Legislator’s Criminal Penalties Bill Points to Religious Speech as an Example

      There is a line in the western movie Open Range, in which actor Robert Duvall says to Kevin Costner something like, “if you listen to a man, he will tell you his true intentions.”   The intentions revealed in a recent news story should have sent shock waves throughout Indiana for those who cherish the First Amendment freedoms of speech and religion. 

     The September 25th WISH TV story was titled, “Transgendered woman harassed, seeks changes in state law.”  It concerned a biological male living as a woman in the Speedway area of Indianapolis.  

The alleged mistreatment claim against Abby Paden stemmed from  a neighbor who left a note by her truck.  It said, “man/woman/demon.”  Paden told reporters after that she “became paranoid.”  She was later confronted by a neighbor whom she assumes also left the note.  According to Paden, the neighbor approached her “calling her names and waving a Bible.”  Paden also claims that the neighbor often stares at her.  

Abby Paden called the police, but with no threats, no property damage, and no physical harm, the police told her that there was nothing that they could do about the situation.

AFA of Indiana will be the first to note that if what Ms. Paden alleges is actually true, this is not a good way for a person of faith to share the love of Christ with a neighbor who has a gender identity disorder.  It is poor behavior. There’s no doubt about it.  However, bad manners are not illegal.  There is no right not to be offended in Indiana . . . Not yet. 

If holding up a Bible for a neighbor to see is an offensive act worthy of prosecution, then all the Hillary for President signs, near Trump supporters’ homes are going to keep the police very busy.   If not being offended is to be a goal of state law, then talk radio’s days here seem limited. 

This may sound like an overreaction, but Paden and the media seamlessly connected this incident with a call for new criminal penalties in the 2017 legislature.  

Conveniently, a legislator announced in August that he wants Indiana to pass his “hate crimes” law.   State Senator Greg Taylor,  (D-Indianapolis) was asked about Paden’s story. He sided with her and noted that his bill would legally address her concerns.   Sen. Taylor’s “hate crime” bill has not been made public, but clearly it would seem that it must punish speech. 

It is a sign of our times when the culture rallies behind dozens of professional athletes who are offending millions of veterans with their protesting of our national anthem, while a person who waves a Bible at their neighbor fuels a call for legislation to criminalize speech. 

It is also a great irony that a liberal legislator would seem to think that he could pass a law to make people speak or behave better in a society full of profanity that rebels against every moral standard possible.

There is no credible evidence that law enforcement has been failing to investigate, arrest, and convict individuals for actual violent crimes against any particular victims, including homosexuals.  Still, the push for “hate crimes” legislation is something that just won’t go away.

The Family Research Council points out a potentially serious concern regarding politicized motive-based punishments.  “The truth is that wherever hate crimes laws have been adopted, there is an inevitable move to drop the requirement that there be an associated act of violence. In such cases, these laws have evolved to target what is regarded as hate speech and expression. What you say could literally land you in jail.”  

Senator Taylor’s bill may not have much evolution to do if he has already indicated that it would criminalize the acts of speech by Paden’s neighbor. 

According to attorneys with the Alliance Defense Fund, hate crimes legislation could prove disastrous for pastors, churches, and organizations who advocate peacefully against the homosexual agenda and lifestyle. Here’s how: Currently, every state has laws that prohibit conspiracy to commit a crime. Linked to hate crimes, preaching or teaching against homosexual conduct could be prosecuted as conspiracy to commit a hate crime.”

For years homosexual demands groups have wanted hate crime laws granting special penalties for crimes against those who engage in homosexual behaviors. Many of those groups believe in banning speech that raises questions about the risks of homosexuality. It would seem, based upon this news story, that legislation criminalizing any speech questioning homosexuality is possible in the 2017 General Assembly. 

AFA agrees that there is no universal speech right to things like obscenity. Yet, the agenda of the far left often seems to accommodate pornography, obscenity and matter harmful to minors while attempting to limit conservative or religious views.   

Freedom of speech, even if it involves poorly chosen or tactless words, is a broad and cherished right in a free society.  Novelist George Orwell said, “if liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear.”

The Indiana legislature convenes in January.  Let’s pray that silencing speech is not the next step in the “gay” agenda that the media embraces and pushes in the statehouse.