Monday, April 27, 2009

The Problem with "Hate Crime" Legislation

I just received my all too annoying MegaVote (from email notifying me of upcoming votes in the House and Senate and the first bill listed for the house was H.R. 1913 "Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2009".

The email gave it the very vague description of: This House bill would provide local jurisdictions with funds to prosecute hate crimes.

This bill (and Hate Crime legislation in general) carries with it two obvious problems.

1. The bill seeks to give harsher penalties for the murder of a person because he/she was gay (or Black, White, Asian, Muslim, a woman, or whatever). Thus creating a new 'protected' class of people.

You might wonder, What's wrong with a harsher punishment for the murder/rape/assault/etc of a homosexual (or whatever) because the person is a homosexual? Well, is it more wrong to kill someone because they're a Jew than it is to kill because of jealousy or out of envy? Is it more wrong to kill ... than to kill? It's a non-sequitur.

I believe that crime is BAD, regardless of the motivation of the attacker or status of the victim. Criminals should be brought to justice and made to face the consequences of their crimes regardless of who the victims were or for what reason the crimes were committed.

The murder is the crime, not the motivation. Prosecuting attorneys can still use the motivation to prove the commission of the crime by an alleged suspect, but the motivation shouldn't be what's on trial.

2. The bill will vilify and quite possibly make free speech (especially speech you disagree with) illegal.

I'll quickly add that a cursory reading of the bill doesn't reveal this, but the testimony given by members of Congress allude to it. provides this insight and dialog between members of Congress (debating a similar "Hate Crime" Bill) in their article titled "Is Your Minister a 'Hate Crime' Peddler?":
Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas) debated Rep. Artur Davis (D-Alabama) last Congress.
Here is a very telling portion of that exchange:
Mr. Gohmert: Even with your amendment, you still have to go back to the "rule of evidence" at page 15 of the underlying bill. And it says that these things may not be introduced as substantive evidence at trial unless the evidence specifically relates to the offense.

And if I understood the gentleman's amendment -- and I will put the question back to you -- if a minister preaches that sexual relations outside of marriage of a man and woman is wrong, and somebody within that congregation goes out and does an act of violence, and that person says that that minister counseled or induced him through the sermon to commit that act, are you saying under your amendment that in no way could that ever be introduced against the minister?

Mr. Davis. No.
If you parse your way through that thicket of legalisms and double negatives, you’ll find that Cong. Davis was saying that the sermon could be used as evidence against the minister.
H.R. 1913 broadly defines “intimidation.” A pastor’s sermon could be considered “hate speech” under this legislation if heard by an individual who then acts aggressively against persons based on any “sexual orientation.” The pastor could be prosecuted for “conspiracy to commit a hate crime.”
Andrea Lafferty, who wrote the article, sums it up as:
The question of which “sexual orientations” will be protected is left wide open so a great deal of discretion will be granted to judges and prosecutors to determine what is a “sexual orientation” and which ones will be covered. . .

No reasonable person could conclude that the Founders had any of this in mind when they drafted the Constitution and said which “rights” should be protected and which should be prohibited.
At the least, this bill wastes your and my tax dollars by wasting our Congressmen and Senators' time to push legislation against crimes already covered by our existing criminal code.

And at the worst, it's a way to demonize traditionally held beliefs such as: homosexuality is a sin and it's wrong and people's genders are encoded in their DNA and are NOT subject to 'interpretation'.

Take it as you will and I'll continue to just believe that...
Murder is Murder. Rape is Rape. Crime is Crime.

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