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Conference Report On H.R. 2647, National Defense Authorization Act For Fiscal Year 2010

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. MARSHALL. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

Mr. Speaker, I want to second what the gentleman from New Jersey said just a minute ago. I'm not going to get into the details of the Armed Services authorization part of this bill except to simply say that we do an awful lot of very important good things for our soldiers, their families and for the defense of this country in this bill. It would take an awful lot, an awful lot for me to vote against the bill because something that is nongermane has been included in the bill.

Now I did vote to keep hate crimes out of the bill. That didn't work. I can't tell you how often in this Chamber I have had to vote on bills that included things I didn't want in the bill. It is rare that we have a bill, a large bill, that doesn't include all kinds of things I would prefer to not be in the bill.

There is something that I think is very important to point out about the hate crimes legislation that is in the bill. It's language that was added by Senator Sam Brownback on the Senate side, and it's language which addresses the principal concern that I hear from my constituents about hate crimes legislation. My constituents don't mind putting people in jail for being violent with other folks. They don't have a problem with that at all. They don't have a problem with increasing sentences, not one whit. The longer the better. If you're a criminal, you do the time, and as far as my folks are concerned, you can do more time.

The worry was that somehow the right of individuals, of pastors and others to criticize behavior, to talk about sin, that somehow that right would be infringed upon, that free speech would be chilled. And I have to thank Senator Brownback because in the bill we have language that takes care of that issue.

The SPEAKER pro tempore. The time of the gentleman has expired.

Mr. SKELTON. I yield the gentleman 1 additional minute.

Mr. MARSHALL. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

On pages 1366 and 1367 of the bill, it states:

Nothing in this division, or an amendment made by this division, shall be construed or applied in a manner that infringes any rights under the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States. Nor shall anything in this division, or an amendment made by this division, be construed or applied in a manner that substantially burdens a person's exercise of religion (regardless of whether compelled by, or central to, a system of religious belief), speech, expression, or association, unless the Government demonstrates that application of the burden to the person is in furtherance of a compelling governmental interest and is the least restrictive means of furthering that compelling governmental interest, if such exercise of religion, speech, expression, or association was not intended to plan or prepare for an act of physical violence; or incite an imminent act of physical violence against another.

My folks don't want people planning or preparing for physical violence. They don't want people inciting physical violence against other folks. They want people to be free to criticize, to argue, to speak and to condemn sin. I think Senator Brownback has hit it exactly right.


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