Sunday, August 5, 2012

Sixth Circuit Says Pastors Lack Standing to Challenge Hate Crime Law

A three-judge panel of the Sixth Circuit ruled in Glenn v. Holder that a group of pastors who "say that homosexuality is 'forbidden by God'" lacked standing to challenge the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr., Hate Crimes Prevention Act.

The Act makes it a crime to batter a person because of the person's religion, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability.  18 U.S.C. Sec. 249(a)(2)(A).  The plaintiffs claimed that the expression and practice of their anti-gay religious beliefs would lead to federal prosecution under the Act in violation of their First Amendment rights.

The court rejected the claim for lack of standing, saying that "this lawsuit is really a political statement against the Hate Crimes Act."  Op. at 1.  The court:

Quite simply, we agree with the district court that Plaintiffs have not established standing because they have not alleged any actual intent to "willfully cause[] bodily injury," the conduct proscribed by the Act.

Op. at 5.  The court noted that the Act didn't prohibit the plaintiff's proposed speech and concluded that the plaintiffs therefore couldn't say just what they might do that would subject them to prosecution.  The court also rejected for similar reasons the plaintiffs' theory that they might be subject to prosecution for aiding or abetting a violation of the Act and the plaintiffs' theory that the Act chills their speech.

Judge Stranch concurred in full but wrote separately to say why the plaintiffs' claims based on legislative history and statements by federal prosecutors failed to support their chilled-speech argument.


Cases and Case Materials, First Amendment, Jurisdiction of Federal Courts, News, Opinion Analysis, Standing | Permalink

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