(EDGE) Given the deeply entrenched divisions in Congress and the bitter partisan disagreements that keep the government in a constant state of legislative gridlock, any bill that passes the Senate with unanimous support ought to be a cause for celebration — and, for obvious reasons, be accepted as urgently moral.
Not according to an evangelical group so vitriolic in its opposition to any and all protections for certain sections of America's citizenry, though. NBC News reports that Liberty Counsel — an evangelical organization that has earned its designation as a hate group from the Southern Poverty Law Center by "advocating for anti-LGBT discrimination under the guise of religious liberty," in the words of the SPLC — objects to a bill that would make a federal crime of lynching.
Though the "Justice for Victims of Lynching Act," as the measure is called, passed the Senate in December 2018, without a single vote in opposition, Liberty Counsel wants the bill in its current form to go down in defeat. Why? You guessed it: The bill extends protections to LGBTQ Americans.
The bill's unanimous success in the Senate is all the more historic for the fact that its passage follows the defeat of more than 200 similar measures that were introduced in the early decades of the 20th Century. But hopes that the 21st Century might reflect a more enlightened and less brutal America are now in question. As Rolling Stone magazine asked in a headline, "Do Evangelical Activists Want to Legalize Gay Lynching?"
It's more than a flippant question given the group's longstanding opposition to anything smacking of equal protection and access under the law for LGBTQ Americans and their families.
Political news outlet The Hill reported on the group's opposition to the bill, quoting founder and chairman Mat Staver as telling an anti-GLTBQ Christian news site that, "once that camel gets the nose in the tent, you can't stop them from coming the rest of the way in." In other words, if gays are protected on the federal level from lynching, who know what might happen? They might actually win workplace rights or other federal protections.
But Staver insisted that the media had misconstrued his comments.
"We oppose lynching across the board for any person," he claimed, "Period!" Staver went on to say that Liberty Counsel objected to LGBTQs being specifically protected in the bill — not to the idea that the bill would protect gays who just happened, at random, to be targeted for lynching.
"The bill in question created a list of protected categories, thus limiting the application of the law," Staver parsed. "Lynching should be prohibited no matter the person's reason for committing this violent crime."
Media sources noted that a bipartisan trio of lawmakers introduced the bill: Democrats Kamala Harris and Corey Booker were joined by Republican Tim Scott in bringing the measure to the Senate floor. All three are Americans of color.