The proposed legislation, HB 4474, would amend the state's Ethnic Intimidation Act of 1988 to consider it a hate crime if a person is accused of causing "severe mental anguish" to another individual through perceived verbal intimidation or harassment. The amendment defines the words intimidate or harass as a "willful course of conduct, involving repeated or continuing harassment of another individual that would cause a reasonable individual to feel terrorized, frightened, intimidated, threatened, harassed, or molested."
A convicted violator could receive a fine of up to $10,000, up to five years in prison, or both and the legislation does provide the court with the option of an alternative sentence that may include an order requiring the offender to complete a period of community service intended to enhance the offender's understanding of the impact of the offense upon the victim and wider community.
"Community service under this subdivision must be performed with the consent of and in support of the community targeted in the violation," the text read in part.
In his remarks on the House floor the same day, bill sponsor Democratic state Rep. Noah Arbit talked about why he feels this legislation is particularly important, especially with regard to recent alleged incidents of vandalism at places of worship and supposed attacks against the LGBTQIA community.
"I'm sick of checking for hiding spots at the gay bar should a gunman open fire. I'm sick of my Chaldean constituents being murdered in their place of business," said Arbit, who represents a community of Christian refugees from the Middle East. "I'm sick of reading headlines about mosques and churches being desecrated … Michigan can be so much better, and it's about time that we were."
Democratic State Rep. Emily Dievendorf echoed the sentiment. "We know that at this time in history, extremism is on the rise. But also, our hate speech has translated into hate actions that put our most vulnerable populations at risk," she said. (Related: Judge strikes down New York online hate speech law for violating the First Amendment.)
Even prior to the bill's passage, Michigan Republicans have warned of the possible implications for preachers, school administrators, teachers, parents, politicians and citizen activists. Republican State Rep. Steve Carra told CBS News Detroit warned that if the hate speech bill's expansion goes too far, the Senate should immediately vote it down.
"Scrap this bill. This is not a bill that we need for the state of Michigan," he said.
Attorney David Kallman of the Great Lakes Justice Center, a non-profit legal organization dedicated to preserving liberty in America, agreed and emphasized how words can be malleable.
"Under the proposed statute, 'intimidate and harass' can mean whatever the victim, or the authorities, want them to mean. The focus is on how the victim feels rather than on a clearly defined criminal act. This is a ridiculously vague and subjective standard," Kallman said. "The absence of intent makes no difference under this law. You are still guilty of the crime because the victim felt uncomfortable."
Moreover, law professor and former Assistant U.S. Attorney William Wagner, in written testimony submitted to the Michigan House Criminal Justice Committee, said the proposed speech law is "wholly inconsistent with fundamental principles of constitutional good governance under the rule of law."
He told independent media outlet Epoch Times that fear of prosecution would "chill" free speech and result in "self-censorship" by people who may express the belief that sex is based on biology and determined by a person's chromosomes and that marriage is a sacred union between one man and one woman.
Wagner further warned: "Make no mistake about it – those with an anti-Christian agenda will wield a weapon capable of extinguishing Christian expression in the state of Michigan." He testified that the harassment provision permits authorities to "make moral determinations and arbitrarily transforms a citizen's protected political expression or sincerely held faith-based beliefs" into a prosecutable offense.
Visit FirstAmendment.news for more news on the suppression of the freedom of speech.
Watch the video below that talks about Michigan's law that criminalizes criticisms against homosexuality and transgenderism.
This video is from the High Hopes channel on Brighteon.com.