By Rev. Ted Pike
Despite compelling and passionate testimony by House Republicans, the federal hate crimes bill, HR 1913, passed in the House of Representatives by a vote of 249 to 175.
In what Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R, VA) called "an atrocity," the House Rules Committee on Tuesday imposed a "closed rule" on debate and amendments, limiting debate to 120 minutes. However, contest of the rule was permitted between both sides for one hour, giving Republicans a preliminary opportunity to lay out objections to the hate bill. They failed in their attempt to lengthen the debate, and the original 120 minutes of debate ensued.
Here are highlights of the Republican opposition:
Rep. Virginia Foxx (R, NC) said HR 1913 will open a new category of "thought crimes" in America, moving us "down a slippery slope" to loss of freedom. She said such has happened under hate laws in Canada and Europe.
Rep. Trent Franks (R, AZ) warned HR 1913 will end equality in America, giving special rights to federally favored groups such as homosexuals.
Rep. Roy Blount (R, MO) echoed Foxx's admonition that hate laws have taken away free speech in Canada and Europe.
Rep. Steve King (R, IA) repeated the warning of his amendment in Judiciary last week, saying pedophiles and many other deviants will obtain special rights and protection under HR 1913.
Rep. Foxx returned, saying a federal hate law would preempt the 10th Amendment which delegates most law enforcement to the states. She said the claim that Matt Sheppard was murdered because he was a homosexual was a "hoax;" he was killed, she said as the victim of a robbery.
Rep. Louie Gohmert (R, TX) charged HR 1913 will divide America into groups of more favored versus less. He again cited USC Title 18, Section 2a, the foundation of HR 1913, which says anyone who through speech "induces" commission of a violent hate crime "will be tried as a principal" alongside the active offender. He said there is no "epidemic" of hate in America.
Rep. King cited the American Psychiatric Association which lists 547 different kinds of paraphilia, or sexual deviancies. King said all of these would merit special federal protection under the class "sexual orientation" enshrined in HR 1913.
Rep. Foxx testified, "This bill itself will spread fear and intimidation." She was referring primarily to Christian/conservative critics of homosexuality, Islam, illegal immigrants, etc. Such critics from the pulpit or airwaves would be increasingly silenced under the hate law's chill on free speech.
Rep. Hastings (D, FL), a proponent of the hate bill, brazenly agreed that HR 1913 would give a galaxy of sexual perverts special protection. He said that under hate bill protection they will not "live in fear because of who they are."
One particularly striking argument was made by Rep. Randy Forbes (R, VA). He said if Miss California had slapped the homosexual judge who derided her on the stage (and across the internet) under HR 1913 she could be indicted as a "violent hate criminal," facing a possible 10 years in prison. But, Forbes said, if the homosexual judge had slapped her, she would have had no special protection under HR 1913. His act would have been simple assault, a misdemeanor.
The testimony of Rep. Todd Akins (R, MO) was also unique. He said HR 1913 would actually increase hate in America. He said the American people, including young people, recognizing that they are now second-class citizens, with homosexuals receiving special federal rights, can only resent (hate?) those who have rights and privileges above them. He also said that with the legal system already backed up, the federal hate law will create havoc within our legal system, requiring judges to also become "psychologists," divining motives of offenders.
Rep. Mike Pence (R, IN) said the FBI statistics show that, far from hate crimes increasing, they have steadily declined over the past 10 years. There is also no evidence that states are lax in hate law enforcement.
Democrat testimony concluded with a special entry, followed by CSPAN camera, of Rep. Barney Frank (D, MA). He pooh-poohed the arrest of the Philly 11 Christians in 2004, saying that, although it was unjust, Republicans were irresponsible in not pointing out that the Christians were acquitted. Fortunately, Rep. Gohmert had the last word, indicating that the very fact that persons can and have been arrested for speech under state laws has a chilling effect on free speech.