Hate speech laws are gaining momentum but a test case is in court in Philadelphia. Eleven members of a street witnessing team from Repent America were arrested and jailed for 21 hours. The team was attempting to witness at a homosexual "Outfest" on public property.
The original charges read to them included three felonies and five misdemeanors. Felonies were for "ethnic intimidation," "criminal conspiracy," and "possession of instruments of crime." Misdemeanors included "riot," "failure to disperse," and "disorderly conduct." If convicted as charged, they could face up to 47 years in prison. One member of the team, a 67-year-old woman is still in custody at this writing on a previous warrant in connection with an abortion clinic protest 9 years ago, that she had been told was cleared.
A preliminary hearing scheduled for October 18 was postponed at the request of their attorney Brian Fahling of the American Family Association Center for Law and Policy, for time to study the charges and prepare defense. The charge of "ethnic intimidation" stems from the hate speech law enacted recently by the Pennsylvania legislature. The "instruments of crime" were probably the placards that the group was carrying.
California's governor recently signed a bill that made hate speech criminal. SB 1234 makes it a punishable offense to "intimidate" or "oppress" another person because of their ethnicity, sex, race, national origin, or sexual orientation. The California and Pennsylvania laws are similar to ones in Europe and Canada where people have been fined and sentenced to jail for preaching or writing that homosexuality is a sin.
At the federal level, an amendment was attached to a defense budget bill recently that would have included punishment for hate speech at the federal level. Fortunately the amendment was tossed out by the House-Senate conference committee. But you can be sure it will show up again.
We must pray that the Spirit of God will confound this end run around the freedom of speech guaranteed by the constitution. We must let our legislators know we are concerned. More so, we must pray for those caught in this sinful delusion over sexuality. God can free them from homosexuality just as easily as He does from any other sin.