The House recently voted to make targeting gays for violence a federal “hate crime,” and that means the Religious Right — which thrives on hatred for gays — is furious. First, the latest on this bill, from the New York Times (WebCite cached version):

The House voted Thursday to expand the definition of violent federal hate crimes to those committed because of a victim’s sexual orientation, a step that would extend new protection to lesbian, gay and transgender people. …

Under current federal law, hate crimes that fall under federal jurisdiction are defined as those motivated by the victim’s race, color, religion or national origin.

The new measure would broaden the definition to include those committed because of gender, sexual orientation, gender identity or disability. It was approved by the House right before a weekend when gay rights will be a focus in Washington, with a march to the Capitol and a speech by President Obama to the Human Rights Campaign.

While I’m not 100% behind this effort … compounding a criminal charge based solely on the thought behind it is not really a good idea, since it’s too subjective … I don’t support what the Right is doing about it, which is to lie about it. PolitiFact, a project of the St Petersburg Times, reports on two of of those who’ve lied about it:

Rep. John Kline and other Republicans say under Hate Crime bill, religious leaders could be prosecuted for preaching about sexual practices

U.S. Rep. John Kline, a former Marine whose son serves in the military, voted for the defense bill in June before it included the expanded hate crimes provision. But in voting against the bill this week, Kline echoed a concern voiced by several Republican leaders that the hate crime bill could lead to prosecution of religious leaders preaching their morality about sexual preference from the pulpit.

“I disdain racism, sexism, and bigotry, but under this legislation, any pastor, preacher, priest, rabbi or imam who gives a sermon out of their moral traditions about sexual practices could be found guilty of a federal crime,” the Minnesota Republican stated in an Oct. 8, 2009, press release. …

“As has been previously stated by Judge Carter of Texas, under Section 2 of Title 18 of the U.S. Code today, an individual may be held criminally liable who ‘aids, abets, counsels, commands, induces or procures’ in the commission of a federal crime,” Pence said from the House floor on Oct. 8. “Therefore, to put a fine point on it, any pastor, preacher, priest, rabbi, or imam, who may give a sermon out of their moral traditions about sexual practices, could presumably under this legislation be found to have aided, abetted or induced in the commission of a federal crime. This will have a chilling effect on religious expression, from the pulpits, in our temples, in our mosques and in our churches. And it must be undone.”

Sounds very onerous, doesn’t it? The federal government intends to criminalize the beliefs of clergy, no? Well, according to Politifact, not quite:

But we quote more from the bill: “Nothing in this division shall be construed to prohibit any constitutionally protected speech, expressive conduct or activities (regardless of whether compelled by, central to, a system of religious belief), including the exercise of religion protected by the first amendment to the Constitution of the United States and peaceful picketing or demonstration.”

Politifact’s conclusion that Kline is lying, aligns with FactCheck’s conclusion earlier this year about the same thing. That’s a fairly explicit protection to clergy.

I’ve blogged before on the matter of why the Religious Right despises the notion of “hate crimes” and why they consider it evil. But that’s predicated on their prevailing persecution complex, and in this case, is completely unfounded. I’m not sure why guys like Kline and Pence are acting as though it’s not present in the bill … but they are. That makes them the latest members of my lying liars for Jesus club. That they would lie about this bill, based solely on the delusion that they’re being persecuted only makes this offense worse.

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