Friday, January 14, 2005
TESTING THE FAITH
Hate-crimes law infringes on 1st Amendment?
Group decries 'ethnic intimidation' charge against Philly Christians
A pro-family group in Pennsylvania is taking to task legislators who promised that adding "sexual orientation" to the state's hate-crimes law would not infringe upon the First Amendment rights of Christians.
The American Family Association of Pennsylvania points to the arrest and charging of five Christian who evangelized at a Philadelphia homosexual event. One of the charges the protesters face is "ethnic intimidation," possible only because "sexual orientation" was added to the hate-crimes law in 2002.
In November 2002, the Pennsylvania Legislature changed the hate-crimes law, adding "actual or perceived sexual orientation" and "gender or gender identity." AFA says legislators at the time assured concerned Pennsylvanians that the additions would not stifle the free-speech rights of Christians who criticize the homosexual lifestyle.
At the time of the debate, legislators claimed the law would be used only in the case of physical harm.
Commented Gramley: "[The protesters] were simply exercising their First Amendment rights. The only way to restore the freedom of speech for all Pennsylvanians is to repeal the hate-crimes law that was passed in November 2002. The assurances of those in favor of its passage have proven to be empty promises."
Equal protection under the law, freedom of speech, freedom of religion? Where?