My current top pet peeve – people who forward emails without research. Not only the usual “check snopes” type urban legends, but also political information – don’t take the word of someone who has an agenda when you forward an issue to everyone you know!
Anyhow, I just received a forward about the evils of Bill S909 – the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Prevention Act. According to the email, it will protect people who commit incest, pedophiles, and other creepy folks, and make it impossible for people to speak freely and quote the Bible, pray, or express contrary opinions on homosexuality (plus many other free speech topics). First off, I now identify myself as a Christian. However, I still think that these accusations are confused, so I wanted to read the original text of the Bill before making a decision to talk to my representatives (always a good idea – read the fine print!)
Do these people ever actually read the text of Bills before they send these emails? The one I received said (in part):
On the other hand, guess what WILL NOT BE TOLERATED and will be considered a hate crime and YOU WILL GO TO JAIL…..
- Praying In Jesus’ Name in ANY PUBLIC VENUE–that includes church buildings
- Preaching against SIN in general that could in some way be considered hateful by those who don’t want to be told they sin or their behavior is sinful
- Quoting the Bible in church as that is offensive and considered hateful speech by some
I’m not a lawyer (nor have I ever played one on TV…), but my father is, and I have done a lot of paralegal-type work for him, so I have read a lot of bills and other legal documents. In reading Bill S909, I don’t see anything that would indicate the above is accurate. In fact, there is even a section which says:
Section 10: RULE OF CONSTRUCTION.
For purposes of construing this Act and the amendments made by this Act the following shall apply:
(4) FREE EXPRESSION- Nothing in this Act shall be construed to allow prosecution based solely upon an individual’s expression of racial, religious, political, or other beliefs or solely upon an individual’s membership in a group advocating or espousing such beliefs.
So, you can express your beliefs all you want. What you can’t do if this Bill is passed is hurt/kill someone or incite others to hurt/kill someone. Saying “straight white men are evil, and sex outside procreation is sinful” would be OK. Saying “we all know straight white men are evil sex outside procreation is sinful, so we must kill all straight white men who have sex outside of procreation – here is how we should accomplish this…” would not be OK, especially if you or your followers then follow through on it.
However, the Bill only is in effect if someone is actually injured:
‘(2) OFFENSES INVOLVING ACTUAL OR PERCEIVED RELIGION, NATIONAL ORIGIN, GENDER, SEXUAL ORIENTATION, GENDER IDENTITY, OR DISABILITY-
‘(A) IN GENERAL- Whoever, whether or not acting under color of law, in any circumstance described in subparagraph (B) or paragraph (3), willfully causes bodily injury to any person or, through the use of fire, a firearm, a dangerous weapon, or an explosive or incendiary device, attempts to cause bodily injury to any person, because of the actual or perceived religion, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity or disability of any person–
Emotional or psychological injury doesn’t count:
‘(1) the term ‘bodily injury’ has the meaning given such term in section 1365(h)(4) of this title, but does not include solely emotional or psychological harm to the victim;
I, personally, think the bill sounds like a good idea. But, if you disagree with me, please at least read the Bill and offer a reasonable, educated argument. And please don’t send me any more emails that aren’t well researched, and rely only on biased media reports! Thanks in advance!