New Federal ‘Hate Crimes’ Law Challenged on Constitutional Grounds

February 2, 2010 - 11:54 AM
'There is no legitimate law enforcement need for this federal law,' said Richard Thompson, president and chief counsel of the Thomas More Law Center.
Hate crimes

President Barack Obama with Judy Shepard, the mother of Matthew Shepard, and James Byrd Jr.'s sisters, Louvon Harris, left, and Betty Byrd Boatner, second right, during a White House reception commemorating the enactment of the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act on Wednesday, Oct. 28, 2009. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

(CNSNews.com) – A conservative civil liberties group is challenging the constitutionality of the recently enacted federal Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2009.
 
The new law, attached to a defense authorization bill that President Obama signed on October 28, 2009, makes it a federal crime to attack someone because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. The Michigan-based Thomas More Law Center says it elevates people engaged in deviant sexual behaviors to a special, protected class of persons under federal law.
 
The lawsuit naming U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder was filed in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan on behalf of three pastors and the president of the American Family Association of Michigan.
 
All of the plaintiffs “take a strong public stand against the homosexual agenda, which seeks to normalize disordered sexual behavior that is contrary to Biblical teaching,” the Law Center said in a news release.
 
“There is no legitimate law enforcement need for this federal law,’ said Richard Thompson, president and chief counsel of the Thomas More Law Center.
 
“This is part of the list of political payoffs to homosexual advocacy groups for support of Barack Obama in the last presidential election,” Thompson continued. “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.  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.”
 
According to the Law Center, of the 1.38 million violent crimes in the U.S. reported by the FBI in 2008, only 243 were considered to be motivated by the victim’s sexual orientation.
 
The four plaintiffs are Michiagn Pastors Levon Yuille, Rene Ouellette, James Combs, and Gary Glenn, president of the American Family Association of Michigan.
 
The lawsuit alleges that the 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 lawsuit also alleges that Congress lacked authority to enact the legislation under the Tenth Amendment and the Commerce Clause of the United States Constitution. 
 
The lawsuit says the Hate Crimes Prevention 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 FBI and other federal law enforcement and intelligence gathering agencies.
 
Robert Muise,  who is handling the case, said the new 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."
 
He said it gives government officials the power "to decide which thoughts are criminal under federal law and which are not.”
 
The Thomas More Law Center describes its mission as defending and promoting “America’s Christian heritage and moral values, including the religious freedom of Christians, time-honored family values, and the sanctity of human life.”