Hate crimes law now extends protections to gays, lesbians, and transgendered people, but freedom of speech advocates warn it could be used against Christians who believe homosexuality is a sin.
It's a danger that has become a reality in the United Kingdom.
Religious Expression or Criminal Behavior?
Pauline Howe was shocked to be the target of a police investigation simply because she objected to a gay pride parade in her neighborhood.
Bishop E.W. Jackson joined CBN News to discuss why Christians need to take notice of situations where their rights are being denied. Click play to see the report, followed by Jackon's comments.
"I said it was an offense to me and an offense to God as well that such a thing should be paraded on the streets of Norwich," Howe said.
Two police officers visited her home after she wrote a letter to the Norwich City Council complaining about its decision allowing homosexuals to march in the city center. They said she may have committed a hate crime.
Howe had joined a group of other Christians in a peaceful protest at the gay pride parade last July. It was there that parade participants verbally abused her with sexually explicit words, prompting her to write the letter.
"People came up and whispered it in my ear and were gone," she recalled. "It was only when I thought about what was said afterwards I realized just how bad it was."
In the letter, Howe referred to homosexuals as "sodomites." She blamed their "perverted sexual practice" for sexually transmitted diseases as well as "the fall of every empire."
The city told her she could be charged with a criminal offense for expressing those views because "a hate incident is any incident that is perceived by the victim or another person as being motivated by prejudice or hatred."
Howe says her statements are based on deeply held religious beliefs.
A spokesman at the Norfolk police station defended the decision to send officers to Howe's home. He said the city council reported the incident as a crime and asked police to investigate.
Gay Leader: Police Response 'Disproportionate'
Howe, a 67-year-old grandmother, says the visit was quite a traumatizing experience.
"One of them sat opposite me and she was the lady that did most of the talking and the other one stood at the other end of the room," she said. "She wouldn't sit down. And that in itself I found quite frightening and intimidating."
Even Ben Summerskill, the head of the national gay lobby group Stonewall, called the police response "disproportionate."
The police determined Howe did not commit a crime. However, she has sought legal advice from the Christian Institute. Like many she's concerned at the free speech implications of police officers investigating people's beliefs.
"We're not allowed to express our biblical evangelical beliefs anymore without being frightened quite frankly," she said.
The Christian Institute is investigating whether Norwich City Council and the police breached Howe's rights to free speech and religious liberty. If so, they could possibly file a lawsuit on her behalf.