Clark went on to lament about how he and Eric Miller are being characterized by the "homosexual websites". "As you can imagine Eric Miller (Advance America) and I are not popular on the homosexual web sites this week." "The activists have convinced themselves that legislators actually believe that AFA’s opposition was 'nutty'". "Yet, if our concern over equal justice under the law and the threat to free speech posed by this hate crime bill was 'nutty', why didn’t the supporters debate HB 1459 on the floor?"
At this point in his discussion of the bill's defeat, Clark proves just how nutty and disingenuous he is in explaining what the hate crimes bill actually does. "Could it be that they could not explain the Philadelphia 11," he asks. "Those are the eleven church members who were arrested for passing out gospel tracts on a public sidewalk during a "gay pride" event." "How do you explain away a hate crime law taking a 77 year old grandmother of ten, and a 72 year old, African-American grandmother of three away in handcuffs and spending several days in jail for simply passing out literature about salvation through Jesus Christ?"
The so-called "Philadelphia 11" is an urban myth manufactured by the Christian right as an excuse for opposing federal and state hate crimes legislation. Contrary to Clark's assertion, the evangelizing folks in question were doing more than just "passing out gospel tracts on a public sidewalk during a 'gay pride' event." They weren't arrested for their anti-gay evangelizing. As one fellow blogger described their activities:
But they weren't arrested at Outfest '04 for their message -- what happened was that they were using a bullhorn to drown out a stage performance with anti-gay shouts, which led several on-site to confront them. This then led the police to ask them to move in order to prevent any potential violence, but they reportedly refused -- which then and only then led to them being arrested for such charges as failure to disperse, possessing an instrument of crime (a bullhorn), obstructing a highway, criminal conspiracy, and disorderly conduct. And yes, under Pennsylvania's hate crimes law they were also given the charge of "ethnic intimidation" -- but in order to receive this additional charge, they had to first engage in behavior that the officers found unlawful!
However, when the charges were contested in court, it was ultimately determined that no hate crime law had been violated, and the charges were dismissed. There is differing opinion as to whether the judge was correct to dismiss the hate crime charges; but even if the judge were 100% correct in throwing out the charges on free speech grounds, it does nothing to negate the necessity of hate crimes laws! For again, it wasn't the simple fact that this was Christians protesting gays that got them arrested in the first place, but rather it was them acting in a manner that the arresting officers found unlawful. Had Michael Marcavage and company not been seen as attempting to disrupt the festival and had they not been perceived as uncooperative by the officers, then there would've been no question of whether they were exercising their right to free speech. We protect unpopular speech in this country! But it was their actions that, either rightfully or unnecessarily, got them arrested.
That's right. A Pennsylvania judge did not permit the "Philadelphia 11" to be prosecuted under that state's hate crime law, but to hear folks like Clark proclaim it, they were tried, convicted and thrown in jail for their mere "anti-gay bigoted" thoughts. Although the charges were ultimately dismissed against the anti-gay evangelist and his followers, even FOX News' Bill O'Reilly proclaimed the group's actions as "overly aggressive" and "anti-Christian." What is ironic, though, is that Clark, Miller and others on the Christian right in this state supported legislation enacted last year which makes it a felony to engage in disorderly conduct by protesting within 500 feet of a funeral. This law was aimed at the Rev. Fred Phelps and the anti-gay evangelizing he conducted at veterans' funerals, which were carried out in a very similar fashion to the Philadelphia 11's anti-gay evangelizing at gay pride events. I never cease to be amazed at the extent of the hypocrisy of these folks.