As the Senate Judiciary Committee prepared to hear testimony May 11 on proposed hate crimes legislation, the Family Research Council has been caught spreading misleading information to its members about the Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 1999.
The FRC issued an "Action Alert" to its members that makes a number of hysterical and inaccurate claims about the proposed hate crimes legislation.
"The FRC doesn't want Americans to know the truth about this legislation because the truth interferes with the Religious Right's political agenda," said PFAW President Carole Shields. "Their political agenda involves scapegoating and demonizing gays and lesbians. Theirs is the 'big lie' strategy -- even if something isn't true, if you repeat it often enough some people will believe it."
The Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 1999 would expand the current statute to cover disability status, gender and sexual orientation. The legislation also would make it easier for federal authorities to prosecute crimes of violence.
"We need to send the strongest possible message that hate crimes have no place in our country or our communities," Shields said. "Women, the disabled and gays and lesbians across the United States face a hostile climate that has all too often erupted into violence. The fact that the FRC is spreading fabrications does nothing to improve this climate."
The FRC's Six Big Lies About The Hate Crimes Prevention Act
The Family Research Council, in an effort to shift public focus away from the tragedy of hate crimes in America, has issued an "action alert" to its members in which it fabricates six myths about the Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 1999. These myths -- and a short refutation -- are as follows:
FRC lie #1: "Hate crimes legislation could severely restrict Americans' freedom of speech, freedom of thought and freedom of religion. This legislation would give the government the power to interpret and classify certain speech, thought, theology, and moral belief as unlawful or contributing to crime. Will pastors, priests, rabbis, and other religious leaders who preach and teach against homosexual conduct be prosecuted for inciting a hate crime?"
The truth: The Hate Crimes Prevention Act would only prohibit acts of violence, not speech. The Act would not infringe upon anyone's First Amendment rights. In this manner, the Hate Crimes Prevention Act would operate just like the current hate crimes statute, which does not punish protected speech because it requires that any covered incident include criminal acts involving force. The changes to the statute proposed by the Hate Crimes Prevention Act would only apply to cases involving death or bodily injury; in other words, they would only come into play when violent crimes have been committed -- not in matters involving speech protected by the First Amendment.
FRC lie #2: "President Clinton stated that he would include words perceived as inciting an act of violence - without proof of direct correlation - as evidence of a hate crime."
The truth: Again, the legislation does not target speech. Organizations such as the FRC or individuals such as the notorious Rev. Fred Phelps would remain free to condemn homosexuality. Only when a crime victim is targeted for a violent act because of his or her sexual orientation, gender or disability status could the law be applied.
FRC lie #3: "Talk radio, religious broadcasting and television programs could be subject to censorship."
The truth: The Hate Crimes Prevention Act would not restrict the media. Again, it would come into play only when someone commits a violent crime on the basis of someone else's race, religion, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation or disability.
FRC lie #4: "Hate crimes legislation could give priority to homosexuals as being more protected victims than other victims of crime."
The truth: The Hate Crimes Prevention Act does not create a category of "more protected victims." It simply addresses the fact that state and local authorities sometimes cannot or will not prosecute violent crimes committed against gays and lesbians. Under current law, the federal government is often unable to intervene in these cases. The Hate Crimes Prevention Act would permit federal authorities to bring the perpetrators of these horrible crimes to justice.
FRC lie #5: "Hate crimes legislation, accompanied by the President's 'tolerance education' crusade, will hinder parents who seek to protect their children from a lifestyle that is unhealthy and which they recognize to be morally and spiritually wrong."
The truth: The Hate Crimes Prevention Act would not interfere with the rights of parents to teach their children according to their own sets of values. The Act would merely prohibit acts of violence against individuals on the basis of race, religion, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation or disability. It would not preclude parents from teaching their own values to their children.
FRC lie #6: "Students could be forced to learn homosexual diversity training in public schools."
The truth: This legislation has nothing to do with school curriculum.