House antisemitism bill sponsor calls MTG's claim it criminalizes the Gospel 'absurdity'

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White marble exterior of the United States Capitol, often called the Capitol Building, is the home of the United States Congress and the seat of the legislative branch of the U.S. federal government. It is located on Capitol Hill at the eastern end of the National Mall in Washington, D.C. View of the east facade | Getty Images

The U.S. House of Representatives passed the Antisemitism Awareness Act amid a series of anti-Israel protests springing up on college campuses throughout the country, with the bill's sponsor pushing back on claims that the law will criminalize speech about the New Testament. 

On Wednesday, the Antisemitism Awareness Act passed in the lower chamber by a 320-91 bipartisan vote, with 70 Democratic and 21 Republican representatives voting in opposition. New York Republican Rep. Mike Lawler introduced the legislation and Democratic Reps. Josh Gottheimer of New Jersey and Jared Moskowitz of Florida were among the bill's 61 co-sponsors. 

The legislation would require the U.S. Department of Education to use the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance's definition of antisemitism when enforcing federal anti-discrimination laws. The IHRA includes denying the Jewish people their right to "self-determination" and labeling the creation of the state of Israel as a "racist endeavor" in its examples of contemporary antisemitism. 

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In addition, the IHRA lists comparing contemporary Israeli policies to Nazism and holding Jews collectively responsible for all of Israel's actions as other examples of contemporary antisemitism.

Republican Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia opposes the bill. In a Wednesday X post, she declared that she would not vote for it. Greene included screenshots highlighting certain portions of the IHRA antisemitism list. 

As an example of antisemitism in public life, Greene highlights the IHRA list stating: "Using the symbols and images associated with classic antisemitism (e.g., claims of Jews killing Jesus or blood libel) to characterize Israel or Israelis."

"Antisemitism is wrong, but I will not be voting for the Antisemitism Awareness Act of 2023 (H.R. 6090) today that could convict Christians of antisemitism for believing the Gospel that says Jesus was handed over to Herod to be crucified by the Jews," Greene stated. 

Similar arguments that the bill makes parts of the New Testament illegal were made by conservative personalities Tucker Carlson and Charlie Kirk

Lawler and Moskowitz appeared on "The Lead with Jake Tapper" to discuss the Antisemitism Awareness Act, and the CNN host asked about Greene's statement regarding the bill. Lawler called the Georgia representative's remarks an "absurdity," stating that her comments were "thrown into this discussion at the last minute." 

The lawmakers said that the Antisemitism Awareness Act would not criminalize the Gospel, with Moskowitz noting that the bill was a "bipartisan effort." 

"We're not interested in messing with the Gospel, nor does this language do that, and I don't think the Jewish community is worried right now what the 'Jew Laser Lady' has to say, I mean that's not who we want on our side," Moskowitz said, saying Greene has "stoked" antisemitism in the past. 

Ian Haworth, the host of the "Off Limits" podcast, accused critics of the bill who claim the bill criminalizes speech, specifically about the New Testament, of attempting to create "religious division for clicks." 

In a Thursday X post, Haworth stated that the legislation follows IHRA's "widely accepted" 2016 definition of antisemitism, which was used by the Trump administration. In December 2019, former President Donald Trump signed Executive Order 13899 on Combating AntiSemitism. The Executive Order required federal agencies to consider the working definition of antisemitism the IHRA adopted in 2016 when enforcing Title VI. 

"The subtly-highlighted screenshots spinning up Gospel-related fury are ignoring that the IHRA definition relates to using the claim that 'the Jews killed Jesus' (I won't even get into the obvious addition collective weight carried by the 'the') to declare hate for Israel," Haworth wrote. "Again, this isn't a defense of this bill, but if you can't tell the difference between 'the Jews killed Jesus' and 'Israel is evil because the Jews killed Jesus,' then you're missing the complete point."

The passage comes amid a wave of anti-Israel protests and antisemitic incidents on college campuses throughout the country. Jewish students at Columbia University were advised to remain home due to a "Gaza Solidarity Encampment" on campus, with multiple reports surfacing of harassment and intimidation efforts against Jewish students taking place at Columbia and other college campuses. A pro-Palestinian encampment at the University of California Los Angeles was raided by police Thursday. Police made over 130 arrests.

"What is happening at Columbia, at Yale, at UCLA, and so many other schools is reprehensible and alarming," Lawler said in a Wednesday statement. "When people engage in harassment or bullying of Jewish individuals where they justify the killing of Jews or use blood libel or hold Jews collectively responsible for the actions of the Israeli government — that is antisemitic. It's unfortunate that needs to be clarified, but that's why this bill is necessary."

One of the bill's critics, the American Civil Liberties Union, asked House representatives in an April 26 letter to oppose the Antisemitism Awareness Act. According to the legal advocacy group, existing laws already prohibit antisemitic discrimination and harassment by federally funded entities. The ACLU believes that the act will "chill the free speech" of college students and equate criticism of the Israeli government with antisemitism. 

"While we wholly support efforts to fight discrimination and harassment through Title VI complaints and investigations, we strongly oppose use of the IHRA definition, or any definition of discrimination that threatens to censor or penalize political speech protected by the First Amendment," the letter stated.

In a Wednesday interview with CBS New York, Lawler noted that some of the chants heard on college campuses — "From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free" — are calling for the eradication of Jews. Gottheimer, one of the bill's Democratic co-sponsors, also told the outlet that there is a difference between protected speech and "harassment, and violence and intimidation." 

Samantha Kamman is a reporter for The Christian Post. She can be reached at: Follow her on Twitter: @Samantha_Kamman

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