Today, Media Matters for America debunked CNN's Deborah Feyerick's misleading allegation that the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Prevention Act would have any impact on an individual's right to freedom of speech. Feyerick reported on the June 25 edition of The Situation Room that the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Prevention Act (H.R.1913) "could be used to criminalize conservative speech on abortion or homosexuality." As noted by Media Matters, Feyerick did not point out that the bill specifically stipulates in Section 10 that:
Nothing in this Act shall be construed to prohibit any constitutionality protected speech, expressive conduct or activities (regardless of whether compelled by, or central to, a system of religious beliefs)...
[and] Nothing in this Act shall be construed to allow prosecution based solely upon an individual's expression of racial, religious, political, or other beliefs or solely pon an individual's membership in a group advocating or espousing such beliefs.Feyerick also neglected to report that Attorney General Eric Holder, in a prepared statement, explicitly clarified to the Senate Judiciary Committee in a June 25 hearing that the bill:
...could be used only to investigate or prosecute discriminatory acts of violence causing bodily injury (or attempts to commit such violent acts) and thus could never be used to investigate or prosecute mere association or expressions of beliefs, no matter how offensive those beliefs might be....Nor did Feyerick make clear that Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) also stressed to the Senate that the bill "does not target pure speech, however offensive or disagreeable." Feyerick's mischaracterization of the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Prevention Act promotes the misleading scare tactics of anti-gay activists that are designed to perpetuate fears and misconceptions about federal hate crimes laws aimed to protect individuals against anti-LGBT violence. Given CNN's strong track record of fair and accurate coverage of LGBT issues, it is disappointing to see Feyerick mislead viewers with claims that have been explicitly and repeatedly identified by lawmakers as inaccurate.