Friday, May 01, 2009

Hate-crimes bill's passage in House gets the right-wing lie machine whirling

-- by Dave

The nation's first real federal bias-crimes statute -- the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act -- just passed the House Wednesday, and is now on its way to the Senate:

On a vote of 249-175, the House passed and sent to the Senate a bill backed by the new Democratic White House to broaden such laws by classifying as "hate crimes" those attacks based on a victim's sexual orientation, gender identity or mental or physical disability.

The current law, enacted four decades ago, limits federal jurisdiction over hate crimes to assaults based on race, color, religion or national origin.

The bill would lift a requirement that a victim had to be attacked while engaged in a federally protected activity, like attending school, for it to be a federal hate crime.

As Ali Frick at Think Progress says, the religious right is freaking out because hate-crimes legislation has been one of their cornerstone bugaboos of the past decade, and it's about to slip out of their grasp after all these years.

That means, of course, the flagrant lies are starting to fly. Like Virginia Foxx's little "slip" in calling Matthew Shepard's murder a "hoax."

Time to call in the veteran liars, obviously. So who should we see shopping the right's favorite falsehoods about the hate-crimes bill on the teevee but the ole Newtster himself. Gingrich appeared yesterday on CSPAN's Washington Journal, flagrantly lying about the nature of the bill:

Let me share part of what I think concerns reasonable people who look at that kind of legislation. In Sweden today, it is illegal to quote from certain parts of the Bible. Literally illegal. So pastors can get put in jail for quoting from the Bible. On some college campuses, thought, you know, regulations have said to students you can’t think out loud whatever you want to say. The act of thinking it becomes a crime, the act of saying it. It’s very dangerous to go down a road that says you can’t have an honest debate about an issue, because we have now decided we’re protecting one group of people.

[Gingrich then goes on to describe the free-speech horrors in Europe and Canada because they don't have a First Amendment.]

... So I think that’s why you see people who are really worried by George Orwell’s 1984, and the very real danger that as the state starts to regulate what you are allowed to say, suddenly you could find yourself literally censored or in danger of going to jail, if you said the politically incorrect thing.

This is the No. 1 charge against the LLEHCPA: That it somehow institutes "thought crimes" or criminalizes "hate speech." It is, of course, a complete fabrication.

After all, you only need read the bill's text, where it's spelled out explicitly:

(d) Rule of Evidence- In a prosecution for an offense under this section, evidence of expression or associations of the defendant may not be introduced as substantive evidence at trial, unless the evidence specifically relates to that offense. However, nothing in this section affects the rules of evidence governing impeachment of a witness.’.


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 Constitution.

Earlier this week, I was on a conference call with a number of groups involved in helping give this legislation its final historic push. Among them was Caroline Frederickson, Director of the ACLU's Legislative Office, who had this to say:

I am here really to address the claims by some opponents of the bill that this bill would chill free speech and chill free association. Well, we strongly disagree with that. This bill has a provision, that has been in it since 2005, that has enabled the ACLU to support this legislation, because it does protect both civil rights and free speech and association. The bill specifically blocks evidence of speech and association that are not directly related to the crime.

That means that anyone saying we have unleashed the thought police, or thought crimes, is wrong.

... This bill will have the strongest protection against the misuse of a person’s free speech that Congress has enacted in the entire federal criminal code.

Yet everywhere you turn, right-wingers' eyes are spinning in their heads at the looming prospect of the Obama Thought Police:

"In and of itself this law can be applied to speech. The nature of assault -- putting someone in fear of their safety -- what will that mean for someone preaching against homosexuality?" said Mathew Staver, founder of the Liberty Council, a law firm that works on religious freedom cases.

"It elevates homosexuality to the same protective category as race. It's all part of the radical homosexual anarchist agenda," Staver said.

Similarly, Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council was lauding Foxx for her false-witness-bearing rant about Matthew Shepard, because to the FRC, this legislation is all about "Censoring the Church and Silencing Christians."

Frick and the Think Progress crew put together a video of some of the prime moments in the House debate:

REP MICHELE BACHMANN (R-MN): I feel that this hate crime legislation could be considered the very definition of tyranny.

REP. GRESHMAN BARRET (R-SC): This bill would inhibit religious freedom in our society -- a scary thought.

REP. LOUIE GOHMERT (R-TX): You think a pregnant mother does not deserve the protection of a homosexual? You think a military member doesn't deserve the protection of a transvestite?

REP. STEVE KING (R-IA): I, Mr. Speaker, oppose and I defy the logic of the people that would advocate for such legislation the very idea we could divine what goes on in the heads of people when they commit crimes.

I wonder where these folks will get their meal tickets from after all the scary bills that they used to gin up the conservative donors for cash infusions with have all been passed by those scary Obama Democrats.

Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.

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