CHRISTIANS CHALLENGE PENNSYLVANIA'S HATE LAW
PHILADELPHIA - The Pennsylvania Christians with Repent America who were charged under Pennsylvania's hate crimes legislation in October of last year are now challenging the unconstitutional manner in which the law was passed.
Michael Marcavage, Mark Diener, Gerald Fennell, Randall Beckman, Linda
Beckman, Nancy Major, Arlene Elshinnawy, and Susan Startzell (all from
Pennsylvania) were arrested while ministering the Gospel in the public streets of Philadelphia at a publically-funded homosexual event called "OutFest", jailed for 21 hours, and then charged under Pennsylvania's anti-hate law called "Ethnic Intimidation", along with a host of other felony and misdemeanor charges. All the charges were later dismissed.
A "Petition for Review" was filed on April 15, 2005 in the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania on behalf of the Christians against Edward G. Rendell, Governor of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, John M. Perzel, Speaker of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives, Robert C. Jubelirer, President Pro Tempore of the Pennsylvania Senate, and the Honorable Pedro A. Cortes, Secretary of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. A "Motion for a Temporary Restraining Order and for Preliminary Injunction" was also filed to prevent enforcement of the Ethnic Intimidation Statute and hopefully prevent a repeat of the "OutFest" incident.
The petition challenges the actions taken by the Pennsylvania legislature in passing the bill. The legislature improperly amended the original legislation, which sought to prohibit the destruction of farm property, to add language to protect individuals victimized from crime on the basis of "actual or perceived . . . ancestry, mental or physical disability, sexual orientation, gender or gender identity."
"The Pennsylvania Constitution provides strict guidelines for the procedures the state legislature must follow when enacting new legislation. This process serves to ensure that all citizens are aware of new laws being proposed and have the opportuntiy to contact their legislators and voice their opinions on the law," stated Ted Hoppe of Shields & Hoppe, attorneys for the Christians. "In this instance, however, the legislature snuck in an amendment to the Ethnic Intimidation Statute as part of an agriculture bill. It then passed the amendement to the Ethnic Intimidation statute without proper notice, while not even passing the original bill. As a result, the public did not receive proper notice of the legislature's actions. This has resulted in citizens of Pennsylvania being charged criminally under an unconstitutional law," Attorney Hoppe continued.
Article III, Section 1 of the Pennsylvania Constitution states, "No law shall be passed except by bill, and no bill shall be so altered or amended, on its passage through either House, as to change its original purpose."
The petition in part reads: "The alteration or amendment of the Bill in its passage in the Pennsylvania Senate on June 21, 2001 changed the Billís original purpose by completely eliminating any and all content purposed to protect agricultural property and replacing such content with language purpose to impose increased penalties against individuals committing so-called
"ethnic intimidation" against certain specially-protected classes of individuals."
"It is certainly remarkable that a bill specifically created to protect farm machinery and crops from vandalism evolved into a law that provides special protections to those who engage in homosexual and other sexually deviant behavior," stated Michael Marcavage, director of Repent America and one of those charged under Pennsylvania's hate crimes legislation. "The court must recognize that this law was passed in a careless and unconstitutional manner and will continue to be used to silence Christians unless it is revoked," Marcavage concluded.
Meanwhile, Pennsylvania State Representative Tom Yewcic (Democrat - Cambria County) introduced H.B. 204 to repeal the addition to the hate law because of what happened to the Repent America Christians. Currently, the bill is in the House Judiciary Committee with seventeen State Representatives in support.
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