I'd like to thank Zach Mayes, a student at Gallia Academy High School, for writing his Guest View column last week.
On May 3, 2007, the House of Representatives considered H.R. 1592 - The Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2007. I voted for this legislation, which passed by a vote of 237-180.
I supported this legislation because I believe it addresses the problem of violent crime without infringing on the Constitutionally-guaranteed right of free speech.
I firmly believe in protecting the First Amendment and I take concerns about stifling the free speech of religious leaders and others very seriously. However, H.R. 1592 will not affect Americans' freedom to peacefully express their beliefs. Our rights to voice our beliefs via letter or from the pulpit are still Constitutionally-protected.
According to the bill, a hate crime is defined as “a violent act causing death or bodily injury because of the actual or perceived race, color, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity or disability of the victim.” This definition is narrowly tailored to target violent criminals, and does not punish people who express their opinions in peaceful ways.
Like Zach Mayes, I am a Christian. I rely on my Christian beliefs and values to guide my votes in Congress every day. Again, I'd like to thank Zach Mayes for expressing his views publicly; I will do everything in my power to protect his and all Americans right to free speech.
(Charlie Wilson, D-Bridgeport, represents Ohio's Sixth District in the U.S House of Representatives, which includes Gallia County.)