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AFA attempts, fails at Snopes response

by Jeremy Hooper

Picture 1-82As you might have already seen, the Urban Legends website Snopes.com this week called out the American Family Association out for the way they've been misrepresenting proposed federal hate crimes legislation. More specifically, Snopes cited the AFA's use of the flawed "pro-family" talking point that suggests such legislation would curb folks' rights to speak ill of homosexuality within the confines of their religious faith.

The AFA had issued this talking point:

A bill now before Congress (H.R.1592 / S.1105) would criminalize negative comments concerning homosexuality, such as calling the practice of homosexuality a sin from the pulpit, a "hate crime" punishable by a hefty fine and time in prison. This dangerous legislation would take away our freedom of speech and our freedom of religion.

The Snopes.com response to the above point went like this:

The bill addresses “willfully causing bodily injury to any person” (as well as attempts to cause bodily injury to any person”) because of “actual or perceived … gender, sexual orientation, [or] gender identity.” The bill does not “criminalize negative comments concerning homosexuality,” nor would it make “calling the practice of homosexuality a sin from the pulpit a ‘hate crime’.” The bill has nothing to do with the issue of speech; it only prescribes criminal penalties for the willful infliction of bodily injury on others. In fact, the version of the bill passed by the House of Representatives on 3 May 2007 includes a clause that specifically precludes it from applying to conduct protected by the free speech and free exercise of religion provisions of the Constitution.

Well, clearly the AFA has had their nerves hit, as they've now issued a missive responding to what they claim are Snopes' own lies and misreps. Here is their response to the above quoted text:

AFA response to Snopes: American Family Association became concerned about the imminent threat to free speech during the Judiciary Committee hearings about H.R.1592. During the hearings Representative Gohmert directed the following question to Representative Davis (the sponsor of Section 8 – H.R.1592): “If a minister preaches that sexual relations outside of marriage of a man and woman is wrong, and somebody within that congregation goes out and does an act of violence, and that person says that that minister counseled or induced him through the sermon to commit the act, are you saying under your amendment that in no way could that ever be introduced against the minister?” Representative Davis answered, “No.” In other words, it could be introduced in action against the minister. Click here to read this section of the Judiciary Committee hearing.

Ah yes, that same Gohmert/Davis exchange that the "pro-family" kids keep using to justify their fears. And of course just like the rest of their pals, the AFA is completely ignoring the part where the minister was suggested to have COUNSELED OR INDUCED the perp to commit the act, not to have just merely preached Leviticus. They, like the rest of their allies, completely overlook the fact that ANYONE who is said to have induced a crime must be questioned about their role in the violence. They ignore this common criminal-justice sense, and instead just simplistically say, "See, Congressman Davis could not guarantee preachers will always get off scot free when accused of inciting violence, so therefore it's proof positive that this bill is gonna screw us!" They MUST see the difference between preaching a non-gay-accepting version of Romans I and promoting actual violence. If not, then that's a whole other national conversation that we need to be having!

While we're sure the AFA thinks they are setting Snopes straight with this, it would seem to us that if this is the best comeback they could muster, then their usual course of simply ignoring discourse might've been a more productive option. Snopes: 1, AFA: 0.

AFA response to Snopes.com [AFA]
Hate Crimes Prevention Act [Snopes]

**UPDATE: Here is another humorous attempt at refutation from the AFA's Snopes response...

AFA's initial claim:

A California lawsuit which is headed to the U.S. Supreme Court would make the use of the words “natural family,” “marriage” and “union of a man and a woman” a “hate speech” crime in government workplaces. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has already ruled in favor of the plaintiffs!

Snopes' refutation:

The lawsuit had nothing to do with classifying certain words or phrases as “hate speech” or establishing their usage as a “crime.”

AFA's response to Snopes:

AFA took this information directly from a Washington Times article dated June 11, 2007 titled, "Suit to decide workplace 'hate speech'." The first line of the article reads as follows, “The words ‘natural family,’ ‘marriage’ and ‘union of a man and a woman’ can be punished as ‘hate speech’ in government workplaces, according to a lawsuit that is being appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court.”

Oh wow, AFA, you quote a story from the most socially conservative paper in the nation to justify your stance?! All that shows is that BOTH OF YOU GOT IT WRONG!! Snopes is 100% accurate in saying that the lawsuit had absolutely nothing to do with criminalizing these words. In fact, if you'd like to read a detailed analysis of the truth behind the case case (which we assembled in response to the Traditional Values Coalition's similar claims) then go here for our full report on the matter.

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Your thoughts

You have to love (and by love I mean the "hit some one with a frying pan" love) that all the big traditional values groups that are playing this tune and spreading the similar fear based lies rarely or never quote the actual bill or post a link to the full text of the bill for there subscriber base to read for themselves. The reasons are obvious of course, control the information and commentary and you can control the result (at least amongst themselves). Granted its no surprise but even among all the "he said, she said" arguments that simple fact pushes my buttons the most. Even if they want to choose to characterize the premise and supposed outcome of the bill in the light they do, and even if others buy into it, the fact that they don't ever fulfill the burden of proof through providing the bill is undeniable. It simply pushes my buttons. Religious view of homosexuality or not, integrity in that sense is the least they could have. Instead of the bill they provide a "summer," which is longer then the bills actual text. I guess they felt the need to fill in all the words they felt it was missing.

But then again that’s why we are here.

Posted by: Patrick B | Jun 21, 2007 4:09:33 AM

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