I Do, But I Don't

I Do, But I Don't

Monday, December 13, 2010

Wesselhoft: Federal Hate Crimes Law Defeated in Oklahoma, a Victory for the 1st & 10th Amendment!

By Rep. Paul Wesselhöft

The ACLU and Gov. Henry failed to realize that the federal hate crimes law was defeated in Oklahoma and his veto was not needed.  They think the bill was killed; it is alive and the law of the state! A victory for the First and Tenth Amendment!

Shamefully, this federal bill was a part of the U.S. appropriation bill to fund our military. It was passed because the U.S. Congress wanted to fund our military in the time of war. They had little choice.

HB 2572 protects Oklahoma clergy (pastors, priests, rabbis and imams) from charges of alleged hate speech. In federal law, “hate speech is any speech, gesture or conduct, writing, or display which is forbidden because it may incite violence or prejudicial action against or by a protected individual or group, or because it disparages or intimidates a protected individual or group.”

Oklahoma’s HB 2572 frees the clergy to admonish their parishioners on any number of moral issues addressed in their scriptures or “sacred” writings.

Alleged “hate speech” would apply only if there was evidence that the clergyperson was “connected to the direct conduct of planning, conspiring, or committing an act of violence as prescribed by law.”

This law may very well be the most important one that I have authored. Our Constitution’s First Amendment proclaims that “Congress shall make no law…abridging the freedom of speech…”  Our Founding Fathers and new nation especially respected and protected the freedom of speech from her esteemed pulpits.

Oklahoma has a means to resist bad federal law. Amendment X reads, “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution…are reserved to the States…”

The ACLU’s State 2010 Legislative scorecard published the following:

“The history of SB 1965 is riddled with irregularity. Originally filed as SB 2165, the legislation was Sen. Steven Russell’s attempt to effectively opt out of federal hate crimes legislation. The bill released Oklahoma law enforcement from their duty to cooperate with federal law enforcement in hate crimes investigations.  SB 2165 was not heard in the Senate Judiciary committee and was, as of February 19, 2010, deemed dead pursuant to the rules.  Russell, however, refused to accept defeat, hijacking an unrelated bill (SB 1965) to pursue his own, hare-inspired agenda.  This bill was not heard in the House of Representatives, as Rep. Mike Shelton accepted authorship of the bill in hopes of ending Russell’s assault on Oklahoma’s minority populations.”

And now for the rest of the story, Sen. Russell and I included the same negating language into my revised Funeral Protection Act (HB 2572); it passed overwhelmingly! The law of Oklahoma reads that clergy hate speech, if deemed hate speech,  must be “connected to the direct conduct of planning, conspiring, or committing an act of violence as prescribed by law.”

All Oklahoma ministers are protected (now by state law) from hate crimes. They can freely proclaim their messages from the pulpits. I am proud to be the primary author of the law that killed the federal Hate Crimes Law in Oklahoma. I thank Sen. Russell because he “refused to accept defeat.”

Again, a victory for the First and Tenth Amendment!