The Hatewatch blog is managed by the staff of the Intelligence Project of the Southern Poverty Law Center, an Alabama-based civil rights organization.

Religious Right Promotes Falsehoods in Last-Ditch Attempt to Stall Federal Hate Crimes Bill

By Sonia Scherr on July 17, 2009 - 3:19 pm, Posted in Anti-LGBT

In the days leading up to yesterday’s Senate approval of far-reaching federal hate crimes legislation, religious right anti-gay groups were ramping up their rhetoric in a last-ditch attempt to defeat it.

But while their tone was shriller, their tune hadn’t changed: As they’ve done for months, these organizations were falsely claiming that the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Prevention Act would protect pedophiles and inhibit religious expression. Many of the religious right groups issuing alerts in recent days — including the Illinois Family Institute and the Liberty Counsel — seem not to have read the bill at all.

An E-mail sent Tuesday from Rick Scarborough, head of Vision America, exhorted supporters to “KEEP THE HATE CRIMES PRESSURE ON!” It referred to the bill as the “Pedophile Protection Act” because of its “inclusion of pedophiles as a protected class under the proposal that protects homosexuals from hate crimes.” In fact, while the law would allow prosecution of crimes motivated by bias against gays or transgendered people, it would not extend hate crimes protections to pedophiles.

The next day, the Traditional Values Coalition (TVC) posted an “urgent” message on its website telling supporters to contact their senators. The proposed legislation was “anti-Christian, pro-LGBT [lesbian/gay/bisexual/transgender]” and “threatens religious liberty, free speech and makes at least 30 different sexual orientations into federally protected minority groups.” According to the TVC, these sexual orientations include incest, voyeurism and bestiality. That’s false; “sexual orientation” refers only to heterosexuality, homosexuality and bisexuality. The TVC, in fact, has been listed as an anti-gay hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center for years, largely because of its routine promotion of known falsehoods to demonize homosexuals.

Not to be outdone, long-time anti-Semite Ted Pike of the National Prayer Network posted an update yesterday on his website urging followers to call Senate offices. Earlier, he’d lamented that “patriots” weren’t doing enough to defeat the “homosexual lobby.” But if they don’t act, he wrote, “Let me remind you how infinitely more wearying it will be to exist night and day, year after year, shivering and starving in the gulags of the New World Order. If we allow this bill to first take away our free speech, then all other freedoms are going down the drain. Once that happens, there will be nothing to restrain mass arrest, imprisonment, deportation, and murder of probably millions.” In fact, the bill has no bearing on speech.

Another National Prayer Network article posted last week stated that the bill would protect pedophiles because, “especially within the homosexual community [they] are an increasingly powerful political force.” Lest anyone wonder who’s responsible for the legislation, Pike on his website blames “Jewish supremacists” who are trying to corrupt Christian nations so they can rule the world from Jerusalem. Pike’s articles have been posted widely on hate sites, including and, the leading white supremacist Web forum.

Some groups have even gone multimedia. The Family Research Council, an anti-gay think tank, this month produced a YouTube video that features congressmen and clergy telling tall tales about the proposed legislation. “If someone, in effect, were to hurt a homosexual, or maybe not hire one, that would become a hate crime which is punished more than if you just hurt someone else,” said Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.). In fact, the law has nothing to do with hiring practices and requires prosecutors to show that a crime was committed because of the victim’s sexual orientation; it’s not enough for the victim to be gay.

Also in the video, several speakers who should know better falsely claim that the bill tramples on free speech. “Individual pastors … could be charged or be subject to intimidation for simply expressing a Biblical worldview on the issue of homosexual behavior,” said Rep. Mike Pence (R-Ind.).

Again, that’s untrue. The hate crime bill would extend federal protection to victims of a physical attack (or attempted attack) on the basis of sexual orientation, gender, gender identity or disability. Pastors would still be free to preach against homosexuality. The act would also increase funding for state and local authorities to prosecute hate crimes, including those based on sexual orientation. And it would allow federal authorities to investigate and prosecute hate crimes when state or local agencies don’t do so.

The proposed hate crimes bill was approved as an amendment to a defense spending bill that the Senate is expected to wrap up next week. The bill still isn’t a done deal, however. Although President Barack Obama supports the hate crimes legislation, he has threatened to veto the defense bill if it finances a military program he wants to end, according to The Associated Press.

Meanwhile, members of Stormfront — white supremacists who seemed about as well informed as the religious right organizations and politicians cited above — were griping today about the bill’s passage. Wrote a poster who identified himself as “Reference:” “I’m guessing the legislation implies it’s ok to rob, rape and murder as long as one declares the criminal act had nothing to do with race, etc.”

  • Mark Zamen

    Fortunately, it appears this legislation will be signed into law despite the frantic efforts of the religious right to defeat it. This is surely a step in the right direction. Does it mean “hate crimes” will cease? Of course not, but those who are inclined to commit them may think twice before doing so, and those who actually do will be more severely punished. The sad fact remains that a large segment of society still regards gay men and women (among various minorities) as second-class citizens – or worse. That is the salient point of my recently released biographical novel, Broken Saint. It is based on my forty-year friendship with a gay man, and chronicles his internal and external struggles as he battles for acceptance (of himself and by others). More information on the book is available at

    Mark Zamen, author

  • Mike visaggio

    What I want to know from you guys is, what conceivable purpose does hate crime legislation serve other than make a symbolic statement enforceable by law that a crime against one person is worse than the identical crime against another, just because of the thoughts in a person’s mind?
    Are you seeking thought control? Do you seek to impose acceptance of certain lifestyles on others? If someone hurt a straight person, how is that less of an offense than if he hurt a gay person?
    I am asking this in honest puzzlement, as a person who bears no animosity to anybody because of their color, ethnicity or sexual preference.

  • Sam Molloy

    The last scene in the movie “Bruno” is a chilling documentary of hate in our time. Bruno finds himself in a Wrestling Cage Match in Arkansas. It could be a lot of places. When he starts kissing his opponent the crowd goes nuts and yells all the things we’ve all heard and throws chairs. The crowd in that scene was real. They didn’t know they were part of a movie. It took over 40 cops several hours to rescue the actors. We need Federal Hate Crime legislation.

  • GENO(syde)

    The argument of sexuality(of sorts) as a hatecrime is quite egregious. So I’ll degress from the debate above.

    Regular readers of the SPLC blog knows that when the SPLC reports hatecrimes and its victims. Those victims reported are generally listed in these catagories:
    A.) Jews
    B.) Latinos/Hispanics
    C.) African-American
    D.) And sometimes Homosexuals and other perculiar oddities.

    Any other victims who do not meet the criteria above are not generally reported.
    In Rapid City they prosecuted its first hatecrime[?]:

    Their first hatecrime? Yeah right. Its not the first in that racist hick town as told by nearly all the local Natives who make up the largest ethnic minority group in R.C.. More like the 100th or so hatecrimes unreported. Given the long and wary strong anti-indian sentiment that dates back ages, from the time of General KKKuster’s utter defeat. And the dead “frontier mentally” of the modern ofay retrograded species is still evident to this day and age. The SPLC needs to look beyond the archetypical Blacks & Browns and start including a wide array of victims of hatecrimes, regardless if they’re not Black or Latino. But in any given case, R.C.’s first hatecrime prosecutorial is a fresh start. Just a baby step towards a long way of achieving Justice for the Nation’s most oppressive ethnic group. It is significant in many ways that even in the Nation’s vitriolic racist towns, the Hatecrime Bill can still be applied, because if we are a Nation of laws, then the law itself can reign supreme, right in the heart of the a repulsive racist environment one can endure.

  • Dee

    I suppose some of the more conservative politicians habitually forget that paraphilia knows no particular sexual orientation. Straights, bisexuals, and gays can equally struggle with it. Never mind that straight men have a higher prevalence of transvestisism and cross-dressing fetishism.

  • Ian

    More info:

    Type “sexual orientation” into and you will see it only includes heterosexuality, homosexuality, and bisexuality. No mainstream psychological organization has any conflicting definiton.

    Rep. Hastings was mocking the lies of people like you in his speech. Stop quote mining.

    That amendment was rejected because no sane prosecutor or judge would interpret the law that way. It was a waste of time.

  • More info

    >>According to the TVC, these sexual orientations include incest, voyeurism and bestiality.

    >>>That’s false; “sexual orientation” refers only to heterosexuality, homosexuality and
    >>>Many religious right groups… — seem not to have read the bill at all.

    The person posting this article has not read the bill, either !

    Sexual orientation is nowhere defined,
    we have only the spoken words of Rep. Hastings:

    In the House, Rep. Alcee Hastings, D-Fla., confirmed that anyone with any “disability or all of these ‘philias’ and fetishes and ‘isms’ need not live in fear.”

    When an amendment was offered to confirm that pedophiles were not protected, it was rejected.