The Congress and Senate are trying strip the nation of religious freedom and the ability to preach the gospel from our church pulpits. This may sound incredulous at first blush but it is true. The Hate Crimes Prevention bills which are currently being put forth can be used in the future to censor the church and its ministers. I called a press conference to enable pastors (the majority of which were black) to take a stand on this issue. Excerpts from my address follow:
Dear Friends, Clergy, Congressmen, and Press
We oppose HR 1592 "Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention ACT of 2007." Our position is that this legislation is indefinable, constitutionally suspect, unfair, un-American, and unnecessary.
I represent clergymen and people of faith from the Christian community who are making a stand for religious liberty. We have called this meeting to announce a major national campaign to protect the right of the Christian church to preach the gospel.
This law is unnecessary because there is already existing legislation in every state that deals with this issue. The Hate Crimes Prevention bills which are currently being put forth can be used in the future to censor the church and its ministers. This legislation will grant protected status to "sexual orientation" and "gender identity." It is our belief that it will mandate unequal protection under the law and will pave the way for criminalization of thoughts and religious beliefs contrary to politically correct ideas. Let me explain.
Similar laws have are being enforced around the world with an anti-Christian bias. Although the proponents of the bill solemnly declare that Bible believing churches are not its target, I will mention several noticeable cases along with articles from credible sources to confirm my conclusions.
• In Sweden, Pastor Ake Green was indicted, convicted and sentenced to 30 days because of a hate crime violation. Swedish laws are very strict with regard to hate speech and expressing contempt towards a person's sexual orientation. Pastor Greens simply read from the Bible and gave the Bible's view on homosexual practices at his Borgholm, Sweden church. No riots were incited or accounts of personal brutality towards gays occurred after his statements. He was punished based upon statements he made in a normal weekly service.
• In Australia, two evangelical pastors were charged with violating the state of Victoria's "hate crimes" laws last year for criticizing Islam. This "offence" took place as part of a Christian conference. Once again there were no riots or personal injury to Muslims as a result of the statements. The judge, contrary to logic, ruled that the pastors had incited "hatred and fear" against Muslims.
• In Canada, a Catholic city councilor was fined $1,000 for simply restating the church's teaching on homosexuality. He publicly stated that a gay couple's lifestyle was "not normal and not natural." His personal beliefs were deemed "hate speech" under Canada's hate crimes law.
As I think about the concepts of hate crime legislation in the past, I think about a judicial system that refused to give blacks equal justice under the law. The problem for blacks in the past was that racist groups conspired with law enforcement groups. Additional legislation would have never been necessary if the existing laws of the land had been enforced fairly.
In contrast, gays and other groups have emerged as a formidable force in the legal arena. Courts are often extremely deferential to their cases. For these reasons, I maintain that additional protections for gays are not necessary. In addition, the threat of invasive, governmental interference with the doctrines and practice of the church is a major concern. The same groups that want to remove crosses and the commandments from every public facility would undoubtedly rejoice if their influence could also be felt within the four walls of the church as well.
Many sponsors of this bill have suggested that this legislation is sympathetic to blacks and the civil rights movement which was birthed from the black church. However, nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, our freedom to be a conscience to America is being threatened by legislation that purports to extend the hard fought battle we have waged for civil rights.
Despite this legislation's endorsement by the NAACP and its congressional father being black, there are enormous loopholes in its premises and potential enforcement. A growing number of black church goers are aghast that their most powerful institution is being undermined by a handful of autonomous, self-appointed leaders. The black church is the most legitimate grass roots movement in our community. Unfortunately, its voice has not been heard in this debate.
This legislation has the potential to criminalize the caring attempts of black clergy to maintain the tension of preaching clear traditional doctrine while reaching out to people in need of love and direction.
Isn't freedom of speech a major value of our nation? Do we want an America in which no one can express their true religious views?
Pro-abortion advocates say, "Keep your hands off my reproductive organs!" Some gays chant, "Stay out of our bedrooms!" Christian ministers can rightfully say "Stay out of my pulpit!"
Join in our fight. Visit www.thetruthinblackandwhite.com to see a clip of a portion of the press conference. Then, call to protest the U.S. House of Representatives and U.S. Senate hate crime bills. For Congresspersons call 202-225-8000 to protest HR 1592. For Senators call 202-224-3121 to protest SR 1105.
Bishop Harry Jackson is the senior pastor of Hope Christian Church in College Park, Maryland (www.thehopeconnection.org). He is also chairman of High Impact Leadership Coalition (www.himpactus.com), the nonprofit organization which drafted the Black Contract with America on Moral Values.