The Culture and Family Institute (CFI), a Christian pro-family group, is concerned that the Bible may soon be enlisted as hate literature and pastors will be restricted from speaking freely at the pulpit if a resurrected legislation applying hate crimes law to books passes.
Republican Senators Gordan Smith and Orrin Hatch, sponsors of the new bill, proposed a similar legislation in that past that was turned down.
CFI director Bob Knight called the new bill very dangerous, because unlike the previous bill it adds 'sexual orientation' to hate crimes law, and it greatly expands federal jurisdiction.
He also feared the bill would eventually lead to criminalizing free speech and thought. Christians, for example, would be prosecuted for expressing Biblical views on homosexuality. It would "muzzle public discussion of homosexuality and even someday silence pastors, he said.
A Canadian court has already considered the Bible hate literature in a case where a man was fined for publishing Bible verses in an ad in a Canadian newspaper. Canada also passed a bill in April that forbids any speech or publication that incites hatred and genocide. Although religious text such as the Bible is exempted in the bill, hate crimes are open to interpretation.
The religious text exemption, still will place the burden of proof on the defendant (or the accused) to prove that any statements were in fact based on the Holy Book of his/her religion, reported Christian Coalition Inc. of Canada (CCIC). This could be subject to wide interpretations, or even a complete setting aside by the courts.
It is therefore not a safe assumption, wrote CCIC in a February press release, that the religious text exemption will be adequate to protect churches, pastors, Christian teachers from criminal prosecution should a person or institution be charged with the promotion of hatred against an identifiable group based on an enumerated ground such as sexual orientation.
Knight said Smith and Hatchs bill would grant homosexuals special status but make Christians who express their Biblical views against homosexuality as fair game.