Mich. Pastors File Suit Against Expanded Hate Crimes Law

Four Christians on Tuesday filed a federal lawsuit challenging the recently enacted Hate Crimes Prevention Act, arguing that it seeks to criminalize deeply held religious beliefs that are in opposition to homosexuality.

The new law, the lawsuit contends, "is an effort to eradicate religious beliefs opposing the homosexual agenda from the marketplace of ideas by demonizing, vilifying, and criminalizing such beliefs as a matter of federal law and policy."

The 27-page long complaint was submitted by the Thomas More Law Center on behalf of Gary Glenn of the American Family Association of Michigan and Pastors Levon Yuille, James Combs, and Rene B. Ouellette, who are also based in Michigan. It names U.S. Attorney General Eric H. Holder, Jr., as the defendant.

Yuille, pastor of The Bible Church in Ypsilanti and host of a radio talk show, says he is often warned by his Canadian listeners that he will be prosecuted under the Hate Crimes Act for his public ministry the same way ministers in Canada are being silenced under a similar law.

The Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act , passed by Congress and signed by President Obama last October, broadens the definition of federal hate crimes to include attacks based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

Pastors, religious broadcasters and others adamantly spoke out against the measure, saying it would pose a clear threat to religious liberty and subject them to increased government scrutiny simply for preaching homosexuality as sin.

Outlining the biblical convictions held by the plaintiffs, the complaint states that the Bible is the ultimate authority for belief and behavior and homosexual acts, according to Scripture, "are acts of grave depravity that are intrinsically disordered. They are contrary to the natural law."

"Moral conscience requires that, in every occasion, Christians give witness to the whole moral truth," it adds.

Though the plaintiffs also stand against violence, their attorneys maintain that such crimes are already being severely punished at the state level and by Holder's own admission, there has been no evidence that "hate crimes" were going unpunished, according to the lawsuit.

Thomas More attorneys make the case that the perpetrators of the murder of Matthew Shepard were subject to more several criminal penalties under existing state criminal law than under the new federal Hate Crimes Act. They also say there is evidence demonstrating that the senseless and brutal attack on Shepard was not motivated by hate or bias; rather, it was motivated by money and drugs.

Violent crimes motivated by bias against a victim's sexual orientation make up less than 1 percent of all violent crimes in the U.S., the complaint notes.

"The real purpose" of the new law, according to the complaint, is not to reduce "hate crimes" against gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgenders but rather to "establish 'sexual orientation' and 'gender identity' as specially protected classifications under federal law."

"[T]he Hate Crimes Act, which was promoted by homosexual activists and sponsored by legislators who seek to garner their political support, is more about promoting the homosexual agenda and marginalizing Biblical teachings against sexual immorality than it is about protecting people from acts of violence."

Plaintiffs in the lawsuit are seeking judicial reassurance that they can freely participate in their speech and related religious activities without being investigated or prosecuted by the government or becoming part of official records because of their Christian beliefs.

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