Lawsuit is First to Challenge Constitutionality of Federal Hate Crimes Act

By Susan Brinkmann, OCDS
Staff Journalist

The Thomas More Law Center filed the first federal lawsuit against U.S. Attorney General Eric H. Holder, Jr., yesterday challenging the constitutionality of the recently-enacted “Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2009.”   

Richard Thompson, President and Chief Counsel of the Law Center, said the controversial bill, which passed only because it was attached as a rider to a defense spending bill, is unnecessary and nothing more than a political payoff to homosexual advocacy groups who supported President Barack Obama in the last election.

“The sole purpose of this law is to criminalize the Bible and use the threat of federal prosecutions and long jail sentences to silence Christians from expressing their Biblically-based religious belief that homosexual conduct is a sin,” Thompson said in a Feb. 2 press release. “It elevates those persons who engage in deviant sexual behaviors, including pedophiles, to a special protected class of persons as a matter of federal law and policy.”

This law is also misguided because “ . . . (T)he greatest threat of violence to ‘homosexuals’ comes not from Christians but from other ‘homosexuals,’ according to statistics compiled by their own advocacy groups, ” said Thompson. 

The lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan on behalf of Pastor Levon Yuille, Pastor Rene Ouellette, Pastor James Combs, and Gary Glenn, the president of the American Family Association of Michigan (AFA-Michigan). It alleges that this new law violates the plaintiffs’ rights to freedom of speech, expressive association, and free exercise of religion protected by the First Amendment, and it violates the equal protection guarantee of the Fifth Amendment.

The suit also expresses concern that the Act “provides law enforcement with authorization and justification to conduct federal investigative and other federal law enforcement actions against Plaintiffs and others deemed to be opponents of homosexual activism, the homosexual lifestyle, and the homosexual agenda,” thereby expanding “the jurisdiction of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and other federal law enforcement and intelligence gathering agencies.”

Consequently, the new hate crimes law “subjects Plaintiffs 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, thereby causing a tangible and concrete deterrent, inhibitory, and chilling effect on Plaintiffs’ activities and their rights to freedom of speech, expressive association, and the free exercise of religion” in violation of the United States Constitution.”

Robert Muise, Senior Trial Counsel for TMLC who is handling the case, observed, “This new federal law promotes two Orwellian concepts.  It creates a special class of persons who are ‘more equal than others’ based on nothing more than deviant, sexual behavior.  And it creates ‘thought crimes’ by criminalizing certain ideas, beliefs, and opinions, and the involvement of such ideas, beliefs, and opinions in a crime will make it deserving of federal prosecution. Consequently, government officials are claiming the power to decide which thoughts are criminal under federal law and which are not.”

This legal challenge was needed, Thompson said, because, “in many other jurisdictions, so-called ‘hate crimes’ legislation is being used to prosecute and jail pastors and priests for giving sermons or homilies that reflect the Christian view toward homosexuality.  That’s why it was critical for us to file this lawsuit. This anti-Christian agenda must be stopped now.” 
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