Last Thursday, I nervously entered C-SPAN’s Washington, D.C. Studios. The program format normally includes remarks from different points of view, call-in responses from its national audience, and commentary from its host. It was a great opportunity for me to speak to the nation concerning the encroachment that a new law, HR 1592 “Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2007,” represents to our freedom of speech and freedom of religion. This law promises to grant protected status to “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” – essentially mandating unequal protection under the law, which will pave the way for criminalization of thoughts and religious beliefs contrary to politically correct ideology.
I was opposed to this legislation for two reasons. First, as a Christian I am aware that this kind of legislation has opened the door to the arrest, fines, or incarceration of Christians in Sweden, Australia, Canada, and the U.S. In fact, in Philadelphia in 2004 such an incident occurred during a protest rally at a gay convention. A 75-year old grandmother of three was arrested, jailed, and charged under existing state hate crimes law for attempting to share the gospel of Jesus Christ. Ironically, no one was hurt, wounded, or even intimidated by her actions. If anything, law enforcement officials sent the citizens of their state a message – “Gays can protest, intimidate and harass anyone anywhere but Christians had better not speak.” HR-1592 would embolden this kind of law enforcement.
My second reason for opposing this legislation is that sexual orientation will be elevated to the same status as race or gender. Surprisingly, the African leader I was set to debate was in agreement with this landmark step. He represented the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights (LCCR) founded in 1950 with over 192 national organizations. The LCCR has enjoyed the reputation of being the nation's premier civil rights coalition coordinating the legislative campaign for every major civil rights law since 1957.
Unfortunately, this powerful and formerly effective organization has been co-opted by the radical gay movement. Please read this excerpt from their website:
“LCCR, representing persons of color, women, children, labor unions, individuals with disabilities, older Americans, major religious groups, gays and lesbians, and civil liberties and human rights groups. Its mission: to promote the enactment and enforcement of effective civil rights legislation and policy.”
I was shocked to discover that the AARP, The American Association of University Women, and the American Federation of Teachers were organizational members of this group’s board. In my view, out-of-touch leaders have desecrated the memory of its founders. The three visionaries of this organization were A. Philip Randolph (founder of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters), Roy Wilkins, (Executive Secretary of the NAACP), and Arnold Aronson, (a leader of the National Jewish Community Relations Advisory Council).
With all this in mind, I entered the C-SPAN debate with a David-and-Goliath kind of feeling. This feeling was generated by the way Congress had fast-tracked the bill and was poised to vote on it later the same day. Further, Washington insiders predicted that the vote would go strictly along party lines. In addition, my side had not been called upon to give any input into this process until the eleventh hour. Even if I won the debate, we could not stop the process. As one of my friends put it, “The train had left the station.” I dutifully followed through with the broadcast, believing that we would stop this bill either in the Congress, the Senate, or by Presidential veto. I realized clearly that this was the beginning of a war for America’s soul that would be waged intensely for the next few months – perhaps years
The debate flew by. Their representative was articulate and skilled in the fine points of his argument, yet after a mile of legal rhetoric he gave me no evidence that Christians would remain free from prosecution. What is needed in our nation is a justice system that is truly color blind, handing out sentences and punishment appropriate for each crime.
I left the debate more convinced than ever that the addition of sexual orientation and sexual preference to the list of protected groups under the new hate crimes legislate was a grave error. I was also more skeptical of smooth-talking lawyers who told me not to worry, without changing the language in the bill enough to truly allay my fears. My life experience tells me that when people won’t compromise on such a thing, they have a hidden agenda.
My next stop was a national press conference. I thought it was ironic that this battle was taking place on the National Day of Prayer. As I mused on this point, my cell phone rang and I was told that the
President was threatening to veto the bill! I could not help but think that all the prayers offered that day had somehow stalled this masterfully organized campaign to limit our freedoms.
Encouraged by the news, I realized that this battle truly has to be fought by a multi-racial team. I had specifically designed the press conference to allow black clergy to share their concerns about this legislation because white leaders had been unable to clearly convey our message. Historically, when whites share their concerns about this kind of legislation, they are labeled as racist or ignored.
Please join me in thanking President Bush for his courageous leadership. Let’s encourage him to follow-through on his promise to veto this harmful legislation. In addition, call your Senator today to oppose the Senate’s version of the bill: S-1105. Finally, visit my website –www.thetruthinblackandwhite.com and sign a petition which opposes this legislation.
Let our voices be heard. Keep hope alive!
Bishop Harry Jackson is chairman of the High Impact Leadership Coalition and senior pastor of Hope Christian Church in Beltsville, MD, and co-authored, Personal Faith, Public Policy [FrontLine; March 2008] with Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council.