A Texas congressman who is a former judge warns that the "hate crimes" legislation reintroduced in the U.S. House could potentially lead to the arrest of Christian pastors who speak out against sexual immorality.
Representatives John Conyers (D-Michigan) and Mark Kirk (R-Illinois) are sponsoring the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act (H.R. 1913), also known as the "Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Act." The bill would add sexual orientation to the list of categories covered under federal hate crime law. When Democrats passed the bill in 2007, they were divided over whether to add "gender identity and expression" to the list.
Congressman Louie Gohmert (R-Texas) says under the legislation, pastors, rabbis, or imams could be charged with encouraging or inducing a "hate crime" if they preach against homosexuality.
"Every preacher of the gospel, unless you cut out parts of it; every imam who mentions anything with regard to sexual immorality -- they could be pursued, and in other countries they have been," says the Texas lawmaker.
Gohmert shares information he received from abroad. "I was talking to a guy from Norway who was telling me that people are even afraid to say Mary was a virgin, because just bringing up sexuality at all can raise problems with law enforcement," he says.
Gohmert believes the Conyers-Kirk bill is also unnecessary because hate-motivated crimes are not a major national epidemic. He notes that during his time as a judge, he found that people who commit crimes out of anger and hate have a better chance of being rehabilitated than those who simply commit crimes randomly.