Hate Crime Bill Concerns Church Leaders

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A hate crimes bill that includes protections for gays and lesbians awaits a vote as from the U.S. Senate.

Members of the Senate Judiciary Committee asked Attorney General Eric Holder whether the law could be used to prosecute a minister who speaks out against homosexuality if a member of that congregation then assaults a gay person.
Holder insisted that "the bill was to hold people accountable for conduct, not speech."

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But other ministers fear that hate crimes law would violate their freedom of religion.

Despite clear biblical teaching on homosexuality, the issue has some Christians split.

"If I thought for one minute that this bill would limit anyone's religious faith expression or observance, I would not touch it with a 10 foot poll," said Mark Achtemeier of the University of Dubuque Theological Seminary. But that is not what the bill does. Section 10 explicitly reaffirms that our religious freedoms are fully protected under the constitution."

The House passed its version of hate crimes legislation in April. And with President Obama eager to sign it into law, the leader of the Senate says he's committed to passing this legislation before senators goes on recess in August.

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