James Leroy Wilson's blog

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Anti-Hate Crime Absurdity

In some quarters, there is panic over a proposed hate crimes bill that has passed the House.

I oppose the bill, because I oppose an increased federal role in crime control. Bills like this add to the architecture of a national police state, and that alone is reason enough to oppose it.

But the problem is, some of the allegations are false. Christians are allegedly not protected in the bill. But by being members of a religion, they are.

And one Congressman in opposition suggests that if a mother strikes at a pedophile who is victimizing her child, she'd be considered a hate criminal. But how can that be? She'd be acting out of defense of her child, or (if after the fact) out of anger and revenge against that particular criminal. In other words, she'd be attacking him for what he did, not for his sexual orientation. Because revenge is clearly the reason, how could she be prosecuted for a hate crime?

Yes, all forms of sexual deviancy are implicitly covered by "sexual orientation," which is mentioned in the bill. But the sexual behavior, if it is illegal, isn't protected, only the person who may have the deviancy. It's one thing to attack, in defense or retaliation, a person who is menacing your child or your barnyard. It's quite another to attack a registered sex offender who's walking down the street minding his own business. Let alone someone merely suspected of having perverted thoughts.

Lastly, there is fear this will mean pastors will be prosecuted for preaching against homosexuality. Square that with this provision in the House version, H.R. 1913:


    Nothing in this Act, or the amendments made by this Act, shall be construed to prohibit any expressive conduct protected from legal prohibition by, or any activities protected by, the Constitution.
And Ted Kennedy's Senate version is even more precise:


    For purposes of construing this Act and the amendments made by this Act the following shall apply:
      (1) RELEVANT EVIDENCE- Courts may consider relevant evidence of speech, beliefs, or expressive conduct to the extent that such evidence is offered to prove an element of a charged offense or is otherwise admissible under the Federal Rules of Evidence. Nothing in this Act is intended to affect the existing rules of evidence.
      (2) VIOLENT ACTS- This Act applies to violent acts motivated by actual or perceived race, color, religion, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity or disability of a victim.
      (3) CONSTITUTIONAL PROTECTIONS- Nothing in this Act shall be construed to prohibit any constitutionally protected speech, expressive conduct or activities (regardless of whether compelled by, or central to, a system of religious belief), including the exercise of religion protected by the First Amendment and peaceful picketing or demonstration. The Constitution does not protect speech, conduct or activities consisting of planning for, conspiring to commit, or committing an act of violence.
      (4) FREE EXPRESSION- Nothing in this Act shall be construed to allow prosecution based solely upon an individual's expression of racial, religious, political, or other beliefs or solely upon an individual's membership in a group advocating or espousing such beliefs.
    As one who once called myself a conservative and then a libertarian, I never quite understood why my allies got so worked up over hate crime bills. They condemn hate crimes as "thought crimes," but the fact is that all crimes are thought crimes. That is what distinguishes them from accidents or violence in self-defense: intent. A crime is harmful action plus the intent to do the harm. I defended the hate crimes concept a few years ago, and still agree with what I wrote.

    I'm still not persuaded we need hate crime laws that much, and I oppose in principle federal meddling in this issue, but I can't quite get myself worked up about it. This hate crime bill will in any case apply only to people who commit violent acts, and at that point the only question is appropriate jurisdiction. Drug or gambling prohibition at any level is more morally offensive than any laws against violence, even if enforced with dubious Constitutionality at the federal level.

    And if my interpretation of this bill, and its application, is incorrect, then I offer my congratulations to the Republicans. If the implications they draw from it are indeed correct, and Mommy will be thrown in federal prison for kicking the child molester in the shins, then they have the 2010 and 2012 elections sewn up. They wouldn't need to run "attack ads," they could just lay out the facts, and they'd clobber the Democrats. But I don't think that's the case. I think they're just grasping at something to rouse their base. It'd be better for them if they found a cause where their claims and the facts actually bear some relation to each other.

    1 comment:

    1. The main justification for hate crime legislation is to protect folks in areas where local systems of justice will not. Back in the day where I come from, a white man could pretty much a kill a black man and "no jury would convict him" so to speak. The same may be true in some communities for gays or devotees of unusual religions.

      I hope, without much hope, that hate crime laws will be used sparingly and only in cases where local justice systems fail.