The House of Representatives yesterday passed the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2007 (H.R. 1592). The bill's 237-180 approval marked one of the Religious Right's most spectacular failings in recent memory.
The San Francisco Chronicle reports on the Religious Right's lobbying blitz to defeat H.R. 1592, a proposal movement leader Rev. Lou Sheldon dubbed the "Pro-Homosexual/Drag Queen 'Hate Crime' Bill."
Most noteworthy of the Religious Right's objections was the claim that this bill would "lay the legal framework to persecute and prosecute those who refuse, for moral and religious reasons, to agree or teach their children that homosexuality, transgender, cross-dressing, etc is normal and desirable."
Major Religious Right organizations implored their members to tell their representatives that this bill would indeed criminalize Christianity. One e-mail from Rick Scarborough's Vision America asserted, "This legislation would criminalize Christianity in action – such as speaking in support of traditional marriage, biblical morality and family values."
Ignoring the fact that Americans enjoy unique speech and religious exercise protections under the First Amendment, Sheldon said this legislation would "become [a] charter for the persecutions of Christians." He said European pastors have been arrested and fined for harsh verbal attacks on homosexuality and warned that "if [the Act is] passed, the public reading of certain passages from the Bible will be illegal." (That's a big stretch. The bill's concluding section specifically states: "Nothing in this Act, or the amendments made by this Act, shall be construed to prohibit any expressive conduct protected from legal prohibition by, or any activities protected by the free speech or free exercise clauses of, the First Amendment to the Constitution.")
The Religious Right's irrational and ignoble arguments finally seemed to have failed them.
The battle is not over, however. The Religious Right is outraged and using this setback to shore up support in the Senate, where the partisan split is much narrower. Dr. James Dobson's Focus on the Family Action hopes to send a petition with 250,000 names to Congress expressing their opposition.
The Religious Right still holds tremendous sway in this country. One setback does not mean that the movement is collapsing, but it is encouraging to see outrageous scare-tactics losing their punch.