A growing movement that experts believe could end up in the criminalization of Christianity in the United States is being exposed in a new documentary being prepared for airing on October 26, officials at Coral Ridge Ministries have announced.
"Hate Crime Laws" is a half-hour exposé that shows how Christians in America, Canada, Australia, and Sweden have been arrested and prosecuted for expressing opinions that are rooted in the Bible regarding homosexual conduct, Islam or other topics about which Scriptures express clear teachings.
"On the surface, hate crime laws might sound like a good idea," said Jerry Newcombe, of Coral Ridge, who hosts the special. "After all, none of us advocates hatred or violence against another person. But if you look below the surface, suddenly you realize that these laws are really thought crime laws."
In Colorado, for example, Gov. Bill Ritter signed into law earlier this year a plan that analysts believe effectively bans publication of the Bible in the state. The gender "anti-discrimination" law bans publication of statements that can be perceived as being negative toward those individuals choosing alternative sexual lifestyles.
Pro-homosexual advocates long have sought such a law, but opponents fear it would be used to crack down on those who maintain a biblical perspective that condemns homosexuality as sin. Observers note it would criminalize speech and thought, since other criminal actions already are addressed with current statutes.
Canada already has an aggressive "hate crimes" law, and there authorities have gone so far as to tell a Christian pastor he must recant his faith because of the legislation that bans statements that can be "perceived" as condemning another person.
Some states already have similar statutes, too, and in New Mexico, a photography company run by two Christians was fined $6,600 by the state for declining to provide services to a lesbian couple setting up a lookalike "marriage" ceremony.
The documentary cites the New Mexico case, as well as others.
"Canadian youth pastor Stephen Boissoin wrote a letter to the editor in 2002 criticizing homosexual activism and offering compassion and hope for people trapped by homosexuality. A human rights tribunal took notice and slapped him with a $5,000 fine, ordered him to apologize in writing, and snuffed out his free speech rights by placing a prior restraint on his public expression of any 'disparaging' opinions about homosexuality," Coral Ridge officials said.
"In Sweden, Pastor Ake Green spoke out against homosexual conduct in a 2003 sermon and was prosecuted for 'hate speech,'" the announcement continued.
In Australia, all it took to bring two ministers into a courtroom on charges of vilifying Islam was a seminar in their own church about Muslim beliefs.
The late Coral Ridge founder D. James Kennedy repeatedly had warned such developments would endanger Americans' civil rights.
"This will silence churches, which is their great desire – that churches ... may not be able to say anything negative about homosexuality," he said in an earlier presentation.
An online presentatiion on the issue features Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council.
"Homosexuals know they must silence the church in this country, and that's what's behind this," he warns.
Robert Knight, director of the Culture and Media Institute, also appears.
The goal, he said, is the "criminalization of Christianity. If you say traditional morality is now a form of hate and bigotry, and bring the full weight of the government, you have criminalized basic Christian moral doctrine."
Other guests include Richard Land, president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention; Matt Barber, director of cultural affairs at Liberty Counsel; and Tristan Emmanuel, a Presbyterian minister who resigned from the pulpit to found the Equipping Christians for the Public Square Centre.
Opponents of such actions note the deceptiveness of some of the proposals. In Colorado, for example, "Section 8 of the bill makes it a crime to publish or distribute anything that is deemed a 'discrimination' against the homosexual and transsexual lifestyle," according to the Christian Family Alliance.
Mark Hotaling, executive director for the Alliance, said initially supporters and even some opponents of the bill explained that there was an exception for churches and church organizations. However, lawmakers then attached to the bill a state "safety clause" which is supposed to deal with laws that are fundamental to protecting the lives of residents.
That, he said, simply stripped away any potential allowances for churches and church groups.