The anti-gay hate group the American Family Association (AFA) of Michigan is busy spreading misinformation and insisting gay people not be protected from intimidating and hate crimes.
The AFA, led by homophobe, Gary Glenn, has had their supporters flood Michigan legislative offices with letters written by the AFA railing against House Bills 6340 and 6341 that addresses hate crimes. The bills were approved last week by the House before it broke for its two-week break, and it now goes to the Senate for consideration. The AFA falsely claims it supports censorship, it discriminates against religion and it gives gays special treatment and protection. Although the bill covers hate crimes committed because of ethnicity, race, disability and gender, it’s the protection it offers to gays that sets them off.
It's very similar to the objections raised about Matt's Safe School Law that would require public school districts in Michigan to establish bullying policies. In fact, it mentions those bills, HBs 4162 and 4091, in the letter.
"As with recent "bullying" legislation, HB 6341 segregates victims of certain crimes into special "protected class" categories -- including "sexual orientation" (homosexual behavior) and "gender identity" (cross-dressing) -- and then doles out special enhanced protection based on membership in those categories."
HBs 6340 and 6341 would increase the penalties for crimes committed because of person's bias toward another person or group based on race, disability, gender, religion, sexual orientation or other reason. According to the bill analysis, "A person is guilty of ethnic intimidation if he or she maliciously, and with specific intent to intimidate or harass another person because of that individual's race, color, religion, gender, or national origin, caused physical contact with another; damages, destroys, or defaces any real or personal property of another; and/or threatens, by word or act, to do one of the fore-mentioned acts."
Also, a person who hung or displayed a noose on property; displayed a burning cross or displayed any symbol that is historically or generally understood as intended to intimidate or threaten would be eligible to be charged. Last year in Michigan, there were 28 convictions for ethnic intimidation under a similar law.
The letter uses a debunk incident as a reason to oppose the bills.
"Such legislation has also proven to be a serious threat to religious freedom in other jurisdictions such as Philadelphia, where a multi-racial group of citizens in 2005 was arrested and prosecuted intimidation" because they read Bible verses out loud on a public street during a "gay pride" festival in the city."
They are actually referring to a 2004 incident where 11 members of the group Repent America, an organization that dedicates a large chunk of their time to protesting pro-gay events. they are not as bad as the Westboro Baptist Church, but they share some characteristics.
The incident continues to be misrepresented, and it has been debunked on Snopes. What happened was that they were using a bullhorn to drown out a stage performance with anti-gay shouts during Philly's annual Outfest, which led several people on-site to confront them. This then led the police to ask them to move in order to prevent any potential violence, but they refused -- which then and only then led to them being arrested for such charges as failure to disperse, possessing an instrument of crime (a bullhorn), obstructing a highway, criminal conspiracy, and disorderly conduct. Under Pennsylvania's hate crimes law they were also later charged with "ethnic intimidation" -- but in order to receive this additional charge, they had to first engage in behavior that the officers found unlawful.
However, when the charges were contested in court, it was ultimately determined that no hate crime law had been violated, and the charges were dismissed.
That has not stopped so-called Christen groups like the AFA from using the incident to further their agenda. This is not the first time conservative religious groups have misrepresented an incident to further their cause, and the most recent example occurred at Mount Hope Church in Delta Township on Nov. 9 where the church's claims did not match the police report.
The assault of so-called Christians on gays is disturbing, like the banning of gay marriage in California financed by the Mormon Church.