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BAY CITY TIMES — Midland man, Bridgeport minister say hate crimes law could make sermons illegal

February 8, 2010

“‘Our point is that pastors and others (should not be) prosecuted as criminals for speaking out against homosexual behavior and the political agenda that promotes it,’ said Gary Glenn, a Midland resident and president of the American Family Association of Michigan. ‘It’s all about free speech,’ Glenn said. Glenn and three mid-Michigan ministers filed a civil rights suit challenging the constitutionality of the Hate Crimes Prevention Act that President Barack Obama signed in October.

…Glenn cited the 2007 death of Andrew Anthos of Detroit, allegedly a victim of hate crime violence due to his homosexuality. The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force partially blamed Glenn’s anti-homosexual speeches for Anthos’s death. ‘We of course condemn violent acts of any kind, including those committed against those involved in homosexual acts,’ Glenn said. ‘We are protecting the right of individuals to express their views and values without having to fear criminal prosecution for doing so.'”

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BAY CITY TIMES
Bay City, Michigan
February 4, 2010

Midland man, Bridgeport minister say hate
crimes law could make sermons illegal

by LaNia Coleman | The Bay City Times

Opponents of a new federal hate crime law say the legislation could turn ministers into criminals.

“Our point is that pastors and others are not prosecuted as criminals for speaking out against homosexual behavior and the political agenda that promotes it,” said Gary Glenn, a Midland resident and president of the American Family Association of Michigan.

“It’s all about free speech,” Glenn said.

Glenn and three mid-Michigan ministers filed a civil rights suit challenging the constitutionality of the Hate Crimes Prevention Act that President Barack Obama signed in October.

The act makes it a federal offense to assault someone because of his or her sexual orientation or gender identity.

The civil rights lawsuit filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Bay City names U.S. Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. as the defendant.

Besides Glenn, the plaintiffs are The Revs. Rene B. Ouellette, senior pastor of the 7,000-member First Baptist Church in Bridgeport Township; Jim Combs, pastor of Faith Baptist Church in Waterford Township; and Levon R. Yuille, pastor of The Bible Church in Ypsilanti.

Ouellette said the ministers are concerned that the law has the potential to allow the government to prosecute ministers for the content of their sermons.

“We believe that the law will be used to stifle free speech and keep people from quoting scripture as it is written,” Ouellette said.
“We do not object to others exercising their free speech rights when they say things we disagree with. But there are those who don’t want us to have a right to say what we believe based on word of God.”

Bay City attorney Jason P. Gower said he doesn’t believe that is the intent of the law, but he understands the pastors’ concerns.
A lawyer could cite the law in arguing that a sermon incited violence.

“For example, they could say that, but for their speech from the pulpit, this person would never have gone out and killed someone,” Gower said. “I don’t think that’s the intent of the legislation, but it needs to be made clear.”

A spokesman for the U.S. Department of Justice says the law simply provides for an added measure of justice in cases of violence based on bias.

“The new federal hate crimes law protects Americans from perpetrators who turn prejudice into acts of violence,” said Alejandro Miyar, spokesman for the U.S. Department of Justice. “Hate crimes seek to deny the humanity that we all share by victimizing whole communities. We will defend these vital protections in court.”

The plaintiffs’ attorney, Robert J. Muise of the Ann Arbor-based Thomas More Law Center, said they are challenging a specific provision of the act which provides for penalties and potentially criminalizes actions motivated by biases born out of religious beliefs.

“Basically, we want the court to rule (the law) is unconstitutional,” Muise said.

Glenn cited the 2007 death of Andrew Anthos of Detroit, allegedly a victim of hate crime violence due to his homosexuality. The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force partially blamed Glenn’s anti-homosexual speeches for Anthos’s death.

“We of course condemn violent acts of any kind, including those committed against those involved in homosexual acts,” Glenn said. “We are protecting the right of individuals to express their views and values without having to fear criminal prosecution for doing so.”

Glenn is known across the United States for his public stand against gay rights activism.

He co-authored the 2004 Marriage Protection Amendment that defined marriage as between one man and one woman in the Michigan Constitution. Fifty-nine percent of voters approved the proposal.

He also has chaired the Campaign for Michigan Families political action committee. In 2008, Glenn raised sexual orientation as an issue when he campaigned against Democrat Garnet Lewis, an openly gay candidate for the 98th District seat representing Saginaw and Midland counties in the state House of Representatives, Bay City Times records show.

In 2007, he and his group protested Saginaw Valley State University’s production of “Angels in America: Part One,” a play dealing with the AIDS crisis. Glenn and his ilk objected to the frontal male nudity and use of the F-word, Times records show.

He has also opposed the use of public money to provide benefits to same-sex partners of state university employees.
In 2002, he led a charge against mid-Michigan hotels that provided pornographic movies on-demand.

He also has spoken against gay and unwed couples’ rights to adopt children.

Ouellette is the author of five books and several pamphlets and Bible tracts. His work, including sermons, often reflect his “strong public stand against homosexual activism,” court documents show.

“My position is we love people, whatever their sin,” Ouellette said. “All of us are sinners and God loves us just like we are. We can not, however, say that the sin is OK. And we want everyone to know the gospel of Jesus Christ.”

Attorneys for Holder have 60 days to respond to the suit.

“It would not surprise me if they file a motion to dismiss,” Muise said.

http://www.mlive.com/news/bay-city/index.ssf/2010/02/midland_man_bridgeport_ministe.html
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