By Susan Brinkmann, OCDS
The pursuit of “hate crimes” legislation that could make it illegal for even religious clergy to express any opposition to homosexuality suffered a setback on July 23 when the Pennsylvania Supreme Court decided that the state’s Constitution was violated when legislators attempted to add “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” to the state’s “ethnic intimidation” law.
The case originated in 2004 when eleven Christian members of the evangelical group, Repent America, were arrested for violating this law because they were reading the Bible and singing hymns at a homosexual rally being held in the city. Although the case was eventually dropped, Repent America sued, saying the law was unconstitutional.
Last November, the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania agreed and struck down the law. It came to the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania on appeal, but the Court ultimately sided with the lower court ruling.
“The order of the Commonwealth Court is affirmed for the reasons ably set forth in the opinion of the Honorable James Gardner Colins, which opinion is adopted as that of the Supreme Court,” the ruling said.
In Justice Colins’ opinion, the law was struck down because the provision violated Article III of the state Constitution, which prohibits a bill’s alteration during its passage through the legislature, if the bill’s original purpose is changed.
The bill started as a measure against agricultural vandalism, and was changed by the state legislature into a hate crimes bill designed to make it illegal for anybody to protest public homosexual activities and celebrations. The law was used to persecute anybody who stood in the way of the homosexual agenda, redefining peaceful protest by Christians as hate crime.
Former Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore and attorneys with the Foundation for Moral Law, who, along with attorney Aaron D. Martin, represented the Christian evangelists from Repent America, applauded the Pennsylvania Supreme Court for its ruling.
”We are very happy that the Pennsylvania Supreme Court has ruled in our favor to stop the Governor and a group of corrupt politicians from sneaking a ‘hate crimes’ bill through the Pennsylvania legislature,” Judge Moore said. “Preaching to homosexuals about the sin of sodomy should not be made a ‘thought crime’ in Pennsylvania or any other state.”
Michael Marcavage, director of Repent America and a petitioner in the case, also expressed his relief that the Supreme Court had agreed that the hate crimes law was unconstitutional.
“Having been arrested, jailed and charged with a ‘hate crime’ for preaching the Gospel, I am elated that the Pennsylvania Supreme Court upheld the lower court’s ruling in striking down Pennsylvania’s expanded ‘hate crimes’ law,” he said.
“The methods used by the Pennsylvania legislature in passing the ‘hate crimes’ bill were extremely devious and yet another chilling example as to how far politicians are willing to go to silence Christian speech that they would violate our own state Constitution to do it.
“In a nation that is becoming increasingly hostile toward Biblical Christianity, we remain vigilant as the Pennsylvania legislature will most likely attempt to pass another ‘hate crimes’ bill and are continuing to educate the American people on the significant dangers of such laws.”
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