With the Memorial Day weekend behind us, the Senate returns to the Hill for a few more weeks before their summer recess. They are currently still attempting to make their mark on the nation. What they accomplish before their summer break will set the tone for the next Presidential election and give us something of a report card on the state of our Union. The biggest question the average American has about both the Senate and the House is whether these great bodies can agree on anything that matters.
I continue to be amazed at the partisan, ideological strife that is boiling on the Hill. It seems that we are experiencing a civil war of ideas. Sophisticated name-calling is the order of the day and everyone wants to play macho politics. As we fight among ourselves, there is a litany of issues that are time sensitive and cannot be put off to a later date. Things like overhauling our immigration policies, setting a clear direction in Iraq, responding to the threat of terrorism, and the environment all require clear-headed, strategic thinking on a timely basis. Before we can solve problems, set agendas, and get busy making America safe we must focus on a set of underlying principles or values that we can all agree upon.
Constitutional freedoms have historically been the factors that have given a sense of unity to this land. Unfortunately, in this strategic moment it seems that many Americans are attempting to redefine “the ties that bind.” In addition, the U.S. has always balanced stimulating free enterprise with advancing national, social goals. Belying our economic successes have been fundamental liberties like freedom of speech, freedom of religion, representative government, and the right to a fair trial.
For me, a seemingly innocuous bill known in the Senate as Matthew Shepard’s Law (S1105) can lead us down a slippery slope that ultimately limits our freedoms. The proposed hate crimes legislation does not provide adequate protection of free speech. Many seasoned legal minds believe that S1105 and its companion House bill HR 1592 are discriminatory measures that criminalize thoughts, feelings, and beliefs, and provide greater protection to some victims than others simply because of an inherent status or a lifestyle that they have chosen such as gay, lesbian, or sexual orientation.
The bill, as proposed, also has the potential of interfering with religious liberty and freedom of speech, and creates additional risks for the future.
Several bills of this nature have been introduced in Congress in recent years. They target only violent actions, not peaceful expressions of opinion. Nevertheless, by ratifying the “Thought Crimes” mentality, this bill paves the way for future expansions of its scope in ways that could eventually threaten freedom of speech and religion. For example, experts tell me that the 1990 “Hate Crime Statistics Act” (Public Law 101-275) defines “Hate Crimes” much more broadly as “crimes that manifest evidence of prejudice.” The Alliance Defense Fund states that the statistics collected under that law include even non-violent offenses such as “intimidation.” They report that in 2005 nearly half – 48.9% – of the “hate crimes” reported consisted of “intimidation” alone.
Many concerned Americans think that it would be a very simple matter for a future Congress to change the proposed definition of a “hate crime” to match the more sweeping definition of “hate crimes” on which the federal government already gathers statistics.
Let’s take this reasoning a little further. Pro-homosexual activists like to claim that “hate speech” (which they define as any disapproval of homosexual behavior) leads directly to “hate violence.”
In 1998 the unfortunate murder of gay college student, Matthew Shepard, came at the same time that pro-family groups mounted an ad campaign called “Truth in Love.” This campaign sought to show that many people find happiness after leaving the gay lifestyle. The message in the ads was based upon a biblical worldview and the desire to help people who felt trapped in the homosexual lifestyle. No one can really call this type of ad campaign a “hate crime” under today’s laws. The question we must ask ourselves is, “What does tomorrow hold?”
After the Shepard murder, Today Show’s Katie Couric asked Elizabeth Birch, Executive Director of the Human Rights Campaign (the nation’s largest pro-homosexual activist group), “Do you believe this ad campaign launched by some conservative groups really contributed somehow to Matthew Shepard’s death”?
Birch’s answer was very revealing. She said, “I do, Katie.” While I celebrate Ms. Birch’s freedom to express her opinion, I have to say that there is no proof that Shepard’s murderers ever saw these ads or any like them. In fact, during the last few years gay activists seem to have made one of their key public relations goals protecting gays from criticism in the public square. Time will not allow me to cite all the cases in which I see this trend.
In conclusion, let me circle back to the statement that America’s greatness is somehow tied to her values and freedoms. My hope for the Senate this week is that they will fight as strongly for America’s freedoms as they are known to fight for their seats. America needs informed statesmen instead of idiotic savants who will let the nation burn down while they engage in an orgy of power.