From The Pastor At St. Paul's UCC, Freeburg, IL

Will Federal Hate Crimes Bill Coerce Churches?

Last April the House of Representatives passed HR 1913, which expands the definition of “hate crimes” to include those against individuals based on sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, or disability. The Senate has not voted on this yet.

There are voices out there decrying this expansion of the definition of “hate crimes”, saying it can be used against churches and pastors who teach the orthodox Christian doctrine regarding homosexuality and marriage. The Baptist Press raises such concerns (click here). But it’s not just those crazy Baptists who are concerned. The Lutheran Church Missouri Synod’s President also has concerns (click here).

I admit I’m a little concerned about this. A couple of decades ago I would never have imagined the state prosecuting the church in court for its orthodox teachings. But much has happened in the past few years that I would never have imagined. The gay-rights movement is a strong political force these days. And if I’ve learned anything in the last 2 years, it’s that our actions have unintended, even unimagined, consequences. As I understand it, the LCMS is calling for some time and careful thought about this bill – something we should have given to recent bailout bills.

I wonder – if pedophilia is a sexual orientation, would restrictions we place on pedophiles (like registering with local authorities) be a “hate crime”? If a dad lost his temper and beat up a pedophile who molested his daughter – would that be a “hate crime”? If masochism is a sexual orientation, could a masochist sue a sadistic partner for “hate crimes”?

I wonder what the definition of “sexual orientation” is. And what it includes. Would PETA get involved in cases of bestiality (another sexual orientation)?

I’m not joking about this. I’m wondering.

But another concern I have is about the whole “hate crimes” thing. I wonder about laws against thoughts and attitudes. I wonder about singling out particular groups of people for special protection. I wonder, is it any worse for me to kill you because I’m a bigot, than it is to kill you because I’m stupid? If we had a “Stupid Crimes” bill, maybe I’d be more supportive…

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3 responses

  1. Gregg Haege

    Pastor, I am right with you on this issue. “I have sworn upon the altar of God eternal hostility against any form of tyranny over the mind of Man.” Debates on the spirituality of President Jefferson aside, I think he stated this position quite well. I am worried over this too. I recall one period of time, during the six months I filled the pulpit of our former church, when rumors circulated on this. The rumors said people would be planted in the church congregation to take notes, preparing to sue in civil court for “hate speech.” Several times I mentioned homosexuality and its negative political, cultural, and especially spiritual impacts. But, it was a small church, everyone was known, the threat did not materialize, but I must admit it made me think about what I was saying in a completely different light. It almost lent an urgency to my comments, where before they would have been simply routine Sunday mornings. I felt I needed to “stand up for Jesus,” with thoughts of the coming Judgment Day in my mind. Maybe that was a good thing after all. However, until Jesus does return, there will be measures open to our government to use in discouraging “the bigoted and uninformed,” and suppression/abridgment or erasure of the First Amendment to the Constitution would be one of them, once this definition of “hate” is widened.

    July 22, 2009 at 2:46 pm

  2. Hey Gregg – I find it very easy to get paranoid in this fearful culture right now. I just wonder how much we think we can tinker with legislating morality – or better, legislating virtue? It will be interesting as we move ahead to see how tangled up we get in moral legislation, health care legislation, etc. etc.

    Seems to me we need a good lesson on the law and the gospel. The law can keep us from doing wrong, but it CANNOT make us good. That doesn’t seem to have gotten thru…

    July 23, 2009 at 10:22 am

  3. Gregg Haege

    Yes sir, you are so right. There are several verses, but Acts 13:39 is the quickest I could pull up. The Law condemns but there is forgiveness and freedom from the hand-written law, in favor of heart- and mind-written law (Hebrews 10:16). Perhaps the end times are upon us and the hardening of hearts spoken of in Revelation is beginning…….

    August 4, 2009 at 3:32 pm

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