One of the lies circulated by these groups asserts that there currently exists no federal hate crimes statute at all, and that the proposed measure would therefore be the first, and only, piece of federal legislation addressing hate crimes, and that it would only enhance penalties for those hate crimes motivated by hatred of the victim's sexual orientation. In fact, the federal hate crimes statute has existed for 40 years, and it already strengthens punishments for crimes motivated by hatred of the victim's race, color, national origin, or religion.
One of the most frequently promoted lies by the opposition is that the hate crimes law will make anti-gay bigots criminally liable for their hate speech. While the writer believes it to be fundamentally un-American and un-Christian to embrace the message of white supremacists and hate groups, the religious right has nothing to fear from the hate crimes bill, as it applies only to acts of violence. Nothing in this act would prohibit the lawful expression of one’s deeply held religious beliefs. As ugly and inflammatory as these comments can be, people will remain free to say things such as: “Homosexuality is sinful,” “Homosexuality is an abomination” or “Homosexuals will burn in Hell.” Yet we hear constant, incessant whining about the possibility of the proposed measure being used to prosecute religious figures who voice their disapproval of gay relationships and / or of gay people. This whining conveniently overlooks the fact that any attempt to apply this measure against religious figures would fall flat as a matter of constitutional law. The US Supreme Court, in Brandenburg v. Ohio, 395 U.S. 444 (1969), made it clear that speech or advocacy cannot be criminalized "...except where such advocacy is directed to inciting or producing imminent lawless action and is likely to incite or produce such action." (Obscenity is another form of speech which does not enjoy First Amendment protection, but that is not relevant to this issue.)
The US Supreme Court, throwing out a state constitutional amendment voted into existence by the citizens of the State of Colorado in 1992 ("Amendment 2"), had the following to say about the "special protections" supposedly sought by gay Coloradans:
"We find nothing special in the protections Amendment 2 withholds. These are protections taken for granted by most people either because they already have them or do not need them; these are protections against exclusion from an almost limitless number of transactions and endeavors that constitute ordinary civic life in a free society" (Romer v. Evans, 517 U.S. 620 (1996)).
Stephen Bennett -- a spokesman for the anti-gay group called "Concerned Women for America" (CWA) -- used his action network to promote the anti-gay videos of John Smith, a white-supremacist filmmaker with numerous videos posted on YouTube.com. Smith's hateful online video collection includes such titles as “Keep America White,” “Black Intelligence” (a video purporting to prove that blacks are mentally inferior to whites) and “Hitler” (a homage to Hitler on the occasion of his birthday).
In a particularly disgusting insult to the memories of the victims of the Virginia Tech massacre, Tony Perkins (President of the FRC) and Matthew Barber (spokesman for CWA) wrote the following statements, respectively, to argue against enactment of H.R. 1592:
"Under this legislation, the crimes at Virginia Tech, which some are calling one of the deadliest rampages in U.S. history, would not be punishable to the level of these so-called ‘hate crimes.’ If the House approves H.R. 1592 and the Senate follows, a homosexual would have more federal protection under the law than the 32 victims of last week’s massacre." (statement by Perkins)
"The FBI’s latest statistics show that there were zero ‘hate crimes’ murders committed against homosexuals or those perceived to be homosexual in 2005; yet we already know of 32 so-called ‘hate crimes’ murders committed against perceived ‘rich kids’ in a single day. But under H.R. 1592, those ‘rich kids’ would shamefully be denied the same protections and justice as homosexuals. The whole ‘hate crimes’ concept really places logic and reason on its head." (statement by Barber)
Not to be outdone, the "Traditional Values Coalition" (TVC) created and disseminated a fake transcript of the House Judiciary Committee hearing on the hate crimes bill in an attempt to “prove” that the legislation would punish anti-gay thoughts. The falsified transcript did not even remotely resemble the official transcript of the proceeding (see http://tinyurl.com/yvncxp to view both the real transcript and the forged transcript).
Not content with violating the Ninth Commandment (condemning the bearing of false witness), the TVC produced a “wanted poster” in which Jesus Christ, wearing a crown of thorns, is wanted for violating the proposed hate crimes bill. The poster states that Christ is “wanted for revealing the truth about homosexuality in ‘The Bible’ and encouraging his followers not to offend God by committing such behavior.” The deep-seated, raw hatred of gay people that motivates such groups could not be more evident than is manifested by this depraved attempt to spread flat-out lies, using Christ's name in vain in the process.
Furthermore, critics of adding sexual orientation to the grounds included in the proposed legislation forget the fact that the legislation classifies on the basis of sexual orientation -- it does not protect only gay people. Just as a crime would be punishable under this legislation were it to be perpetrated by a heterosexual motivated by animus towards gay people, a crime would similarly be punishable under this legislation were it to be perpetrated by a gay person motivated by animus towards heterosexual people. Conservatives "forget" the fact that such legislation is a sword that cuts both ways. It becomes clear, when one conducts a more searching review of the proposed legislation and its impact, that conservatives are prepared to tell blatant lies in their efforts to derail the proposed legislation. Nobody could prosecute religious figures under this legislation. Nobody could punish thoughts under this legislation.
But truth never stood in the way of cultural conservatives, who have lied and spread disinformation up and down the country.