James Leroy Wilson's blog

Thursday, April 26, 2007

The Hate Crimes Bill

UPDATE: The final version of this bill (H.R. 1592) contains a Rule of Construction that preserves First Amendment freedoms, making the bill less dangerous than it was. I've posted on it here.

Janet Folger's column against a new federal hate crimes bill (H.R. 1592) refers to the central evil of the bill - and it isn't even in the bill, it is in a law already on the books:
TITLE 18 > PART I > CHAPTER 1 > § 2
§ 2. Principals
(a) Whoever commits an offense against the United States or aids, abets, counsels, commands, induces or procures its commission, is punishable as a principal.
(b) Whoever willfully causes an act to be done which if directly performed by him or another would be an offense against the United States, is punishable as a principal.

Counsels? Induces?

The fear is that under H.R. 1592, if a pastor says something about homosexuality being a sin, and one of his parishioners commits a "hate" crime against a homosexual (by uttering an insulting slur against the victim), that the pastor would then be charged. The climate of legal intimidation would, well, "induce" self-censorship - that is, have a chilling effect on freedom of speech.

While H.R. 1592 should be defeated in any case, it seems to me that it is more important to revise the law stated above. To conspire to commit a crime is itself a crime, but it is quite another to induce, which can be synonymous with "create a suggestion." Even if sermons against homosexuality induce a climate of hatred against homosexuals, that doesn't mean they induce violence. Unfortunately, the judges and D.A.'s in our legal system can not be trusted to make that distinction.

If it is already criminal to "induce" someone to commit a crime, we've already descended into the haze of arbitrary enforcement of the law.

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