In The U.S. Senate, A Bill That Could Change Everything For Christians

Inside the Issues with Alan Sears

Alan Sears, Esquire
ADF President, CEO, & General Counsel

May 12, 2009

When it comes to media presentations of so-called "hate crimes" legislation, you're not getting the whole picture.

You may remember reading about Elaine Huguenin, a young woman we've profiled in this column and in a recent issue of our ministry's Truth & Triumph magazine.  Elaine is a gifted photographer who is much in demand in the Albuquerque, New Mexico area for her imaginative photos, especially of weddings. 

Not long ago, Elaine received an e-mail from a woman wanting to hire her to photograph her same-sex ceremony. Elaine considered the opportunity, but soon determined that, as a conscientious Christian, she couldn't lend her talents to those proceedings without implicitly showing support for same-sex "marriage."  She gracefully declined the offer.

A few months later, Elaine and her husband, Jon, were notified by the New Mexico Human Rights Commission that a complaint had been filed against Elaine charging her with violating state anti-discrimination laws. (This, despite the fact that the state of New Mexico doesn't legally recognize same-sex unions.)  Elaine, the Commission determined, had engaged in "sexual orientation discrimination." She was fined nearly $7,000.

While New Mexico did not charge Elane Photography with a "hate crime," that case shows how laws like the proposed federal hate crimes legislation expand or proliferate other laws that target not just a person's behavior, but their speech and their thoughts. And that's where the grave danger lies, should the U.S. Senate pass S.B. 909, a national hate crimes bill. The concern is not only with the hate crimes legislation itself, but with the additional legislation that is certain to follow.

If S.B. 909 becomes law, ADF attorneys and many legal scholars say it could seriously curtail our constitutional rights to freedom of religion and freedom of expression – while creating unique legal protections for those engaged in homosexual behavior.

ADF attorneys delivered a letter to the House Judiciary Committee on April 22 urging it to reject the bill. The letter noted that the enforcement of "political orthodoxy" in the form of so-called "hate crime" laws is the same type of thinking that uses other laws to target sincere people of faith like the Huguenins.

"The emotion of hate is an unfortunate reality of the human experience," the ADF letter states. "But it is not a crime unless accompanied by a criminal action – and even then, it is the action that is within the police power of the government, not the emotion. The reality is that 'hate crime' laws are designed to punish people for what they think, feel, or believe. The crime itself that is committed is already punished under various federal and state criminal laws."

"All violent crimes are hate crimes, and all crime victims deserve equal justice," ADF Senior Counsel Kevin Theriot explains. "So-called 'hate crime' laws actually serve only one purpose: The criminalization of citizens based on whatever thoughts, beliefs, and emotions they have that are not considered to be 'politically correct.' No one should fall for the idea that this bill does anything to bring about greater justice for Americans."

Sadly, the U.S. House has already passed its version of the bill by a vote of 249-175. Now, the Senate will decide whether or not the bill becomes law. President Obama has given clear indication that he will sign the bill, if it passes.

Much is at stake for believers all over the country if this dangerous legal precedent is established, opening the door to greatly expanded government regulation of Christian speech and expression. Please pray fervently for the Lord's intervention in the Senate debates and vote on this issue.

As ADF Senior Counsel Jordan Lorence points out, "Congress will not pass this hate crimes bill and then be done. Soon there will be a push to expand protections by adding 'sexual orientation' to federal laws banning so called discrimination by businesses. Then activists will use those laws to target business owners who believe in traditional marriage, and who decline to participate in the advocacy or messaging of those who want to redefine marriage. They will then use these new laws to punish or silence them for speaking or acting on those beliefs. Then you get more and more cases like Elaine Huguenin's."

The Alliance Defense Fund is representing the Huguenins, and we have appealed their case to the trial court.  Pray for them, and for the many like them in many parts of the U.S. who are facing prosecution simply for living out their deepest beliefs and listening to their conscience.