A court has struck down Pennsylvania's version of a "hate crimes" law, ruling that what officials there call an "Ethnic Intimidation Law" restriction was "unconstitutional and therefore null and void."
The challenge to the law arose because a group of people who testified on public property at a large homosexual event had been arrested and charged and faced going to jail for up to 50 years. The charges were dismissed but Repent America believed that the "Hate Crimes" law under which the charges had been brought should be challenged as unconstitutional. When that case reached the courts the judges by a 4-1 majority agreed with petitioners and declared the law unconstitutional and therefore void.
The court's decision has been hailed as a victory for constitutional government. I believe there can be little doubt of that. However, I am not so sure that it is a victory for the rights of Christians to preach publicly what the Bible says about homosexuality or false religion or a host of other controversial subjects. The challenge to the law was based on a constitutional technicality, an important technicality but a technicality none the less. The petitioners said the passage of the bill, which originally criminalized agricultural crop destruction but was altered to become the first proposal in Pennsylvania to recognize "sexual orientation" as a protected class, failed to follow Article III of the state constitution. That provision prohibits the complete overhaul of a bill in the course of its passage. The court agreed but it also said, "It is well established that a legislative enactment enjoys a strong presumption of constitutionality and it will not be declared invalid unless it clearly, palpably, and plainly violates the constitution." In other words, if the legislature had introduced the bill without contravening the constitutional requirements for passing it, the court would most likely have let it stand, even though it plainly discriminates against Christians' right to free speech.