Is Congress protecting the wrong victims, or pursuing the wrong enemy?
Maybe both, with the so-called "hate crimes" bill passed this week by the U.S. Senate, under the vigorous urging of Massachusetts Senator Ted Kennedy (D).
On the surface, this new legislation purports to offer federal protection of those individuals most likely to be endangered by their fellow citizens. But the bill's prime movers have a severely limited view of what constitutes "hate," American style.
House Democrats allowed as much before the bill even left their Judiciary committee.
They ignored the fact that federal law already prohibits acts of violence against individuals on the basis of race, religion, color, or national origin. They ignored the many state laws that already allow for the aggressive prosecution of such "hate crimes."
They spurned efforts by Republicans to expand the bill's protections to embrace such perennially high-profile targets of violence as pregnant women, senior citizens, police officers, and U.S. military personnel.
So, if this legislation is not about stopping "hate crimes" (no law can accomplish that)...
...and it's not about creating needed laws (where the laws are needed, they already exist)...
...and it's not about extending the existing laws to protect the broadest possible array of likely victims (Democrats in committee nixed that idea)...
...what is this "hate crimes" law about?
Primarily, it's about punishing people of traditional faith who dare oppose homosexual behavior.
The full-scale cultural assault just isn't working. For all the constant push for acceptance on television and in the movies, on the cable networks and the evening news programs, in popular magazines and news journals and websites … a significant segment of the American people, like former Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman General Peter Pace, still declines to embrace homosexual behavior.
They refuse to endorse same-sex marriage. They won't concede that something the Bible condemns is, in fact, morally acceptable and amenable.
Do they believe those who practice immorality should be beaten, flogged, tortured, or shot? No. Do they believe they should be publicly ostracized or humiliated? No. Do they want to see those who practice sodomy mocked or persecuted for their choice? No.
But neither will people of traditional faith say something is okay that God has said is not okay. Nor will they stand idly by while their children are taught to admire, and perhaps experiment with, homosexual behavior. And they won't start editing the Bible to say only what people want to hear.
That puts them on a collision course with those pressing the demands of the homosexual political agenda – including, sadly, many in the U.S. Congress.
So the Christians have to be silenced. That's where this new "hate crimes" law comes in. It is, in effect, a Congressional gag order on anyone voicing meaningful public opposition to homosexual behavior.
Democrats have made that clear. Introducing the bill on March 20, Representative John Conyers (D-Michigan) described it as an effort "to provide basic rights and protections for individuals so they are protected from assaults based on their sexual orientation." Since the legislation includes "intimidation" as a form of violence, it could soon be less of a crime to beat up a pregnant woman than it is to criticize homosexual behavior from a pulpit.
Republican members of the House Judiciary Committee tried to head off that travesty by adding an amendment to protect the rights of people of faith. Their amendment, offered by Congressman Mike Pence, R-IN, said "Nothing in this section limits the religious freedom of any person or group under the Constitution." Every Democrat voted against that amendment, and it failed.
Incredibly, Caroline Fredrickson, director of the American Civil Liberties Union Washington Legislative Office, calls the new law "a milestone for both First Amendment rights and civil rights." Only the ACLU (and its Congressional co-conspirators) could declare legislation that so openly violates the Constitution a triumph for the First Amendment.
And make no mistake: this law is unconstitutional. As former Attorney General Edwin Meese recently wrote, "Congress only has express constitutional jurisdiction over three crimes: treason, counterfeiting, and piracy on the high seas. Because the federal government is one of limited and enumerated powers, Congress must find authority in other constitutional clauses to federalize particular crimes."
Otherwise, Meese says, "such acts would violate federalism principles, the Tenth Amendment, or other structural limits in the Constitution."
In fact, there is no such authority … so Congress has decided it can live with the violation. Its members are flagrantly rewriting the law to suit the extreme and inflexible demands of their politically-correct power base. But don't let them kid you that they're just trying to stop "hate crimes."
What they really want is to keep their most vocal supporters pouring money into campaign war chests. And they can do that by voting to silence those who oppose homosexual behavior.
They won't succeed. Some courts may play along. Some Christians may be intimidated.
But in the end, these politicians' problem is with God. And God won't be gagged.
Alan Sears, a former federal prosecutor in the Reagan Administration, is president and CEO of the Alliance Defending Freedom, a legal alliance employing a unique combination of strategy, training, funding, and litigation to protect and preserve religious liberty, the sanctity of life, marriage, and the family.