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Is Preaching About Homosexuality a Hate Crime?

The legal limits of the new Hate Crimes Act

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In October of 2009 President Obama signed into law the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Hate Crimes Act as part of the National Defense Authorization Act. This legislation created a firestorm of controversy, with exaggerated and unfounded claims being made on all sides. According to some, pastors who preach against homosexuality from the pulpit, or even quote passages of the Bible pertaining to homosexuality, will be guilty of a hate crime. Is this fear warranted?

Background

In 1969, Congress enacted a "hate crime" law making it a crime to use force or threat of force to "willfully injure, intimidate or interfere with" any person "because of his race, color, religion or national origin" in enjoying any "benefit, service, privilege, program, facility or activity" administered by the federal or any state government.

Over the years several attempts were made to add sexual orientation to the definition of a "hate crime" under this legislation, and to criminalize all hate crimes rather than just ...

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