Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Hate Crimes rider attached to Defense Authorization Bill threatens free speech rights

If approved by the Senate, and absent other controversies over defense spending issues (yes, Congress does sometimes use bill titles that refer to the actual content of the legislation), President Obama is expected to sign the bill into law. What can you do? First, watch this brief video, which explains the dangers vastly expanded federal hate crimes laws pose to people of faith. Then pass the link on to your pastor and to your friends. Finally, call your Senator today (202) 224-3121 and voice your opposition to this inappropriate amendment to an important national defense bill.
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Anonymous said...

I have little practice with sending such letters. Is a reference to "Hate Crimes Rider to Defense Authorization Bill" in a letter sufficient to identify to my senator's staff what I'm concerned about? Is there a timeline you're aware of?


Leticia said...

Yes, the hate crimes bill is up for a vote tomorrow. Just say you are afraid that such legislation will curb free speech rights. They could care less about freedom of religion.

Anonymous said...

I went to my senators web sites and filled out their contact forms. I did mention both free speech and religion in my comments.

The reference is S.909 Matthew Sheppard Hate Crimes Prevention Act

Anonymous said...

Here's the canned response I received from Senator Levin. I added a parenthetical qualification to one statement:

Thank you for contacting me about legislation to help reduce hate crimes in our country. While no law can outlaw bigotry, imposing stricter penalties against those who commit hate crimes can help fight it.

As you may know, I was an original cosponsor of the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Prevention Act (S.909). This legislation would broaden the definition of a hate crime and strengthen federal laws governing the investigation and prosecution of these deplorable acts. S.909 would expand the current statutory definition of hate crimes from offenses motivated by race, ethnic background, religion and national origin to include those motivated by bias against gender, sexual orientation or disability. In addition, it would authorize the federal government to provide state and local law enforcement with technical, forensic or prosecutorial assistance and would provide grants to state and local law enforcement agencies that incur expenses associated with investigating and prosecuting hate crimes. S.909 has been referred to the Senate Committee on the Judiciary for further consideration.

There are more than 175 civil rights and law enforcement organizations, as well as a broad range of state and local government associations and state attorneys general, that support this legislation. These officials and groups, who work with the victims of hate crimes on a daily basis, understand that violent hate crimes affect not only the victims and their families, but are often injurious to an entire community.

We have an obligation to make America a fully inclusive nation, a country that does not tolerate bias, discrimination or bigotry (except against the unborn). I will continue to fight to enact hate crimes legislation so that the perpetrators of these acts will receive swift and vigorous prosecution.

Thank you again for contacting me.

Carl Levin