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Back to Section One | Back to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, August 3 2012 - Volume 40 Issue 31
Federal court tosses challenge to Hate Crimes Act
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Federal court tosses challenge to Hate Crimes Act

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

The Sixth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has declined to hear a challenge to the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act brought by three Michigan clergymen who alleged the law was meant to 'eradicate religious beliefs opposing the homosexual agenda.'

In a decision issued August 2, a three-judge panel of the court said the plaintiffs had no standing to sue because they had not been charged with violating the Hate Crimes Act, nor did they intend to violate it.

'We agree with the district court's determination that Plaintiffs have not demonstrated an intent to violate the Hate Crimes Act or offered sufficient evidence that they will nonetheless face adverse law enforcement action. Accordingly, they lack standing to prosecute this case,' the court said in its decision.

The suit was filed on behalf of the clergymen in February 2010 by the Thomas More Law Center, a conservative Christian legal nonprofit. President Obama signed the Hate Crimes Act into law in October 2009.

According to its website, 'the Thomas More Law Center's mission is to restore and defend America's Judeo-Christian heritage and moral values, and to preserve a strong national defense and a free and sovereign United States of America.'

NO HARM, NO FOUL
Plaintiffs in the suit claimed that the law would subject them to 'increased government scrutiny, questioning, investigation, surveillance, and intimidation on account of their strong, public opposition to homosexual activism, the homosexual lifestyle, and the homosexual agenda.'

The Sixth Circuit, however, dismissed these claims. The law 'does not prohibit Plaintiffs' proposed course of speech,' the court said, and the plaintiffs 'can't quite pinpoint what it is they want to say that could subject them to prosecution under the Hate Crimes Act.'

Even if they quoted Leviticus 20:13 - the notorious biblical passage specifying the death penalty for same-sex relations - 'they have not alleged any intention to do more than merely quote it,' which is not prohibited by the Hate Crimes Act, the court ruled.

'Plaintiffs oppose the Hate Crimes Act. Somewhat inconsistently, they also say they oppose 'crimes of violence,' the court noted.

'If the Hate Crimes Act prohibits only willfully causing bodily injury and Plaintiffs are not planning to willfully injure anybody, then what is their complaint?' the judges asked.

'Plaintiffs answer that they fear wrongful prosecution and conviction under the Act. Not only is that fear misplaced, it's inadequate to generate a case or controversy the federal courts can hear.'

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