WASHINGTON -- The top Republican in the House says protections for America's religious freedoms are facing a serious threat.
Minority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio, says a protection for religious speech in the Senate version of the hate crimes bill may be stripped out.
"In my view, this is not legislation that is needed. It's very dangerous and at a minimum there ought to be an exemption for religious institutions," Boehner said.
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Under legislation that's already passed the House and Senate, gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered victims will be offered greater protections under the law.
Lawmakers have to work out differences between the bills before sending it to President Barack Obama -- that includes deciding whether to keep an amendment to the Senate bill that offers protections for religious speech.
The top House Republican tells CBN News it's unlikely.
"As we get into a House-Senate conference on this issue, I really don't see anything good that can come from it," Boehner said.
It's a possibility that concerns many Christians who fear the legislation will have a chilling affect on religious speech -- specifically biblically held beliefs against homosexual lifestyles.
"You're taking something that people of Orthodox faith see as being, you know, sinful and you're elevating it to a position of elevated status under the law," Family Research Council president Tony Perkins said. "There's going to be conflicts there no matter what you say in the bill."
Perkins calls it a federal power grab -- the law allows the U.S. government to take over the prosecution of state and local cases involving hate crimes against gays.
"Under this hate crimes provision, you can have an 80-year-old woman who is mugged by a thug or a 7-year-old girl who is the target of a sexual predator, they receive less protection under the law than two men who sleep together in a bed. Something is wrong with that," Perkins said.
President Obama is expected to sign the bill into law.