California Introduces Bill That Could Punish Police Officers For Expressing Conservative or Religious Views

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A bill introduced in the California State Assembly could punish police officers or prevent them from serving if they have committed “hate speech” or are affiliated with a “hate group.” While this may seem reasonable on the surface, we have seen firsthand how even the most benign conservative or Christian organizations have been unfairly maligned as such.

AB 655, titled, The California Law Enforcement Accountability Reform Act (CLEAR Act), was introduced by Assemblymember Ash Kalra of San Jose. The bill purports to fight “the infiltration of extremists in our law enforcement agencies” and would mandate a background check for all officers who have “exchanged racist and homophobic messages.”

Kalra emphasized the necessity of the bill in light of “the apparent cooperation, participation, and support of some law enforcement” in the Jan. 6 Capitol breach. The bill will head for a vote in the Assembly Public Safety Committee on April 6.

While the bill defines hate speech as “advocating or supporting the denial of constitutional rights of, the genocide of, or violence towards, any group of persons based upon race, ethnicity, nationality, religion, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, or disability,” the view of the Constitution as a “living document” that can evolve subject to the whims of the vox populi makes this a troubling restriction.

Pacific Justice Institute Senior Staff Attorney Matthew McReynolds suggested that the definition could easily allow for Christians, conservatives, and even Muslims and other conservative religious believers to be classified as “hateful” based on the premise of rejecting abortion or supporting Proposition 8 in California, a same-sex amendment that passed in 2008.

“Under the guise of addressing police gangs, the bill at the same time launches an inexplicable, unwarranted, and unprecedented attack on peaceable, conscientious officers who happen to hold conservative political and religious views,” Reynolds declared in a letter to the Assembly’s Committee on Public Safety. “Indeed, this is one of the most undisguised and appalling attempts we have ever seen, in more than 20 years of monitoring such legislation, on the freedom of association and freedom to choose minority viewpoints.”

“Should the state now ban from public service qualified, fair-minded people who happen to hold religious or political views that conflict with controversial Supreme Court decisions on marriage and abortion?” said Greg Burt, Director of Capitol Engagement with the California Family Council, according to The Federalist. “This is a blatantly unconstitutional violation of religious liberty and freedom of speech. It is also a tyrannical abuse of power from a politician seeking to ruin the lives of those he disagrees with.”

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