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Evangelical group wants gays removed from anti-lynching bill

Liberty Counsel Chairman Mat Staver opposes including the words "sexual orientation" and "gender identity" in a federal anti-lynching bill.

The U.S. Senate last month unanimously passed a bill that would explicitly make lynching a federal crime. Not everyone, however, is pleased with passage of the Justice for Victims of Lynching Act.

Liberty Counsel, an evangelical nonprofit that opposes gay rights, and its chairman, Mat Staver, are taking issue with the bill’s inclusion of LGBTQ people.

Image: "Live Nativity" Ceremonial Procession Takes Place Around The Supreme Court
Founder and Chairman of the Liberty Counsel Mat Staver, right, speaks during live nativity scene outside of the Supreme Court in Washington on December 12, 2018.Zach Gibson / Getty Images file

"The old saying is once that camel gets the nose in the tent, you can't stop them from coming the rest of the way in," Staver said in an interview with conservative Christian news outlet OneNewsNow. “This is a way to slip it in under a so-called anti-lynching bill, and to then to sort of circle the wagon and then go for the juggler [sic] at some time in the future."

Staver told OneNewsNow that his organization, which has been labeled an anti-LGBTQ “hate group” by the Southern Poverty Law Center, is lobbying lawmakers in the House to have them remove the bill’s “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” language before taking a vote.

Similarly, the group encouraged Congress in November to remove language about "sexual orientation" and "gender identity" discrimination from a trade agreement with Mexico and Canada.

Liberty Counsel did not immediately respond to NBC News' request for comment.

The anti-lynching bill, introduced in June by the Senate’s three black members — Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., and Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C.— applies to lynchings motivated by a victim’s “actual or perceived religion, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability.”

In a statement released shortly after the bill’s unanimous Senate passage on Dec. 19, Booker called it “an emotional and historic day.”

“For over a century, members of Congress have attempted to pass some version of a bill that would recognize lynching for what it is: a bias-motivated act of terror. And for more than a century, and more than 200 attempts, this body has failed,” Booker stated. “We have righted that wrong and taken corrective action that recognizes this stain on our country’s history.”

The bill notes that at least 4,742 people, mainly African-Americans, were reportedly lynched in the U.S. from 1882 to 1968.

Editor's note: Read NBC News' followup story on this topic — Evangelical group says it's getting 'death threats' after leader's lynching bill remarks