewardship' of Libyan policy 'from start to finish' Watch

Image of State Department Director of Policy and Planning Jake Sullivan and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and President Barack Obama at the U.S.-ASEAN meeting in Cambodia on Nov. 20, 2012.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

According to one of her top aides, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had "leadership/ownership/stewardship of this country's Libya policy from start to finish." That claim came in an email written by one of Clinton's top aides. The message was forwarded ... continue reading


All for naught? FBI admits that Patriot Act didn't lead to cracking major terrorist cases Watch

Image of Opponents, with the inspector general conclude that no major cases have been broken by use of the Patriot Act's records-snooping provisions.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

It granted the Federal Bureau of Investigation bold new powers - but now the FBI admits that the Patriot Act didn't help them crack any major terrorism cases. The Justice Department's Inspector general Michael E. Horowitz now says there are issues that keep key ... continue reading


Karl Rove's American Crossroads no longer as powerful as it once was Watch

Image of American Crossroads began by Karl Rove and other powerful Republicans were at one time a most powerful force in American politics.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

American Crossroads, created by Karl Rove and other powerful Republicans, was at one time a most powerful force in American politics. There is evidence, however, that this is changing. The American political landscape is changing, and the group is seeing the ... continue reading


All Politics & Policy News

Newsletters

Newsletter Sign Up icon

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

Daily Readings

Reading 1, Sirach 42:15-25
15 Next, I shall remind you of the works of the Lord, ... Read More

Psalm, Psalms 33:2-3, 4-5, 6-7, 8-9
2 Give thanks to Yahweh on the lyre, play for him on ... Read More

Gospel, Mark 10:46-52
46 They reached Jericho; and as he left Jericho with ... Read More

Saint of the Day

Saint of the Day for May 28th, 2015 Image

Bl. Margaret Pole
May 28: Martyr of England. She was born Margaret Plantagenet, the niece ... Read More

Inform, Inspire & Ignite Logo

Find Catholic Online on Facebook and get updates right in your live feed.

Become a fan of Catholic Online on Facebook


Follow Catholic Online on Twitter and get News and Product updates.

Follow us on Twitter