Friday, April 20, 2007

Proponents Say Proposed Hate Crimes Law Protects Free Speech

Proponents of H.R. 1592, the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2007, say fears by Christians that the bill will restrict religious expression opposing homosexuality are misplaced. (See prior posting.) This was the thrust of House Judiciary Committee testimony on Tuesday by George Washington University Law Professor Frederick Lawrence, who said that the Act "is aimed at criminal acts, not expression or thoughts." To assure this, drafters have included a new provision in 18 USC Sec. 249(d):
In a prosecution for an offense under this section, evidence of expression or associations of the defendant may not be introduced as substantive evidence at trial, unless the evidence specifically relates to that offense. However, nothing in this section affects the rules of evidence governing impeachment of a witness.
The inclusion of this provision led to endorsement of the bill by the ACLU. Additional information on H.R. 1592 is collected at the website [Thanks to Michael Lieberman for the lead.]