Grand Rapids area Representative Dave Agema has launched a new effort to increase penalties for disrupting a church service in response to a protest last year by a gay activist group that targeted an church in Lansing known for its involvement in anti-gay politics.
According to The Grand Rapids Press online:
In response to a pro-gay group charging into an evangelical church near Lansing and shouting “Jesus was a homo,” and “It’s OK to be gay,” a Grandville lawmaker proposed a bill to hike penalties for disruptions of religious services.
Republican state Rep. Dave Agema’s legislation increases the penalty for disruption of a religious service to a $5,000 fine.
“This disruptive behavior is not appropriate or acceptable anywhere, and not in places of worship,” said Agema in a news release. “Religious freedom is a basic American right and it must be protected by increasing the penalty to deter those who would obstruct and endanger other people’s rights in a church with their excessive demonstration.”
Reading this, you’ve really got to ask yourself whether it has to do with the act of disrupting the church service itself, or Agema’s own anti-gay politics. In the past, he’s proposed measures that would cut funding for university’s–including West Michigan’s Grand Valley State University (GVSU)–that offer domestic partner benefits.
Why didn’t he pursue this last term, following well-publicized efforts by anti-gay protestors to disrupt funeral services? Granted, that happened before he was elected, but if this was really such a serious issue for him you’d think he would have pursued it.
Furthermore, is this not proposing an unnecessary law–such behavior is already illegal and constitutes a variety of charges? In the past, Agema has been a staunch opponent of “hate crimes” legislation in part because he argues that those crimes are already illegal under existing law.