President calls attention to 'hate crimes' bill
While the free speech implications are not clear in a "hate crimes" bill pending in Congress, LCMS President Dr. Gerald B. Kieschnick is urging church leaders to contact their congressmen with questions and concerns.
The bill, passed in April by the U.S. House of Representatives as H.R. 1913, the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2009, expands the definition of "hate crimes" to include those against individuals based on sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, or disability. The U.S. Senate has not scheduled a hearing on a companion bill, S. 909.
In a statement issued June 23, Kieschnick notes potential effects for pastors and members who speak against homosexuality based on the Word of God. "There has been no legal analysis of the legislation to date, and its definitions of sexual orientation, gender, and gender identity have yet to be determined by the courts," he writes.
Kieschnick cites Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., a bill sponsor, who says the proposed law targets only those who participate in violent crimes against homosexuals. Kieschnick says critics of the bill, such as Rep. Louis Gohmert, R-Texas, contend that ministers and teachers could face possible prosecution if someone commits a crime claiming to have heard his or her religious leader speak against homosexuality.
Kieschnick and his staff will monitor the outcome of the bill. "Society's values and its laws may change, but thanks be to God, His Word never will," he states.