WASHINGTON – The White House issued a veto threat Thursday against legislation that some feel could ultimately strip away the right of Christians to express a biblical view of homosexuality.
In a statement, the White House said state and local criminal laws already provide penalties for the violence addressed by the hate crimes bill, which would extend the hate crimes category to include sexual orientation, gender, gender identity or disability.
Under current federal law, hate crimes apply to acts of violence against individuals on the basis of race, religion, color, or national original. Federal prosecutors have jurisdiction only if the victim is engaged in a specific federally protected activity such as enrolling in school, voting or traveling between states.
"The administration favors strong criminal penalties for violent crime, including crime based on personal characteristics, such as race, color, religion, or national origin," stated the White House. "However, the administration believes that H.R. 1592 is unnecessary and constitutionally questionable.
"If H.R. 1592 were presented to the President, his senior advisors would recommend that he veto the bill," the statement added.
The hate crimes bill, which is expected to pass the House Thursday, has met outspoken resistance from conservative groups and their Republican allies in Congress, who warn that it undermines freedom of speech, religious expression and equal protection under the law.
Dr. James C. Dobson, founder and chairman of Focus on the Family Action, is urging a quarter-million Americans to quickly sign a petition in opposition to the bill, accusing Congress of beginning "an all-out assault on our religious freedoms."
"The Hate Crimes Act will be the first step to criminalize our rights as Christians to believe that some behaviors are sinful," Dobson stated in a special message to potential petition signers.
"Pastors preaching from Scripture on homosexuality could be threatened with persecution and prosecution," he noted.
While the 14th Amendment guarantees every citizen equal protection under the law, this legislation would give those with same-sex attraction a greater measure of protection than heterosexuals, noted Wendy Cloyd, assistant editor at CitizenLink, a ministry of Focus on the Family.
"It attempts to place sexual orientation on par with race, enshrining homosexuality in federal law as a civil rights issue," she added.
Dobson further said that the bill is "an attack on freedom of thought, freedom of conviction, and freedom of speech."
"Our opposing viewpoints to the homosexual agenda could eventually be silenced and punished," the prominent evangelical leader said.
He illustrated his point by referring to Pastor Ake Green of Sweden, who was sentenced to prison for preaching against homosexual behavior.
Dobson also criticized the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), which he noted "is equally or even more dangerous."
"ENDA could force even non-profit organizations – such as Focus on the Family Action or the Salvation Army – to hire homosexuals or individuals hostile to our firmly held moral beliefs," he reported.
"We cannot remain silent," Dobson concluded. "It's time for people of faith to draw a line in the sand and say 'Enough is enough!"
A floor vote for H.R. 1592 was scheduled in the U.S. House on Thursday.
On the web: Focus Action Petition