Thought crimes? Think again
By: Judy Shepard
May 2, 2007 10:39 PM EST
When my son Matthew was beaten to death because he was gay, it was not the thoughts of the murderers that took him from us -- it was the physical violence fueled by their hate.
As the ultra-right begins a campaign of misinformation and bald-faced lies regarding pending federal hate crimes legislation, I refuse to be silent.
On Thursday, Congress is considering a bill that would expand federal aid to law enforcement officials investigating hate crimes that result in serious physical harm and death.
The Senate version of the legislation carries Matthew's name.
Congressional offices all across Washington are being flooded with phone calls opposing the legislation because political organizations on the ultra-right have been lying to their members, and telling them that this legislation would punish religious people for anti-gay speech -- dubbing this a "thought crimes bill."
One group spreading misinformation to its membership -- the so-called Traditional Values Coalition -- has even gone so far as to put a picture of Jesus on a "wanted" poster, implying that religious people who speak out against homosexuality could become the targets of criminal investigations.
Obviously, that's just not true.
The people spreading this type of propaganda are blatantly lying to their members out of fear that the federal government might finally legislatively recognize that gay Americans exist, and need the same rights and protections the rest of us take for granted.
Even worse, the Traditional Values Coalition is misleading and manipulating its members to make these phone calls to Congress, even when they know in their hearts that they are spreading lies.
This type of behavior has nothing to do with real traditional values.
In mid-April, more than 230 religious leaders representing congregations from every state in the union gathered on Capitol Hill to talk with lawmakers about hate violence that continues to plague this country.
This is what traditional values are all about -- caring for and protecting all people.
This legislation would grant local law enforcement officials federal funds for the investigation and prosecution of violent crimes motivated out of prejudice and hate that result in serious bodily injury and death.
Claims that the bill would punish preaching or other ways of speaking out against homosexuality ring particularly hollow because the legislation was specifically crafted to prevent that.
Two separate provisions make clear that speech unrelated to the violent crime under consideration could not be used to prove a hate crime. This is about violent actions.
As Senator Gordon Smith has said so eloquently, in this life, there is no greater tragedy that can befall a family than losing a child.
But having people play politics with legislation designed to help turn back the tide of violence that took Matthew from us adds insult to the injury in a way that I wouldn't wish on anyone.
Since Matthew's death, while I have continued my own personal grieving, I have met too many other mothers who have lost their children to senseless hate violence.
For all of those parents out there, for my own family, and for Matthew -- I am calling on leaders in Congress to stand up for the truth, and pass this bill on Thursday.
The legislation that is before Congress this week passed the House in 2005 and has been before both the House and the Senate for years.
It is meaningful and thoughtful legislation that has the broad support of leaders from both sides of the aisle and of hundreds of law enforcement officials around the country.
When the bill comes before the House today, some in Republican leadership are threatening to once again play wedge politics by using procedural floor gimmicks to derail the bill.
Let each of us be mindful that the only crime of thought we can commit this week would be to let these divisive politics get in the way of what is right and what is just. It’s time for all Americans to be able to live their lives free from hate violence.
Judy Shepard, is the mother of Matthew Shepard and executive director of the Matthew Shepard Foundation.
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Sunday, May 6, 2007
A Letter from Judy Shepard
Judy Shepard writes for Congress as they consider Hate Crimes legislation. She counters the lies of the ultra-right. The bill passed the House. Now the Senate is considering a similar bill that bears Matthew's name. If you have not written your Senators - do it now! HERE are the email and fax addresses of all Senators.
Posted by Ann at 8:02 AM