ReligionSkepticism

Christians Hate New Hate Crime Bill

In April of this year, the House of Representatives voted on and passed a legislation in the interest of banning hate crimes against homosexuals. The Senate is up next for a similar bill, and Christians are freaking the eff out. Who can blame them? Groups like Westboro Baptist Church base their whole schtick on the fact that homosexuality is so against Christianity that it makes bridges collapse and levies break.

Protected activities include “the exercise of religion protected by the First Amendment and peaceful picketing or demonstration,” according to the legislation. The bill also states that no one can be prosecuted solely for expressing racial, religious, political, or other beliefs.

However, the bill adds that “speech, conduct or activities consisting of planning for, conspiring to commit, or committing an act of violence” is not constitutionally protected. That sentence is alarming to conservative Christian groups such as Focus on the Family and the Family Research Council, who say the law would severely hamper Christians’ freedom to address homosexuality in sermons, radio programs, and other public venues.

What kind of crap are these people planning that a legislative bill banning violence and violence-related activities is going to disrupt how they deal with homosexuals? Apparently they can still blast fire and brimstone from the pulpit, not that they would have stopped anyway. According to a Focus on the Family representative, a church member who goes out and commits a crime against a gay person leaves the pastor of the church open to prosecution as well. And here I thought Christianity was supposed to be about loving fellow man [no pun intended], acceptance and forgiveness… If that’s the case, shouldn’t pastors be teaching their flock not to go out and recreate the Matthew Shepard case? Instead they’re shaking in their robes over what might happen if one of their members does what they’ve been preaching about for eons.

According to [Congressmen Louie Gohmert, R-Texas] if a religious leader teaches “that homosexuality is wrong and someone goes out and commits a crime of violence then [the religious leader] can be arrested for inducing that person to do it and under existing Federal Law you are as guilty as the one who committed the act of violence.”

Dobson then quipped in response, “So much for the 1st amendment.”

I’m not one for censorship, but these people are teaching hatred. They are teaching it to people who they know are likely to act upon it, and that is a statement coming from a government official.

The bill does not adequately protect Christians from gay activists.

Out of curiosity, I googled “gay activists attack church,” as I’ve never heard anything about a bunch of gay guys or a bunch of lesbians inflicting the kind of hatred on church goers that they have received from them. First of all, the only articles on the first page are by religious organizations – I see no news or legal articles on the matter. Secondly, the main article that popped up and was posted by more than one of the search results was this, in which a self-proclaimed radical group called Bash Back infiltrated a Catholic service by waving a rainbow flag and pulling fire alarms. Every way of life and every philosophy has extremists. If churches only have an anarchist group to worry about as far as interruptions in their way of living, they’re doing well. Gays, lesbians and transexuals have every religion, extremist or not, scrutinizing them, considering them lesser people and, in some cases, acting out against them in violent displays.

This bill is a fantastic thing, and I hope it passes with flying colors. It’s meant to protect the livelihoods of people who have been discriminated against for far too long, not just take the “fun” out of religion. However, the religious should feel that it’s directed slightly towards them. Frankly, if it weren’t for them, the bill would likely not be needed. Not much good can come from the soapbox mentality.

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Chelsea

Chelsea is the proud mama of an amazing toddler-aged girl. She works in the retail industry while vehemently disliking mankind and, every once in a while, her bottled-up emotions explode into WordPress as a lengthy, ranty, almost violent blog. These will be your favorite Chelsea moments. Follow Chelsea on Twitter: chelseaepp.

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95 Comments

  1. Christians of the rabid sort (and there are Xtians who are not assholes) seem to think that breaking the law in any form is their choice. They don’t recognize human law unless it suits them. Phelps and his ilk should be ashamed of what they do in their god’s name.

    I, too, hope the bill passes. It’s about time we rose above ugly religious-based hate and acted like dignified human beings in this country.

  2. I recall something about protests outside Mormon churches after Prop 8 passed, and suddenly the Mormons claimed persecution.

    Typical religious thinking it’s only persecution if you get in the way of us from persecuting you.

  3. I am not very fond of hate speech laws, but the queer in my really wants this to pass; the religious right has far too much power and influence. However, you can’t legislate away hate, you can only drive it underground and make the commission of hateful acts more surreptitious. The incitement of violence is a restriction on our freedoms that, I think, most of us agree with. I can’t help but think, however, that open debate of the subject is better than banning it. Protection against violence is already well addressed in the law, and the way the US locks people up I can’t imagine that there needs to be extra punishment for making the assault hateful. Thankfully, up here in Canada we have pretty much settled the issue, constitutionally at least; even though prejudice continues in the dark recesses of the north.

  4. Just to clarify, this bill doesn’t seek to ban violence against anyone. That’s already against the law. It’s meant to increase punishment for violence against protected minorities, including homosexuals. It also grants more federal authority to prosecute these kinds of crimes.

    It’s a terrible bill for a number of reasons. Most importantly, it’s thought crime legislation. The only difference between the calculated murder of a person to, say, steal his or her wallet and the calculated murder of a person because you don’t like where he or she puts his naughty parts is the murderer’s opinion of the victim. Rancid and vile as that opinion may be, it’s constitutionally protected. Murder (or any other form of violence), however, is not. And that’s with or without a hate crimes law. There are already varying degrees of murder carrying different punishments. No need to further criminalize something that’s already criminal just because these particular criminals are morally abhorrent in some way.

    Also, like any other hate crimes bill, this one is meant more as a political football than anything to help victims of crime. Politicians who support it can point to it as a measure of their tolerance instead of doing something worthwhile like pushing for federally protected gay marriage. And opponents can use their “no” votes as a flag for their ignorant base.

    And while Christian conservative blowhards are demonstrating their usual paranoid conspiracy attitude in claiming this law will be used to shut them up, they’re right to point out that their moronic ramblings are protected speech. Preaching that gays are going to hell is not at all the same thing as telling people to go out and hurt and/or kill gays. They aren’t responsible for what the more bloodthirsty members of their congregations do unless they explicitly advocate violence.

    The Westboro Baptists are actually a good example here. They probably have the harshest and most vile rhetoric of any public group, but they neither advocate or take part in violence. Evil as they are, they limit their nonsense to loud picketing and hilariously inept websites.

    No rational person is a fan of hate crimes, but rational people also shouldn’t be fans of useless, unnecessary, and unconstitutional legislation.

  5. Don’t forget to write your senator. One sec…..okay good my two senators are Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell. Both of them seem to have a decent record (in a quick search) as far as gay and civil rights go.

  6. @AmateurScientist:
    I work on an Army base and I’ve heard several servicemen (It’s always the men) say that “Westboro had better not show up at military funerals where they are present. Blood will be shed and it won’t be ours. ”

    This apparently goes back to some picketing Westboro idiots did at the funeral of a vet that died in Iraq or Afghanistan.

    Personally, I hope Westboro tries it. I have no sympathy for them – They want headlines. These vets may give them headlines like “Westboro Picketers in Hospital after Unknown Servicepeople Beat the Ever-Livin’ Sheiss out of Them as Everyone Cheered.”

  7. @AmateurScientist: Agreed. Thought crime legislation is always bad. These types of laws have been taken to an extreme in the UK which has in effect criminalized some forms of free speech. Just because the intent and goal of a law is laudable does not mean the law has merit.

  8. @AmateurScientist: My understanding is that this bill will allow for federal prosecution of murder or assault that is committed due to a person’s sexual orientation, gender, disability, gender identity and the already protected minority or religous groups. This would allow the federal authorities to step in and proecute murders or assualts when local or state authorities either refuse to prosecute or don’t have the resources to mount an investigation and prosecution. Similar to existing hate crimes legislation that has allowed for the prosecution of lynchings when local authorities just ignore them.

    I like the bill and would like to see it become law. What I don’t like is that enough conservative senators blocked the passage of the bill as a stand alone measure. To get around this it has been attached to a defense bill that contains funding for F-22 fighters that the military doesn’t want. President Obama has threatened to veto the defense authorization bill because of the F-22’s. The senate has passed the bill with the attached hate crimes legislation. So now we have a good bill attached to a bad bill. I would like President Obama to veto the bill and have the hate crimes sent to him as a seperate bill that he could then sign.

  9. @AmateurScientist:

    It’s not “thought crime” and people who claim it is are REALLY uniformed about both the law and hate crimes. I think the term “hate crime” is unfortunate.

    It is similar to a terrorist getting charged with terrorism. A terrorist is charged differently because his (or her) crime is meant for an entire group as a whole, rather than an individual person.

    Also, intent matters. Intent ALWAYS matter. Why do you think they have different levels of murder? It’s the same thing here. Intent matters.

    Also, as Gabrielbrawley has pointed out, it allows federal authorities to step in.

  10. The concept of hate crimes is one that is open and subject and very well should be debated. As in most things, there are good points to be made both pro and con. In my opinion the concept and belief at looking at reason behind an act is a very important part of deciding justice. Motive of a crime is important to look at. Understanding why someone acted in the way they did can tell us how truly dangerous a person is and allow the punishment to fit a crime. There is a reason those who kill someone in self defense does not get the same punishment as someone who kills someone because they wanted a pair of shoes. That is why murder is broken into degrees and carry different punishments. And while I am not familiar with all the legislation, until it is clear where the motive of race/gender/religion/sexual orientation ranks, then the necessity of hate crime laws seems to be warranted.

    It does get tricky when talking about language. Speech is one of the greatest freedoms we have. Speech can help mold and inspire thought, and without freedom of it, we would be lost. With any freedom comes responsibility. Just because you are allowed to say whatever you want to doesn’t mean it shouldn’t come with any consequence. Especially if you are going to be as bold as to display your opinion as truth.

    Even if I did not agree with hate crime legislation, the realist in me would support homosexuals getting the same treatment as others. Any law that is a step forward in anti discrimination is one that should be pushed for. By putting sexual orientation on the same platform as gender/religion/etc, it opens up for more legislation to be passed to grant equality for all. It is not a perfect scenario I admit, but it works well in the system that is in place.

    In closing, I remember when prop 8 was passed, I switched to a certain news organization and one of their people was informing the public on why homosexual marriage was bad. It was nothing against the homosexuals, but it would label any group that said homosexual marriage was wrong as a hate group. I found that exceptionally laughable as a reason. It fits here too.

  11. Oh, and: http://www.feministe.us/blog/archives/2009/07/17/lateisha-greens-killer-dwight-delee-convicted-of-manslaughter-as-a-hate-crime/#comments

    Essentially, Dwight DeLee murdered Leteisha Green not because she was Leteisha Green, but because she was trans. It could have been any other trans person, and he would have still killed her.

    This also means he’s more likely to kill a trans person again. Just because that person is trans.

    Just like a terrorist is more likely to attack again against the same group of people.

  12. @marilove: I’m sorry. I love you [in a way that would foster the kind of reaction this bill is hopefully protecting people against]! ;)

    @Michael Kruse: Open debate may be a better avenue, and if it seemed like it would go somewhere I would be all for that and less for this. However, the people involved on the other side of the debate are the same people that debate us about almost everything else. It’s more difficult to get through to them than it is to a blind, deaf and mute person in a lot of cases.

    @AmateurScientist: What I like about the bill, aside from the separate level of prosecution from the feds, is that the 1st Amendment isn’t really getting skewed.

    Protected activities include “the exercise of religion protected by the First Amendment and peaceful picketing or demonstration,” according to the legislation. The bill also states that no one can be prosecuted solely for expressing racial, religious, political, or other beliefs.

    People can still say whatever they want, as long as they do it peacefully and without the intent of giving unspoken permission to those who would act out in the name of the belief.

  13. If you’d like a gay man’s perspective….

    First, I’d like to state that christians calling being gay a sin and that they are going to burn in hell, IMHO, isn’t hate speech, its what they do. It would be like telling a duck not to quack, or a dog not to bark. Now, if a pastor gets up and says “Burn down the GLAAD headquarters like the gays will burn in hell!” um, yeah, that’s a different story. Additionally, that wouldn’t be just a random act of arson, that would be targeted. Like @marilove: stated, it is a form of terrorism.

    I saw on a video one time-I think it was something posted around the time of the sex with ducks video-one of the senators talking about this bill, and he said something along the lines of:

    “Don’t kill be because I’m gay, a woman, or black. Kill me as a random act of violence.”

    Now, granted a person killed in any of these scenerios will all be just as dead, but the latter, with it just being random, just means that I was in the wrong place at the wrong time. I wasn’t killed BECAUSE I was gay, a woman, or black. Additionally, I think it takes a little more than “the victim was female and the murderer was male, therefore, it was a hate crime”. You’d have to prove that the murderer hated women specifically.

    I also think that christians are massochistic. Their religion believes they will be pursecuted, so they are looking for ways they will be pursecuted.

    Now, on the other side, is it POSSIBLE that this bill could be misconstrued? Yes. Every bill does. Remember the Law of Unintended Consequences. But, in such a case, I would be one of those screaming the loudest. The same laws that protect me, protect them. And if I don’t try to make sure they are protected, who will try to make sure I’m protected? While I disagree with the Westboro Baptist Church, their right to protest what they don’t like is the same right that lets me protest what I don’t like.

    BTW…as just a thought, I’ve never liked the term homosexual. Humans are homosapiens, and gays are homosexuals. It feels like we are being called another species. I’ve always perfered the term gays, or the GLBT. But, that’s just a thought.

  14. @Chelsea: People with strong opinions often make nasty statements about others they disagree with. Many skeptical/atheist types make many hateful and vitriolic statements about religious people with no regard to the potential that these statement may have on some unhinged reader of a blog web site or what ever. (Not that I’m aware of any resultant crimes) The slippery slope comes in where these statements themselves could become a criminal act in and of themselves. This is in fact the case in the UK and I hope this never happens in the US. Intent is something that can be useful when making a determination with regard to what level of crime someone is charged with. However intent is nearly always open to interpretation. And to make a presumption about intent unless it is completely clear puts the prosecutors/courts in a position of charging someone based on their thoughts and not just their actions.

    The reason federal hate laws were initially (and appropriately IMO) enacted was solely because of the history of local jurisdictions doing an inadequate job of criminally prosecuting crimes against minorities and identified groups of persons. Usually as these local problems decrees there is a reduction in federal intervention in what is typically a local crime issue. What recent local events/crimes have been inadequately prosecuted that would warrant this step by the federal government? If anyone has an example I would be very interested.

    It seems to me that most of the support for this legislation is based on how bad we think hate crimes are and is not based on the need for the bill based on actual circumstances or the inadequacies of current laws.

  15. Regarding the question of whether a so-called “hatecrime” is a “thought crime” – what about the awful legislation that passed recently in Ireland that makes blasphemy a crime? Apparently, even owning materials that others could interpret as being blasphemous (e.g., Dawkin’s The God Delusion) is enough to warrant a police search of the premises. Has the world gone mad?

  16. @James Fox: I don’t know if this quite what you are looking for or if it even correct but members of the Texas Alcohol Control Board and the Ft. Worth police department recently raided the Rainbow Lounge in Ft. Worth and put one man into a coma that he hasn’t woken up from. The chief of police of Ft. Worth held a press confrence and commended his officers for their restraint in the raid. This would be a violation of the Mathew Sheppared Act and would be prosecutable under that law. I am not sure that it can be prosecuted under current law. Perhaps as a violation of civil rights but not as assault.

  17. Also if this law truly impingined on the first amendment and unconsitutionally violated the right of free speech for christian hate groups they have the resources to quickly take it before the supreme court. A supreme court that has shown itself to be very favorable to the christian religion.

  18. Oh, the Rainbow Lounge is a gay bar. Also TABC agents raided the Eagle Club in Dallas last week. This is another gay bar. It would appear that someone in state government has begun to target gay bars in Texas. This would be prosecutable under the Mathew Sheppard Act. I don’t know if it is under current law.

  19. @James Fox: So you’re against terrorists being charged as terrorists then? Because it’s the same exactly thing.

    To be honest, I think the problem comes with the term “hate crime”. I think it should all be under terrorism — a crime against a group of people, generally minorities (though not always) — because that’s what it is.

  20. @James Fox:

    According to the FBI, law enforcement agencies reported 7,624 hate crime incidents involving 9,006 offenses in 2007 alone (more recent data not yet available).

    Statistics available here: http://www.fbi.gov/ucr/hc2007/index.html

    If you read the text of the bill, you will see that the law is designed to increase attention to and stiffen penalties for hate-motivated crimes as well as to provide funding for local jurisdictions to increase law enforcement and prevention programs.

    The full text of HR 1913 can be found here: http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/z?c111:H.R.1913:

  21. @Gabrielbrawley: One of the “conspiracy theories” behind not allowing gay marriage is that if a gay couple goes to a church to get married, and the church refuses, the couple can go after the church’s tax exempt status. Now, I think that’s false, and I think this ruling explains why-

    http://religiousfreedom.lib.virginia.edu/court/pres_v_hull.html

    In short, the court ruled that the state can’t decide what a “major tenant of the faith” is. So, if the church says we don’t believe in gay marriage, then that’s it, case closed.

  22. @Dale_Husband: I wish I hadn’t watched it, but thank you for sharing it.

    @infinitemonkey: If I have offended in any way, I’m deeply sorry. I thought after the fact that perhaps LGBT would have been more appropriate, but unfortunately hadn’t thought of it until I was falling asleep after scheduling the post.

    I’ve never understood the title separation between “people” and “gays,” which leads me to sometimes wonder which term I should use when speaking specifically about gays. When I was little, my parents were friends with a gay couple that came to dinner every once in a while and, while I understood that it was a man and a man in love, I didn’t associate them with anything other than 2 people that loved each each other. I didn’t know what the term “gay” meant until years later.

    @James Fox: Just because I’m talking about a certain group’s relation to the bill doesn’t mean that I wouldn’t be for it covering against extremists in our own line of thought. An extremist is an extremist, and once they cross a certain line, as Marilove said, they fall under the title of “terrorist.” There is way too much hate in the world, but there’s no way to get rid of it. What can be taken care of is the level of prosecution once the mental hate turns into a crime against a group of people, or a certain person for belonging to that group.

  23. @infinitemonkey:

    I think I agree with everything you have said – as a gay man as well I look to the law for the same protection as everyone else. There are already laws on the books to punish people for murder and assault and the penalties are severe, and judges already take into account the change of recidivism in their sentencing (think, three strikes law)

    You cannot legislate thought – and the people who are going to commit hate crimes will not be dissuaded from committing them any further by hate legislation if they are not dissuaded by the existing criminal laws. Gaining broader acceptance in society at large is the better fight and will certainly save more lives in the long run – not legislation prohibiting despicable speech

  24. @James Fox:

    Two additional points:

    First, the law clearly states that what is illegal is ACTIONS based on hate, not the hate itself -“evidence of expression or associations of the defendant may not be introduced as substantive evidence at trial, unless the evidence specifically relates to that offense.”

    To claim that HR 1913 is a thought crimes bill is a gross mischaracterization of the intent and language of the law.

    Second, there continues to be a huge disparity in the resources available to fight against gender or sexual-orientation-based hate crimes and hate crimes based on race. I’m sure you did research and are aware that this bill is merely expanding the reach of an earlier federal hate crime law, passed in the ’60’s, that stiffened penalties for crimes motivated by race. The new law would simply add sexual orientation and gender identity to the protected groups, and allow local governments to get needed resources from the federal government for investigations and prosecutions. The need for such parity was made starkly clear more than a decade ago, in 1998, during the investigations of two different murders:

    The Laramie, Wyoming Sheriff’s Office had to furlough five deputies in order to cover the more than $150,000 that it cost to investigate Matthew Shepard’s murder. Yet when Jasper, Texas investigated the lynching of James Byrd, Jr., it received $284,000 in federal funds because Byrd’s murder was motivated by race, rather than sexual orientation.

    The law is good, and necessary – if you believe that all hate crimes should be prosecuted equally.

  25. @Gabrielbrawley:

    Also if this law truly impingined on the first amendment and unconsitutionally violated the right of free speech for christian hate groups they have the resources to quickly take it before the supreme court.

    Exactly. If anything is as constitutionally unsound as they’re making it out to be, the Supreme Court would take it into question and make a ruling. If the bill passes and is found to be infringing on their rights, it can be overturned or amended.

  26. @Chelsea: Please, do not apologize for any offence. This is a personal preference. I understand that homosexual is a politically correct term, so, that would be, IMHO, the best choice when talking to a group of people you don’t know “like that”. I know several people, who, the PC term is “african american”, but they prefer the term “black”.

    But, I agree, you can not like something til your blue in the face. That’s not going to change anything. But when you act upon those feelings, that’s a whole new can of worms.

  27. @Chelsea: I’ve always been under the impression the SC can’t just up and say “That’s not right.” Either something has to work its way through the judicial process to the USCS, or the bill has to have some stipulation that once passed, it gets reviewed by the courts, like some DC gun laws.

  28. @infinitemonkey: It is rare for the supreme court to accept a challange of a law before someone has been harmed by the law but it isn’t unheard of. If 4 of the 9 justices of the supreme court agree to hear a case or a challange it is added to courts docket for the year they can also grant emergency certiorar and allow a case to leap frog over district and appeals courts.

  29. To many individual responses to direct them all accordingly, but to address some of the issues raised:

    I agree that motivation should be a deciding factor in punishment for a crime. That’s why there are degrees for both battery and murder. Premeditated crimes are more dangerous to the population at large than others, and they already carry harsher penalties. There’s no reason to believe that people who murder someone because he or she is gay are any more dangerous than serial killers who murder people based on body type or hair color. The only differences are the thoughts in the murderer’s head. These thoughts aren’t and shouldn’t be punishable under the First Amendment. Freedom of speech is also freedom of expression, and personal opinions are included as expression. It might be true that a murderous homophobe is more likely to kill again (though there’s no data to back this up as far as I know), which is why murder based on gender, sexual preference, or race should be considered first degree and carry a harsher sentence.

    I don’t understand the correlation between hate crimes laws and anti-terror legislation. Whether you’re a gang of drunken rednecks conspiring to shoot up a gay bar or a gang of sober fundamentalists conspiring to blow up a federal building, you’re still subject to current laws against conspiracy to commit murder. If you’re referring to terror laws providing harsher penalties for conspiracies against multiple people, then there’s still no correlation. If a terrorist only kills a single person, he or she can’t be charged with conspiring to kill every person he hates. Similarly, you can’t charge a murderous homophobe with conspiring to kill all gay people just because he killed or beat up one. If you do, you’re relying on the state to prove thoughts and intentions it can’t possibly prove and has no jurisdiction over. It’s not illegal to want or even intend to kill anyone. It’s only illegal to do it or be actively planning for it.

    On the issue of more federal powers, these are also unnecessary. The federal government already has the power to prosecute felonies (including murder) if they aren’t prosecuted on the local level.

    In regard to the raids in Dallas and elsewhere, this hate crime bill is also unnecessary. The decision whether or not to prosecute these police officers is ultimately up to the state attorney general. And if they aren’t prosecuted, the victims already have the right to pursue a civil case against the policy. The burden of proof is on them, but it’s always on the claimant. If that doesn’t work the federal government can also step in without any new hate crimes legislation. This has already happened before in the Rodney King trial. The officers who beat up King were acquitted in the state court, but at least one was convicted in federal court.

    Again, there’s nothing in this bill that provides further protection to anyone. All it does is bring harsher penalties upon people because they’re particularly dickish.

  30. @lemsroberts, the very quote you pulled to show this isn’t a thought crime bill shows that it actually is.

    “evidence of expression or associations of the defendant may not be introduced as substantive evidence at trial, unless the evidence specifically relates to that offense.”

    The operative phrase here is “unless the evidence specifically relates to that offense”. In other words, if a murderous redneck kills a gay man he’s secretly attracted to, you can’t use his homophobic blog or Lynyrd Skynyrd collection as evidence against him. But if he yelled “Die, queer!” before he committed the deed, that may be used as evidence that he murdered out of homophobia. In which case, you’re leavening harsher penalties on him because he’s a homophobe.

  31. The bill does not adequately protect Christians from gay activists

    This is a complete lie by Dr. Dobson. There has been hate crime laws based on religion for decades now and he knows it. Ok, technically that is not included in THIS bill, but that’s not the point.

  32. @AmateurScientist:

    Incorrect, please see earlier posts citing one expample of the disparity between resources available for crimes based on sexual orientation and ones based on race.

    The bill is not a “new” “thought crime” law.

    Read the bill, do some research on the statistics, and consider that the intended outcome of the law is trifold:

    1. To expand the law to authorize the Department of Justice to investigate and prosecute certain bias-motivated crimes based on the victim’s actual or perceived sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, or disability. The current law only includes race, color, religion or national origin.

    2. To eliminate a serious limitation on federal involvment under existing law which requires that a victim of a bias-motivated crime was attacked because he/she was engaged in a specified federally-protected activity such as voting, serving on a jury or attending school.

    3. To add “gender” and “gender identity” to the Hate Crimes Statistics Act.

    I can see why people would (and should) be afraid of the federal government regulating thoughts – even the most cretinous, bigoted wingnut is entitled to their own opinion, no matter how much I disagree. I simply have a problem with lazy analysis of this law, which, again, is not a “thought crime” bill, and which, again, may be necessary to bring awareness and resources to jurisdictions which suffer from a lack of both.

  33. Having read the Bill, it seems to me as if it simply extends “hate crime” law to cover sexual minorities.

    I can’t see anything that relates to actual speach. Physical violence in various forms is mentioned, but nothing about what you can say and write.

    More worringly the Bill states only $5m will be allocated to pay for inforcement, which seems like a trifling amount to me, given the size of the US.

    @lemsroberts: I’ve no legal knowledge, but isn’t the role of the american supreme court to interpret the american constitution? How could a lawyer argue that this bill violates the constitution as it is essentially an extension of exsisting “hate crime” law to cover another minority?

    AND why is a full Bill required? Wouldn’t it be easier to pass an Amendment to exsisting statute law to insert “and gay people too” in all the appropriate places to extend protection to them?

  34. @russellsugden:

    1. The level of constitutional protection afforded to minority groups varies in the eyes of the Supreme Court. Race is considered worthy of “strict scrutiny”. Gender and sexuality are not. To get the extra protection, Congress has to pass a law that explicilty includes them in the same realm of protection.

    2. A full bill is required any time any change is made to any law. That’s how the process works. You’re right – this isn’t new, it is essentially an amendment to the exisiting federal hate crimes law. However, it has to go through the exact same process in order to be voted on, approved, and codified.

  35. @Gabrielbrawley Exactly my point. The state brought assault charges against the officers who beat Rodney King and failed to get a conviction. Obviously the federal government can’t bring the same charges twice, so they prosecuted the officers for civil rights violations using federal civil protection laws based on the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment. The EPC also applies to gay people and could be used in the same way against the Dallas police if the Attorney General chooses to do so. But the key point you’re missing here is that this hate crimes bill seeks to grant the federal government authority to prosecute crimes when local jurisdictions choose not to, and this is an authority they already have. If no one in Texas wants to prosecute these officers, the federal court can bring felony charges against them. They just can’t repeat charges the state has already tried. And if the state charged these officers in the first place, the whole point of the hate crimes bill becomes moot. This is really a non-issue.

  36. @AmateurScientist: Well, I’d like to point out that I heard on the radio that the military has been asked to do an investigation into right-wing extremism because 40 profiles who “the mysterious they” have decided belong to members of the military are on a “whites only” social networking site.

    I think this in and of itself is jumping the gun, as I feel it violates freedom of speech and assembly. While I probably disagree with the content of the site-haven’t been to it, don’t care to, I feel their right to gather on the internet exclusively is the same right that allows me to go to gay.com.

    Now, I do think that if one of the 40 did go out and killed a person of minority, then, assuming this site has anti-minority propaganda, it should be broght into evidence as proof that this was motivated by race.

    So, I do conceed, the sword is double-edged.

    But, I would also like to point out that since our president took office, stuff like this has increased. I am not particularly surprised, and it seems the “anti” group is always more violent than the “pro” group.

  37. @AmateurScientist: I think you are saying that the federal government couldn’t bring assault charges because the state case failed to get a conviction. I think you are saying this is a violation of double jeopardy. If that is what you are saying then this would be a common misconception. It actually wouldn’t be double jeopardy. The different governmental authorities would be charging you with violations of different laws. So it wouldn’t be double jeopardy. I don’t think you fully understand criminal law in the united states. This isn’t meant as an insult. Most people don’t which is why there are so many lawyers.

  38. @lemsroberts I think the fundamental problem here is that the term “bias-motivated crime” is synonymous to me with thought crime. Where does bias lie if not in thoughts? Federal civil rights laws are meant to protect people from being denied basic rights because of gender, race, or religion. Yes, these laws should be amended to include sexuality (though I’d argue that’s implicit in the EPC). However, this legislation doesn’t do just that. It also authorizes federally mandated additional charges based on bias, and that’s unconstitutional.

    The Rodney King officers were tried on civil rights violations because they impeded King’s rights by pulling him over for being black in the eyes of the jury. Just as the cops in Dallas should probably be charged with civil rights violations for preventing gay people from gathering and from illegally detaining them. And if they assaulted these people, they should be charged for that as well. What’s new about hate crimes bills like this one is that they would allow for additional punishments for the assaults if they were found to be motivated by the victims’ sexuality. In which case, you would be punishing the officers for being homophobes in addition to thugs.

    To argue that a bill can’t be a violation of free speech, expression, or thought protection just because it doesn’t use those keywords seems like lazy legal interpretation to me.

    (It should also be noted at this point that I’m continuing this debate mostly because it’s Friday and I really need to pass the time at work. I’m against this bill, but it’s not the most awful thing in the world, as I’m sort of happy to let homophobes and racists rot in prison for just about any reason.)

  39. @lemsroberts: 1. So there is an assumption of no protection? Minorities (of any stripe) aren’t protected unless specifically legislated for? I would have thought that there would be an assumption of protection under the law by default.

    2. How do you get anything done? I prefer the British system of “If you could just write the adendum on the piece of velum the law was written on your majesty and it’ll be changed. No anywhere on velum is fine your majesty”

  40. @Gabrielbrawley Good point about double jeopardy. The federal court can try someone on the same charge as the state, but this rarely happens outside of drug trials for a number of reasons, including fact that they’re unlikely to get a conviction the second time around with the same set of facts.

    But regardless, the point here is that there’s already a system in place that has been proven to work. Granting more federal power is unnecessary. Why not focus attention on using the federal power that’s already there?

  41. @AmateurScientist: Hey, I’ve got plenty of time!

    Ok, when you say “thought crime”, to me, I interpret that as “thinking these things are illegal”. While they are discouraged, they aren’t illegal. Just like thinking “the speed limit in this neighborhood is too low. It’s posted as 25, but I want to do 60.”

    The key difference here is, what are your actions. Well, you can not like me till you’re blue in the face, and you can not like the speed limit until the cows come home. But, once you act upon these, that’s where it becomes the crime. You beat me up because I’m gay-that’s a hate crime. You did more than 20 mph over, that’s reckless driving.

    Granted its not an exact medaphor, but, I hope this has shown the difference between thinking it and doing it.

  42. @AmateurScientist: The idea that they would have the same set of fact isn’t always correct. Look at the West Memphis 3. (google it-long and short of it is 3 boys were convicted of satanic ritual murder, and since then, more evidence has come out)

    Between the conviction and now, a variety of factors have been presented to show that the 3 boys were innocent. Not just DNA, but other things, like inconsistencies in the story, additional evidence, and contrary “expert” testimony. Now, I’d like to say that anytime new evidence is produced, I’m fully in favor of a retrial-I’d rather give the murderer 100 retrials than imprison one innocent person-but, I digress.

    West memphis is a pretty small town, so they may not have access to resources that NYC may have. That’s were federal assistance would be necessary.

  43. @infinitemonkey The punishment is the issue here. If two people are caught breaking the speed limit, they’ll both get a ticket. But would it be right to give one person a bigger fine if he was speeding because he thought only dirty, dirty Canadians do 25? I don’t think so.

    Similarly, I don’t think someone who murders a black person for being black should receive a harsher penalty than another person who murders a black person to steal his wallet. You can say the racist is more likely to murder again, but what makes you think someone who’s willing to kill for money isn’t going to find himself poor and bloodthirsty ever again? Both of these are first degree murder, and that should be the end of it.

    By creating stiffer penalties for the racist, you’re effectively outlawing his racism in addition to his criminal act. That’s when it becomes thought crime.

  44. @russellsugden:

    It took an entire semester of ConLaw to teach the law of equal protection, so I am not sure that I can explain it in a post on a blog.

    Basically, strict scrutiny is the standard under the Equal Protection Clause that federal courts use to assess the constitutionality of governmental classifications based on race and other minority classifications as well as those that impinge on fundamental constitutional rights.

    To pass muster, a challenged law must be “closely” related to a “compelling” governmental interest. As such, strict scrutiny is the most rigorous of the three levels of scrutiny that courts have formulated. Ordinary (minimum) scrutiny applies to most bases on which government classifies people and their activities—for example, economic and social considerations such as wealth (or the lack of it). This test merely requires government to show that the classificatory scheme “reasonably” relates to a “legitimate” governmental interest.

    An intermediate level applies to classifications based on gender. Here, the governmental action must be “substantially” related to an “important” governmental interest.

    In contrast to ordinary scrutiny, where courts presume that the legislation or challenged governmental activity is constitutional and the plaintiff has the burden of showing a constitutional violation, strict scrutiny assumes that it is unconstitutional and the government has the burden of demonstrating its compelling interest. Courts must focus on government’s purpose rather than merely on the effect of governmental action to determine the validity of a challenged law or regulation.

    Strangely, this all started based on a footnote in the case US v. Carolene Products Co., 304 U.S. 144 (1938) – footnote four is where Justice Stone suggested there were reasons to apply a more exacting standard of judicial review in other types of cases. Legislation aimed at discrete and insular minorities, who lack the normal protections of the political process, should be an exception to the presumption of constitutionality, and a heightened standard of judicial review should be applied. This idea has greatly influenced equal protection jurisprudence, and judicial review.

  45. @AmateurScientist:

    Creating stiffer penalites for acting (ACTING being the key word here) on racist impulses is intended to prevent others from acting (ACTING) on their own racist or homophobic impulses. Violent acts directed at members of certain minority groups affect not only the injured party, but have the effect of terrorizing the community to which the injured belongs.

  46. @AmateurScientist: I would like to say that crimes based on biases are usually much more brutal than your average crime. A murder from a robbery is, FWIA, more likely to just be gunshot than a murder based on a bias. IMHO, a murder based on a bias is more likely to be a beating death. Since life in prison is pretty hard to give out, this would, if nothing else, keep them off the streets longer.

    Additionally, a person who has killed for money can look back on his life, and see where he went wrong, regardless of whether he “actually” changes, or not. A person who kills based on a bias, IMHO, is much less likely to change his/her beliefs-and thusly, IMHO, more likely to remain a danger to anyone within that profile.

  47. @infinitemonkey West Memphis is a unique case in that enough time has passed to gather new evidence. In the case of Rodney King, the prosecutions were back-to-back, which is what usually happens in these situations. In which case, the state and federal courts are using much the same evidence.

    In any case, the federal court could conceivably bring a back-to-back case on the same charges as the state with entirely different evidence, though there’s really no reason for this to ever happen. If both courts are going for the same convictions, they’re going to want to use any and all evidence at their disposal. Hypothetically, there could be a conspiracy on a local level to rig a trial against the tide of the evidence, and some crusading federal prosecutor could ride in to save the day. But this would be an extraordinary situation.

    The issue of resources is an interesting one, but if for some reason a state court is unable to try a case, they can always pass it to the feds. But that’s not what this hate crimes legislation is intended to facilitate. It seeks to give the federal government authority to swoop in and prosecute bias-motivated crimes local authorities ignore, but they already have the power to do that, whether bias-motivated crimes are involved or not. It’s just grandstanding.

  48. @lemsroberts

    Putting aside the fact that there’s no evidence to show that hate crimes laws (or the death penalty, for that matter) act as a deterrent, that doesn’t address their unconstitutionality. Just because some good might come out of a wrong, it doesn’t make the wrong right, right? Or wrong?

    @infinitemonkey

    You may well be correct about severity of injuries or even the likelihood of reform, but neither of those things have any bearing on the rights issues implicit in a hate crimes bill. Severe, torturous, and brutal murders will likely earn stiffer penalties than other ones anyway. And the likelihood of reform is an issue for parole boards, not federal law. There’s no reason a raving, murderous racist or homophobe couldn’t be treated the same way as any other criminally insane murderer unlikely to reform.

  49. @AmateurScientist: I might be confusing popular culture with reality, but I would think that a “criminally insame murderer” would be treated completely different than person who just made a really, really bad decision.

    But, using plausible scenerios, if Michael were to sit and plan a murder, it would more likely be something more intricate, such as a less violent death, and a better job at hiding the body.

    However, if there was a premeditated murder on a black man by a group of whites, the attack would be much more violent, and the hiding of the body, if there is an instance, would be much less thought out. While these are both premeditated murders, the brutality and “venom” in it would, IMHO, if for no other reason than just simple bloodlust, would necessitate a stiffer sentance.

    Bear in mind, that logic is the verdict, emotion is the sentence.

  50. @infinitemonkey

    So, the better you are at murder, the lesser the sentence? I don’t get your point.

    We’re not talking about sentencing. We’re talking about charges. Motivations, severity, and any number of other factors play into sentencing. (Well, non-mandatory sentencing, anyway.) The problem here is with charges. People shouldn’t face more charges for being racists or homophobes in addition to murderers.

    To say it’s only illegal to be a racist or a homophobe if you also murder or beat someone is still saying that the state of being racist or homophobic is in some cases illegal. And it never should be.

  51. @AmateurScientist:

    There is evidence both for and against the contention that hate crime laws (and the death penalty) act as a deterrent.

    Where in your posts have you raised an issue with the bill’s constitutionality? If I missed it, I apologize, but I thought you were pretty much arguing against the bill because you think it is a “thought crime” bill.

    Let me state that I am not trying to pick a fight with you; hate crime bills are thorny issues and whether or not they are useful or desireable is something about which reasonable people can disagree.

    Nevertheless, I don’t think the bill’s constitutionality is in any way questionable. Again, it is essentially an amendment to an existing federal law designed to help combat what has been an undeniable upswing in crime targeted against minority groups.

    I also fail to see the “rights” issues raised by this legislation. It does not outlaw an individual person’s right to be a racist or homophobic dick.

  52. @AmateurScientist: I wouldn’t say that, more, how humane was the murder. Bear in mind that putting a dog is humane, shooting it in the head is not.

    Hate crimes are necessary, because, in the above scenerios, they could say, (arbitrary number) 15-20 years. Parole 1/3 of the way through, so, a minimun of 5 years. The person who did the “less violent” murder most likely did it for a specific reason-money, love, personal gain. While none of these are honoralbe, they will no longer be in a position where such a gain would be possible.

    The person who commited the hate crime gets the same sentance. In five years, they back on the streets, still hating blacks. There would be no change in the circumstances. By adding an automatic 10 years, that brings their minimum stay to at least 11-12 years.

  53. @lemsroberts: This is true. You still have the right to buy all the nazi paraphinelia you want. Any time a gay man comes to your door, you can yell “***” and slam the door in his face. You’re rights to think has not been infringed. But, if you really think about it, you’ve infringed upon their right to live and be a minority.

  54. @lemsroberts: Thanks. That was most illuminating and quite interesting. American jurisprudence didn’t feature highly on my Chemistry/Maths course at University (in Britain) back in the day.

    Over here lawyers have a reputation for obfuscation, but your ellucidation was excellent in it erudition.

  55. @marilove: Apples and Oranges it seems to me.

    @lemsroberts: Yes these crimes occur, but what I’m asking is what problem is the legislation trying to fix. Where is there evidence that local jurisdictions are not adequately charging for and prosecuting these crimes? And the nature of the federal charge is totally dependent on intent and motivation, which seem part of the clearly to be part of the thinking and thought process. Part of my concern is that this type of law can and in some countries does lead to more restrictive laws that more specifically address language and speech as a crime. And don’t get me wrong, I clearly think these are bad crimes. I also think local jurisdictions do a good job investigating and prosecuting these crimes. Also the funding of local law enforcement jurisdictions from federal finds does not need to involve additional laws that could lead to federal prosecution of a person solely based on a perception of intent while in the commission of a separate crime.

    @Chelsea: It seem really bad legislative practice to argue that , “well if this law sucks then the courts will sort it out later…, no worries mate!” This type of argument seems all too similar to ones I heard concerning the Homeland Security legislation when people were saying the need for the law is to protect us from terrorists now and the issues of surveillance and personal freedom can be sorted out later in the courts.

    I’ve been in meetings for the past couple for hours and have not read the last thirty or so posts. I apologize if I’m going over stuff that’s already been discussed and left behind.

  56. @lemsroberts: With this legislation, absent the assertion of a thought there is no crime. It’s the impulse that makes a criminal act a federal offence. And surely gang activity is a much more terrorizing criminal enterprise that impacts more people today than racially motivated crimes, and there does not appear to be any need for a federal law to address this all to prevalent situation.

  57. @lemsroberts

    Criminalizing thoughts (which I clearly think this bill seeks to do) is necessarily unconstitutional, since thought and expression are the same thing. It’s also a violation of the EPC, since you’re treating people with certain ideologies differently under the law.

    Anyway, it’s been an interesting debate, but I’m off for the weekend. I respect all of your opinions and enjoyed the discussion.

    Obviously though, I wish nothing but horrible things upon all those who disagree with me. Poxes and whatnot.

  58. Here’s my biggest beef with any legislation like this: What if the situation is reversed?

    I’m a heterosexual white male. Suppose some homosexual black female (let’s even say she’s a heterophobe, for the sake of completeness) premeditates and kills me for reasons of race, color of my eyes, sexual orientation, whatever. Does this law provide stiffer penalties for her in this instance?

    If it does not, then this law has no place in the United States.

  59. @TimmyD: The bill doesn’t just protect gays from homophobes, it protects in the name of gender. It’s an add-on to the already existing hate crime law, which included “prejudice based on the actual or perceived race, color, religion, national origin, or disability.” The newest portion includes “gender, sexual orientation, or gender identity.” Because it doesn’t say anything about which of those one has to identify with when becoming a victim, it includes all. So yes, if a heterophobe were to seek out a straight person with intent to do them harm, they would be prosecuted the same as a homophobe.

  60. Solely for the sake of expressing my personal opinion (as I’m certainly not qualified to offer anything resembling legal knowledge) I’d like to offer the following thoughts –

    1 – LGBT is stuffy and growing more obtuse by the day (LGBTSTTQAPFSAO? Seriously?), and individual specifications have begun to resemble pretentious coffee orders. “I’ll have a Post-FemiLesbian Poly Bi-Sexual with Non-Gender-Conformity Fetish-Positive whip, please.”

    It’s all become entirely too serious, so I’ve settled on “Queer” – which has the added bonus of sounding somewhat British and leaving fundamentalists with the slightest suspicion that you might simply mean “odd”.

    2 – As I see it, hate crime laws carry harsher penalties because they’re specific attempts at victimizing an entire community through violence perpetrated on a singular target.

    When Bigot#1 and his buddies go out fag-tagging, beat the crap out of some unsuspecting boy and carve “Die Faggots Die” in his chest they’re not only assaulting an individual, they’re assaulting the reasonable expectation of safety for an entire community.

    Do I think hate crime laws will act as a deterrent? No. Violent bigoted assholes are violent bigoted assholes regardless of how the law reads – mostly because they never really believe they’ll get caught.

    I do, however, think that hate crime laws offer a community the sense that their victimization is also recognized and give local law enforcement the means to restore that expectation of safety.

  61. @lemsroberts:
    If a serial murderer,brutal sadistic muggers or whatever are targeting individuals of opportunity for unknown reasons cant the whole community feel threatened ? Remember when those snipers were shooting random people. I don’t know if anyone now knows the real reason they were doing it. Does it really matter the motivations of Jeffrey Dahmer or Ted Bundy when it came time to sentence them. The acts were heinous . Would it matter if they were motivated by some sick perverted thrill rather than a prejudice. I’m not sure that anyone including those criminals could say why they did those horrible acts.
    Serial killings are not that common but random muggings,robberies, home breakins,etc can create fear in the whole community and can be common. Recently around here there was a group that would barge into houses and brutalize (I think one was pistol whipped) the owners while robbing them. I have two neighbors who were home when someone tried breaking in. One of the neighbors ( an elderly woman) had a guy kick in her back door 4′ o clock on a Saturday afternoon. This was several years ago when I still took care of my mother (alzheimers). There were 2 handguns in our house (my parents b0th were in military in WW2 and were not afraid of firearms). When I moved in my mom had beginning stages and still had presence of mind to show me where they were(in a secret place locked up). Of course I had taken them and bought something else to lock them up so she could no longer get to them. I never had an interest in using them before but after the break in 2 houses down I took them to a nearby range and learned to use them. If it was just me I could run out the other door if someone broke in the middle of the night but there would be no way I could get my mom out quickly. Long story but I guess to say you don’t have to be in any specific group to worry about crime.

  62. Supposing this bill extending “hate crime” protections passes into law, what is the next protected class that should be added? I am surprised that age (old age) is not included, since the same protected classes, except old people, are in equal employment opportunity laws.

    How about physicians and other people involved in providing legal medical procedures? That way abortion clinic bombers could get additional penalties/extra federal money for investigation.

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