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

Republicans warn foreign governments against negotiating deals with the Obama administration Watch

Image of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell warns other countries from negotiating with Obama.

By Abigail James (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

The Obama administration's initial plan for talks with the United Nations on climate change has opened the door for Republican's to warn other countries to "proceed with caution" when negotiating with Washington during the present time. Those Republicans insist any ... continue reading


U.S. Presidency is not a 'crown' to be shared by two families, former Governor of Maryland says Watch

Image of Some Democrats have speculated that Martin O'Malley is angling to be Clinton's vice presidential candidate or a Cabinet secretary.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Former governor of Maryland, Martin O'Malley has taken a swipe at likely 2016 contenders Hillary Rodham Clinton and Jeb Bush this past weekend. He said that "the presidency of the United States is not some crown to be passed between two families." Appearing on ... continue reading


Indiana governor defends religious freedom act - says it's not 'anti-gay' Watch

Image of Critics who preach tolerance for the LGBT community should do the same for people of faith, Governor Pence said.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Indiana's Religious Freedom Restoration Act, enacted by Indiana Governor Mike Pence has been the subject of widespread controversy. Critics say the act legitimizes discrimination against the LGBT community. Governor Pence says the act protects people's ... continue reading


OUT OF CONTROL: During Harry Reid's time in Congress, national debt up an astonishing 15-Fold Watch

Image of During the 32 years that current Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada has served in the United States Congress, the debt of the federal government has grown $16,955,289,814,977.42.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

During the 32 years that current Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada has served in the United States Congress, the debt of the federal government has grown $16,955,289,814,977.42, roughly equaling an increase of about $145,131 for every household in the ... continue reading


Deputy Secretary of Homeland Security exposed as favoring wealthy 'White House allies,' including Hillary Clinton's brother Watch

Image of

By Abigail James (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Department of Homeland Security's latest watchdog report reveals the agency's second man in charge, Deputy Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas, repeatedly "played favorites" when it came to well-connected participants in an investor-visa program. LOS ... continue reading


IT BEGINS NOW: Conservative rebel, Sen. Ted Cruz becomes first Republican to announce presidential bid Watch

Image of

By Abigail James (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Senator Ted Cruz, from Texas, has become the first Republican to announce a campaign for presidency in the 2016 election. Taking to Twitter, Cruz announced his candidacy with a 30-second video message posted shortly after midnight on March 23. LOS ANGELES, CA ... continue reading


What is going on here? U.S. threatens sanctions against Israel while making excuses for Iran Watch

Image of Even more trying to Israel would be any lessening of Obama's opposition to Palestinian efforts to join the International Criminal Court. The Palestinian Authority will formally join the court this coming April 1.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

What is going on here? Israel, the United States' only clear ally in the Middle East is now facing tough new sanctions from the Obama White House. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - According to Politico's Michael Crowley, "Obama officials must now decide ... continue reading


Large study reveals startling media bias toward Democrats and Obama during presidential elections Watch

Image of

By Abigail James (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

The United States and international press show signs of strictly favoring the Democratic party. According to the Washington Examiner, a study of 130,213 news articles during the 2012 presidential election shows just how pro-Democratic the news sources were. LOS ... continue reading


Did the Obama administration give a massive amount of money to an anti-Israeli group to keep Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu out? Watch

Image of Is President Obama attempting to overthrow Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu?

By Matt Waterson (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Declining to meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu while he was in the United States earlier this month is one thing, but President Obama may have crossed a line by illegally financing an American nonprofit group that was attempting to keep ... continue reading


Iranian president finds diplomacy with U.S. to be active 'jihad' Watch

Image of Describing his country's diplomacy with the United States as an active

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Describing his country's diplomacy with the United States as an active "jihad," Iranian President Hassan Rouhani says the diplomatic front is just as significant in advancing Tehran's nuclear ambitions. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Rouhani praised 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, Isaiah 50:4-9
4 Lord Yahweh has given me a disciple's tongue, for ... Read More

Psalm, Psalms 69:8-10, 21-22, 31, 33-34
8 I am estranged from my brothers, alienated from my ... Read More

Gospel, Matthew 26:14-25
14 Then one of the Twelve, the man called Judas ... Read More

Saint of the Day

Saint of the Day for April 1st, 2015 Image

St. Hugh of Grenoble
April 1: Benedictine bishop of Grenoble, France, patron of St. Bruno. He ... 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