For all their protests about so-called “thought-crime laws,” Exodus president Alan Chambers and executive vice president Randy Thomas seem content to tolerate such laws, in case they might be used to prosecute non-Christians for violent crimes committed against Christians.

Despite their whispered personal misgivings, their employer Exodus and their employer’s primary benefactor, Focus on the Family, refuse to take an emphatic public stand against existing state and federal laws that provide investigatory assistance and enhanced sentencing of violent crimes that are based on the victim’s religion and race. Their objection is solely to laws that would extend coverage to violent crimes based upon the victim’s same- or opposite gender sexual orientation.

It seems that hate-crime/bias-crime laws are tolerable for Exodus and Focus — provided that they grant special rights for race and religion, rather than equal prosecution of all bias-related violent crimes.

But a New York judge’s ruling on Friday may undermine the ex-gay rhetoric.

As XGW and Republic of T have previously pointed out, the religious-rightist talk of thought crimes is a whitewash: Punishment of intent is simply not their concern.

XGW’s David Roberts noted regarding Focus’ latest hate-crime video:

What you will find at the end of this clip is what I believe is actually at the heart of the matter. Focus, et al, simply can’t allow sexual orientation to be codified into federal statutes as real and fixed, even as a byproduct.

After all the time and money they have spent trying to convince us that homosexuality is nothing more than a behavior, and a sinful one at that, it is against their self-interests to allow the obvious to make it into law. So in another example of the ends justifying the means, they use fear and lies to deny another vulnerable group the same protections against violent hate crimes that they themselves enjoy as members of a protected group by virtue of their religion.

Republic of T expands upon that observation in his post, Whose Death Would Jesus Mock:

The difference is that usually the above is covered with a thin veneer of “we’re not in favor of discrimination, etc., we just don’t think there should be a law about it,” which falls into the category of supportive non-support. It’s like the religious right in Minnesota opposing legislation giving same-sex couples the right to hospital visitation.

    … Conservative groups are fighting the proposal. Their concern is not about visitation, but putting anything into law that acknowledges same sex partnerships.
    “What we object to is the creation of these domestic partner statuses, which is really marriage by another name and that’s what we see they are attempting to do”, said Tom Prichard of the Minnesota Family Council.

Never mind that without a law, there is no right to visitation, and thus is can be denied to same-sex couples at the whim of whomever happens to be in charge of the nurses desk. And without legal recourse. So, essentially, bigots get away with manifesting their bigotry in a way that impacts our lives.

And provisions in the hate crimes bill would help prevent that from happening. It provides for federal agencies to aid state and local agencies with investigations of hate crimes, and to provide financial resources to cover the cost of investigations.

It provides for federal agencies to step in and conduct investigations when state and local officials can’t or won’t conduct investigations, as was done in the murders of civil rights workers when white southern sheriffs and juries refused to treat those murders as crimes. Case in point, right now the FBI is investigating a 61-year-old lynching in Georgia.

Regardless of the feelings of their individual employees, Exodus and Focus institutionally object to any legal recognition that violent hate crimes do happen against same-sex-attracted people. They object to such violence being investigated and prosecuted equitably. This week, a Focus article opposing the protection of same-sex-attracted people in existing hate-crime laws ridiculed the very notion of “sexual orientation” with scare quotes. (Gay people do not really exist, you see — therefore there are no crimes to investigate.)

But on Friday, the New York Times reported a judge’s observation that may help to unravel the ex-gay doubletalk.

Three men arrested in the death of a gay man who was beaten and then struck by a car during an October robbery attempt can be charged with hate crimes without evidence that they were motivated by hatred for gay men, a judge ruled yesterday.

In other words, intent — hatred — is not what’s being punished. The sole target of a properly worded and enforced bias-crime law is the deliberate and premeditated attempt to seek out and injure or kill someone on the basis of perceived sexual orientation.

“The grand jury evidence shows that this is not a case where hate crimes are charged simply because the victim just happened to be of a particular sexual orientation,” Justice Konviser wrote.

“Rather, this is a case where the defendants deliberately set out to commit a violent crime against a man whom they intentionally selected because of his sexual orientation. Thus, the hate crimes charges in this case are consistent with the intent of the Legislature.”

If victim Michael Sandy had been killed because of his Christian faith, Exodus and Focus would be screaming for punishment to the fullest extent possible. But because Sandy was perceived by the killers to be gay, Exodus and Focus are content for investigation and sentencing to be as lenient as local authorities will allow.

Thankfully, New York state’s bias-crime law includes sexual orientation. If the crime had occurred in Texas or Georgia, it’s reasonable to surmise that authorities in some local jurisdictions would whitewash Sandy’s death just as surely as these authorities once ignored the murders of black Americans. And because there is no federal coverage for sexual orientation, nothing could be done to force local authorities to equitably uphold laws against violent crime.

Addendum: For more discussion of Focus on the Family’s role as a benefactor of Exodus, go here.

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