The Thomas More Law Center (TMLC), a national public interest law firm based in Ann Arbor Michigan, this morning filed a federal lawsuit against U.S. Attorney General Eric H. Holder, Jr., challenging the constitutionality of the recently-enacted federal Hate Crimes Act. The Act criminalizes so-called “bias” crimes motivated by a person’s “actual or perceived” “sexual orientation” or “gender identity” and thus elevates those engaged in certain deviant sexual behaviors to a special, protected class of persons under federal law.
The lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan, on behalf of Pastor Levon Yuille, Pastor Rene OuellettePastor James Combs, and Gary Glenn, the president of the American Family Association of Michigan (AFA-Michigan). [Read Complaint].
Richard Thompson, President and Chief Counsel of the Law Center, and a former county prosecutor, commented, “There is no legitimate law enforcement need for this federal law. Of the 1.38 million violent crimes reported in the U.S. by the FBI in 2008, only 243 were considered as motivated by the victim’s sexual orientation. Moreover, Eric Holder himself testified at a Senate hearing that the states are doing a fine job in this area.”
Thompson continued, “This is part of the list of political payoffs to homosexual advocacy groups for support of Barack Obama in the last presidential election. The sole purpose of this law is to criminalize the Bible and use the threat of federal prosecutions and long jail sentences to silence Christians from expressing their Biblically-based religious belief that homosexual conduct is a sin. It elevates those persons who engage in deviant sexual behaviors, including pedophiles, to a special protected class of persons as a matter of federal law and policy.”
“Christians are taught to love the sinner, but hate the sin. In fact, the greatest threat of violence to ‘homosexuals’ comes not from Christians but from other ‘homosexuals, ‘ according to statistics compiled by their own advocacy groups, ” said Thompson.
The Hate Crimes Act, cited as the “Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, ” was dubbed by its critics as the “Pedophile Protection Act, ” after an amendment to explicitly prohibit pedophilia from protection under the act was defeated by a majority of Democrats. The Act itself is poorly written, based on erroneous facts and internally incoherent principles.
Pastor Yuille is the Pastor of The Bible Church, which is located in Michigan. He is also the National Director of the National Black Pro-Life Congress and the host of Joshua’s Trail, a radio talk show that airs in Michigan and can be heard in parts of Canada. Pastor Yuille is often warned by his Canadian listeners that he will prosecuted under the new U.S. hate crimes law for his public ministry similar to how ministers and other religious persons in Canada are being silenced by that country’s “hate crimes” legislation. As an African-American, Pastor Yuille finds it offensive to equate the so-called “civil rights” struggle of persons who engage in homosexual behavior with the real civil rights struggle of African-Americans.
Pastor Ouellette is the Pastor of First Baptist Church of Bridgeport, Michigan, which has approximately 7,000 members. He is the author of five books as well as many pamphlets and Bible tracts. Pastor Ouellette travels across the country preaching God’s Word, which includes the Biblical teaching on homosexuality.
And Pastor Combs is the lead Pastor of Faith Church, The Point Church, The Rock Church, and The River Church, all of which are located in Michigan. Pastor Combs pastors approximately 10,000 church members. He too preaches the Biblical teaching on homosexuality as part of his public ministry.
The lawsuit alleges that this new provision of the federal hate crimes law violates the plaintiffs’ rights to freedom of speech, expressive association, and free exercise of religion protected by the First Amendment, and it violates the equal protection guarantee of the Fifth Amendment. The lawsuit also alleges that Congress lacked authority to enact the legislation under the Tenth Amendment and the Commerce Clause of the United States Constitution.
The lawsuit expresses concern that the Hate Crimes Act “provides law enforcement with authorization and justification to conduct federal investigative and other federal law enforcement actions against Plaintiffs and others deemed to be opponents of homosexual activism, the homosexual lifestyle, and the homosexual agenda, ” thereby expanding “the jurisdiction of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and other federal law enforcement and intelligence gathering agencies.”
Consequently, the new hate crimes law “subjects Plaintiffs to increased government scrutiny, questioning, investigation, surveillance, and intimidation on account of their strong, public opposition to homosexual activism, the homosexual lifestyle, and the homosexual agenda, thereby causing a tangible and concrete deterrent, inhibitory, and chilling effect on Plaintiffs’ activities and their rights to freedom of speech, expressive association, and the free exercise of religion” in violation of the United States Constitution.
Robert Muise, Senior Trial Counsel for TMLC who is handling the case, observed, “This new federal law promotes two Orwellian concepts. It creates a special class of persons who are ‘more equal than others’ based on nothing more than deviant, sexual behavior. And it creates ‘thought crimes’ by criminalizing certain ideas, beliefs, and opinions, and the involvement of such ideas, beliefs, and opinions in a crime will make it deserving of federal prosecution. Consequently, government officials are claiming the power to decide which thoughts are criminal under federal law and which are not.”
Under a related federal criminal statute, anyone who “aids, abets, counsels, commands, induces or procures” the commission of an offense under the new hate crimes law is liable as if the person committed the violent crime.
All of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit take a strong public stand against the homosexual agenda, which seeks to normalize disordered sexual behavior that is contrary to Biblical teaching. As president of AFA-Michigan, Gary Glenn is often publicly described and listed as an “enemy” of those who promote “gay rights” and other aspects of the homosexual agenda. In 2006, for example, The Advocate, a “gay-rights” periodical, described Glenn as ” relentless foe of gay rights in every context.”
It is a favored tactic of homosexual activists to accuse pastors and other Christians of responsibility for violent acts on account of their public opposition to homosexual behavior.
The former director of policy for the Triangle Foundation, a Michigan-based homosexual lobby group that supported the new federal law, publicly stated, “We personally believe that the AFA may support the murder of gay, lesbian, and bisexual people.”
The former executive director of the Triangle Foundation publicly stated the following regarding “hate crimes”: “The vocal anti-gay activists should be held accountable as accessories to these crimes because, many times, it is their rhetoric that led the perpetrators to believe that their crimes are OK. . . . If a criminal borrows a gun and then uses it to kill someone, the law considers the gun owner an accessory to the crime. So, too, are the people who own the words that incite violence.”
Thompson commented further, “Indeed, in many other jurisdictions, so-called ‘hate crimes’ legislation is being used to prosecute and jail pastors and priests for giving sermons or homilies that reflect the Christian view toward homosexuality. That’s why it was critical for us to file this lawsuit. This anti-Christian agenda must be stopped now.”
In 2007, when Congress was considering similar hate crimes legislation, a motion was made before the Committee on Rules in the House of Representatives to clarify that the printing, distribution, or public reading of the Bible was not prohibited by any provision of the proposed bill. The motion was defeated.
In addition to the First and Fifth Amendment claims, the lawsuit also claims that Congress lacked the authority under the Constitution to enact the hate crimes law because it is “legislation that purports to suppress violent crime and vindicate its victims, ” and “here is no better example of the police power, which the Founders denied Congress and reposed in the States, than the suppression of violent crime and the vindication of its victims.”
The lawsuit notes that the link between the activity punished by this new law and interstate commerce “is so attenuated that it places no real limit on Congress’ power to regulate.” Moreover, as the lawsuit points out, reports by the FBI in 2007 and 2008 indicate that only a fraction of 1% of all violent crimes committed in the United States each year are “bias” motivated on account of the victim’s sexual orientation.
In fact, Eric Holder, a supporter of the new federal law, was asked by Senator Orrin Hatch in a hearing whether there was any evidence of a trend that “hate crimes” were going unpunished at the State level. Holder stated without reservation that there was no such evidence and that, in fact, States were, by and large, doing a fine job in this area. Consequently, as the lawsuit alleges, there is no national problem associated with “bias” motivated crimes on account of the victim’s “sexual orientation” to warrant federal involvement.
Even in the this liberally-controlled Congress, to garner enough votes for passage, the politically-divisive “hate crimes” law had to be included in the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2010, even though the law is non-germane and non-related to defense. Senator John McCain stated in the Senate Congressional Record, “It is indeed, unfortunate, that we are using the brave men and women in uniform as leverage to pass hate crimes legislation.”
As Congressman Todd Akin noted, special prosecutions for so-called “hate crimes” are inherently divisive. Congressman Akin stated in the House Congressional Record, “[This new hate crimes law] increases hatred in America. . . . The law violates the most basic principle of law. Lady Justice is always supposed to have a blindfold across her face because, regardless of who you are when you appear before Lady Justice, . . Lady Justice does not notice. [The new hate crimes law] violates that basic principle. It creates animosity by elevating one group over another group; thus, it creates hatred.”
Through this lawsuit, the plaintiffs seek judicial reassurance by way of declaratory and injunctive relief 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.