A group of conservative Christian ministers gathered in protest in front of the Justice Department yesterday in a truly misguided attempt to provoke arrests under the recently passed hate crimes law – the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2009. The pastors, like Rev. Rick Scarborough and Gary Cass of the Christian Anti-Defamation Commission, waved signs with explicitly anti-homosexual messages hoping, hoping, to get arrested. This in an effort to prove the falsity spread by the religious right that hate crimes legislation stifles free speech from the pulpit. To clarify: to get arrested under the hate crimes act, one has to actually plan or incite an act of violence. The pastors did have loud voices and bigoted signs, they did not, however, have any arrests. None. Dana Milbank at the Washington Post has a really funny rundown of what happened – from the image of cops more interested in their blackberries than the protesters to a counter-protest led by gay rights activists who took over the pastors’ stage and sound system – thanks to the help of the sound guy who was hired by the pastors but who parlayed the proceeds from the job into free mic time for the gay rights activists.