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Court Voids Pennsylvania Hate Crime Law

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has struck down a state “hate crime” law under which 11 Christians were arrested in 2004 and charged with a felony for preaching the gospel.

Lee Duigon
  • Lee Duigon,
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The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has struck down a state “hate crime” law under which 11 Christians were arrested in 2004 and charged with a felony for preaching the gospel (see

Michael Marcavage, director of the Repent America ministry, was the winner in Marcavage v. Rendell when the state Supreme Court ruled that the state legislature violated the Pennsylvania constitution by adding “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” to its “ethnic intimidation” law in 2002—as an amendment to an “agricultural crop destruction” bill!

Devious Dealings

“Why were they so devious about it?” Marcavage said. “Because the legislators knew they’d have a difficult time passing it if they were clear about what it was. Their deviousness was truly egregious, and it reveals a shameful reality as to how wicked these people are.”

Marcavage and 10 others were arrested and jailed for preaching and singing hymns at “Outfest,” a homosexual street fair funded by the city of Philadelphia. Charged with three felonies and five misdemeanors, they could have been sentenced to a combined total of 47 years in prison.

Hearings, appeals, and counter-appeals finally culminated in the Christians’ Supreme Court victory this July.

The Pennsylvania constitution, since 1873, forbids legislators to amend a bill so as to change its original purpose, explained Ben DuPré of the Foundation for Moral Law, who represented the Christians in their Supreme Court case. The case was decided without oral argument, he said, after the judges studied briefs submitted by both sides.

“The American people need to understand what’s so bad about hate crime laws,” DuPré said. “Those laws punish thought, not just action.

“But people are told that these laws are about ending discrimination—and who can be against that? Meanwhile, the details are worked out in backroom deals, never out in the open. The less people understand about what they’re allowing, when they allow this, the more the government will continue to take on powers that were never intended.”

Advancing the Homosexual Agenda

Pennsylvania is unique in not allowing legislators to attach riders to bills that have nothing to do with the stated purpose of the bill, DuPré said. There is no such restriction on the U.S. Congress.

The federal hate crimes bill, “The Local Law Enforcement Enhancement Act,” has come up before Congress many times—most recently, as an attachment to a defense appropriations bill. So far, conservative senators have always succeeded in getting it removed; but that could change with the next election.

“Certain politicians are doing everything they can to advance the homosexual agenda,” Marcavage said. “They are willing to violate the law to accomplish their goal. This time they lost, but they will try again, another way.

“But for now, in Pennsylvania, they at least can’t put us in jail for 47 years for saying what we say.”

“The American people have to stop this early on, before it builds momentum,” DuPré said. “We have to build on this victory and reclaim the ground for Christ.”

Back to Outfest

Marcavage and his ministry will be doing just that in October, when they return to preach at this year’s “Outfest.”

“God directs our path, and He gets the glory of the victory,” Marcavage said. He declined to speculate whether the homosexual activists would be glad to see him again.

“We can’t sit back and relax after winning this case,” DuPré said. “Look at what hate crime laws and human rights commissions are doing to religious freedom and freedom of speech in Canada [see “How ‘Human Rights’ Commissions Erode Religious Freedom,”].

“If we don’t put a stop to this, Canada is our future. We can see what’s happening in Canada, and we know where we’re going.”

Chalcedon has devoted much labor to reporting on the slow strangulation of free speech and religious liberty in Canada, the United Kingdom, and elsewhere in the Western world. But we have also reported on many incidents here in the U.S. that cause concern. Philadelphia is not the only place in America where “gay rights” trump the First Amendment. Our article cited above examines a case in New Mexico in which a Christian photographer was fined by a “human rights” commission for refusing to photograph a lesbian “marriage.”

Michael Marcavage deserves our praise for remaining true to his calling and not backing down in the face of persecution. But as more “hate crime” legislation and more “human rights” commissions crop up in New Jersey, Colorado, California, New Mexico, and elsewhere, we are going to need many more Christian witnesses like him.

Blessed are ye, when men shall hate you, and when they shall separate you from their company, and shall reproach you, and cast out your name as evil, for the Son of man’s sake.

Rejoice ye in that day, and leap for joy: for, behold, your reward is great in heaven: for in the like manner did their fathers unto the prophets.

—Luke 6:22–23

Lee Duigon
  • Lee Duigon

Lee is the author of the Bell Mountain Series of novels and a contributing editor for our Faith for All of Life magazine. Lee provides commentary on cultural trends and relevant issues to Christians, along with providing cogent book and media reviews.

Lee has his own blog at

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