Appeals court throws out pastors’ Hate Crimes Prevention Act challenge
A Sixth Circuit appellate court threw out a lawsuit in which a group of anti-LGBT pastors alleged the 2009 Hate Crimes Prevention Act violated their civil liberties.
According to the Wall Street Journal‘s Law Blog, the court called the lawsuit “unnecessary” and derided it as a “political statement” rather than an actual grievance with the law.
The Michigan pastors filed the suit in 2010 on the grounds that the anti-hate crimes law could lead to their prosecution for denouncing homosexuality, which they see as a spiritual duty. Gary Glenn, head of the American Family Association of Michigan, and clergymen Levon Yuille, René B. Ouellette and James Combs argued that the law is a violation of their First Amendment rights.
The pastors argued that it is their duty to condemn and denounce homosexuality, that God has ordered them to “state clearly the immoral nature of homosexuality” and publicly speak out against “homosexuality, homosexual activism, and the homosexual agenda as being contrary to God’s law and His divinely inspired Word.”
The suit was thrown out of a Michigan state court as meritless, given that the law does not criminalize religious speech or any other form of speech, but only “willfully causing bodily injury” to another person. Appeals court Judge James Gwin ruled similarly.
In a sign that the court might find its patience wearing thin with the pastors, Judge Gwin wrote, “The Act does not prohibit Plaintiffs’ proposed course of hateful speech.”
Gwin also beat back the preachers’ assertion that the new law would have a chilling effect on anti-LGBT speech, saying that the plaintiffs brought to bear “no actual facts to support an assertion that the government has taken or intends to take any investigatory actions under the Act against those merely engaging in protected speech.”
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