House GOP Passes Controversial Bill Labeling Certain Christian Scriptures as ‘Antisemitic,’ Sparking Fears of Criminalizing Religious Beliefs

The House of Representatives passed the “Antisemitism Awareness Act” (H.R. 6090) on Wednesday, which has sparked significant debate over the interpretation of religious texts and the definition of hate speech.

The bill, aimed at curbing hate speech amid heightened tensions on college campuses concerning Israel, has seen a significant majority of Republicans in support, while a coalition of Democrats and Republicans opposed it, citing free speech concerns.

It passed with a vote of 320-91, seeing opposition from 70 Democrats and 21 Republicans. The bill was introduced by Rep. Mike Lawler, R-N.Y., and supported by 15 Democratic co-sponsors.

“I’m proud that my bill, the Antisemitism Awareness Act, just passed the House of Representatives 320 to 91. This bill has broad, bipartisan support and will begin the process of cracking down on the antisemitism we’ve seen run rampant on college campuses across America,” Rep. Lawler wrote.

The bill defines antisemitism broadly, incorporating definitions provided by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA), including traditional antisemitic actions and accusations such as those against the state of Israel. Critically, the bill makes it an offense to “apply double standards” to Israel or to accuse it of genocide, categorizing such actions as hate speech.

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Among the dissenting voices is Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, who expressed concern that the bill’s definition of antisemitism could potentially criminalize Christians for their religious beliefs, particularly narratives in the Gospel regarding the death of Jesus Christ.

“Antisemitism is wrong, but I will not be voting for the Antisemitism Awareness Act of 2023 (H.R. 6090) today that could convict Christians of antisemitism for believing the Gospel that says Jesus was handed over to Herod to be crucified by the Jews,” Greene wrote.

Antisemitism is wrong, but I will not be voting for the Antisemitism Awareness Act of 2023 (H.R. 6090) today that could convict Christians of antisemitism for believing the Gospel that says Jesus was handed over to Herod to be crucified by the Jews. Read the bill text and contemporary examples of antisemitism like #9.

Definition and examples adopted by the bill based on IHRA:

“Antisemitism is a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews. Rhetorical and physical manifestations of antisemitism are directed toward Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property, toward Jewish community institutions and religious facilities.”
Contemporary examples of antisemitism in public life, the media, schools, the workplace, and in the religious sphere could, taking into account the overall context, include, but are not limited to:

1. Calling for, aiding, or justifying the killing or harming of Jews in the name of a radical ideology or an extremist view of religion.

2. Making mendacious, dehumanizing, demonizing, or stereotypical allegations about Jews as such or the power of Jews as collective – such as, especially but not exclusively, the myth about a world Jewish conspiracy or of Jews controlling the media, economy, government or other societal institutions.

3. Accusing Jews as a people of being responsible for real or imagined wrongdoing committed by a single Jewish person or group, or even for acts committed by non-Jews.

4. Denying the fact, scope, mechanisms (e.g. gas chambers) or intentionality of the genocide of the Jewish people at the hands of National Socialist Germany and its supporters and accomplices during World War II (the Holocaust).

5. Accusing the Jews as a people, or Israel as a state, of inventing or exaggerating the Holocaust.

6. Accusing Jewish citizens of being more loyal to Israel, or to the alleged priorities of Jews worldwide, than to the interests of their own nations.

7. Denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination, e.g., by claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavor.

8. Applying double standards by requiring of it a behavior not expected or demanded of any other democratic nation.

9. Using the symbols and images associated with classic antisemitism (e.g., claims of Jews killing Jesus or blood libel) to characterize Israel or Israelis.

10. Drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis.

11. Holding Jews collectively responsible for actions of the state of Israel.

Rep. Matt Gaetz also criticized the bill, stating that it disregards the Constitution and the common understanding of words.

“This evening, I will vote AGAINST the ridiculous hate speech bill called the “Antisemitism Awareness Act.” Antisemitism is wrong, but this legislation is written without regard for the Constitution, common sense, or even the common understanding of the meaning of words,” Gaetz wrote.

“The Gospel itself would meet the definition of antisemitism under the terms of this bill! The bill says the definition of antisemitism includes “contemporary examples of antisemitism” identified by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA). One of those examples includes: “…claims of Jews killing Jesus…” The Bible is clear. There is no myth or controversy on this. Therefore, I will not support this bill.”

Gaetz cited scriptural passages to underscore his argument that the bill’s broad definition of antisemitism could encompass fundamental Christian beliefs.

“Acts 4:10 Be it known to you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead, by him this man is standing before you well.

“1 Thessalonians 2:14-16 For you, brethren, became imitators of the churches of God in Christ Jesus which are in Judea; for you suffered the same things from your own countrymen as they did from the Jews, who killed both the Lord Jesus and the prophets, and drove us out, and displease God and oppose all men by hindering us from speaking to the Gentiles that they may be saved—so as always to fill up the measure of their sins.

“Acts 3:14-15 You denied the Holy and Righteous One, and asked for a murderer to be granted to you, and killed the Author of life, whom God raised from the dead. To this we are witnesses.”

Adding to the chorus of concern, Rep. Thomas Massie (R-KY) criticized the bill for its vague definitions and potential constitutional conflicts.

“The definition of antisemitism appears nowhere in the bill! Should people in America be prosecuted for saying these things in all contexts? I think not. This is a poorly conceived unconstitutional bill, and I will vote no,” Massie wrote.

The bill now moves to the Senate, where it is expected to face heated discussions and scrutiny as lawmakers and the public weigh the balance between combating hate speech and preserving free speech rights.