Following the U.S. House’s passage of hate crimes legislation attached to a military spending bill, critics have argued its provisions create “special rights” based on sexual behavior and could threaten religious freedom. They further charged that the provisions’ backers used the military as a “political tool” to achieve their goals.
The bill authorized $680 billion for the Defense Department, the Washington Post reports. It also contained a provision that would broaden the definition of federal hate crimes to include attacks based on gender, sexual orientation, gender identity or disability.
The legislation also created a new federal crime to cover attacks against U.S. military personnel because of their service.
A reported 281 congressmen voted in favor of the bill, with 146 opposed. Fifteen Democrats and 131 Republicans opposed the bill, which now pass the Senate before it is sent to President Barack Obama’s desk for his signature.
Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, charged in a Thursday statement that the hate crimes legislation was a “thought-crimes bill” that creates “special protection for a particular group” in violation of the principle of equal justice under the law.
“This measure is about giving special rights based solely on sexual behavior,” Perkins commented, praising congressmen who voted against the bill.
“All of our citizens deserve equal justice under the law. Do we somehow care less about victims violently assaulted in the act of robbery or during a personal dispute than we do about those assaulted because they belong in a federally designated, politically motivated category?”
Perkins also warned that the legislation may cause “serious infringements” of free speech rights.
“'Hate crime' legislation will lay the legal foundation and framework for investigating, prosecuting and persecuting pastors, business owners, and anyone else whose actions reflect their faith," he added.
Rep. Tom Price (R-GA) in a Thursday statement criticized the legislation before it was passed by the House.
He charged that it treated U.S. military as a “political tool” and as “pack mules” to carry “a despicable and unconstitutional bill that penalizes thought and places a premium on some classes of individuals over others.”
“No American should be more protected from violent crime than another. All violent crimes demonstrate hate and all should be fully prosecuted,” Rep. Price added. “Justice should be blind, but Democrats have rejected the credo of our Founders that all people are created equal. This legislation will eventually invite the prosecution of Americans for their thoughts and religious beliefs, basic provinces protected by the First Amendment.”