Defending Hate Crime Laws

publius gives the reasons I am personally in favor of hate crimes as a category of crime and see them as consistent with my rabbid commitment to free speech:

Cohen says that hate crimes aren’t really different from any other crime — so there’s no need for extra penalties.  That’s not true.  Hate crimes are specifically intended not merely to injure the individual, but to politically threaten the larger group and to deny them their civil rights.

Hate crimes, in short, are politics by extralegal means.  Lynching in the South, for instance, wasn’t just a crime against an individual — it was a signal to the larger community.  And so because hate crimes have additional consequences above and beyond the individual injury, they are more harshly punished.  That’s the “real purpose.”

In one sense, all crimes criminalize “thought.”  The American criminal justice system requires showing not merely an act, but an intent.  If I fall down accidentally and kill you, I can’t be prosecuted.  Yes, I committed an act of homicide, but I didn’t intend to do that act.

We’re not criminalizing thoughts or opinions.  We inferring a specific type of criminal intent from tangible evidence — just like we must infer intent to murder from tangible evidence.

Your Thoughts?

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About Daniel Fincke

Dr. Daniel Fincke  has his PhD in philosophy from Fordham University and spent 11 years teaching in college classrooms. He wrote his dissertation on Ethics and the philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche. On Camels With Hammers, the careful philosophy blog he writes for a popular audience, Dan argues for atheism and develops a humanistic ethical theory he calls “Empowerment Ethics”. Dan also teaches affordable, non-matriculated, video-conferencing philosophy classes on ethics, Nietzsche, historical philosophy, and philosophy for atheists that anyone around the world can sign up for. (You can learn more about Dan’s online classes here.) Dan is an APPA  (American Philosophical Practitioners Association) certified philosophical counselor who offers philosophical advice services to help people work through the philosophical aspects of their practical problems or to work out their views on philosophical issues. (You can read examples of Dan’s advice here.) Through his blogging, his online teaching, and his philosophical advice services each, Dan specializes in helping people who have recently left a religious tradition work out their constructive answers to questions of ethics, metaphysics, the meaning of life, etc. as part of their process of radical worldview change.