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Some Christian Leaders Oppose Condemning Hate Crimes

May 05, 2007 — Categories:

This is one of those headlines I never thought I’d see. The Hate Crimes Bill just approved by the House of Representatives adds gender, sexual orientation, and disability to race, religion, and

This is one of those headlines I never thought I’d see. The Hate Crimes Bill just approved by the House of Representatives adds gender, sexual orientation, and disability to race, religion, and national origin as the basis for “hate crimes” in federal law. How can a Christian pastor oppose condemning hate crimes which translates into accepting hate motivated violence towards people just because they are female, gay or disabled.<!--break-->

President Bush is threatening a veto saying that this legislation is not needed. Just tell that to those people who have been targeted simply because of who they are perceived to be: violence against women almost always involves targeting of women; violence against those perceived to be gay, lesbian or transgendered in usually accompanied by verbal abuse which makes it clear that the violence is hate-motivated as was the case with Matthew Shepherd.  Disabled persons are unfortunately “easy” targets of violence and sexual abuse because of their vulnerability and sometimes dependence on the care of others.

We are talking about classes of people in our society who are more vulnerable and more likely targets of interpersonal violence. Why wouldn’t religious leaders affirm the importance of protecting these persons from harm?

Prominent in the report on the passage of this legislation in the House was the opposition of some Christian clergy to the bill. They suggest that the law could be used to punish them for preaching against the “sinfulness” of homosexuality if their preaching led a congregant to commit an act of violence against a gay, lesbian or transgendered person. Besides the fact that the law would not interfere with a pastor’s right to preach homophobic or misogynist rhetoric [protected by the First Amendment], do you think that a preacher might reconsider what he is preaching if it might lead to a congregant assaulting a gay person or a wife??

Other opponents suggest that the law “discriminates.”  Rep. Lamar Smith, R-Texas, a member of the Judiciary Committee said, “Justice should be blind to the personal traits of the victim.”  Justice is blind which is why this law is needed.  Unfortunately, perpetrators of violence are not blind to the personal traits of the victim.  Perpetrators often target people just because of who they are. Justice needs to see clearly and take account of hate crimes and clergy should be leading the effort.

Rev. Dr. Marie M. Fortune
FaithTrust Institute
www.faithtrustinstitute.org

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