Hate-Crime Laws and Loving the Sinner

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One of the benefits of a Democratic President and a Democratic Congress is that we can expect action on good, progressive legislation. One such bill is H.R. 1913, the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2009, which was recently approved by the House Judiciary Committee. As noted by Americans United, this bill

would allow the U.S. Justice Department to offer assistance when a crime that results in death or serious injury is committed against any American because of the victim’s race, color, religion, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity or disability. The federal government could even prosecute such cases if local officials were unwilling to do so.

According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, the bill “has been endorsed by more than 275 national civil rights, professional, civic, education, and religious groups, 26 state attorneys general, and a number of the most important national law enforcement organizations… [and] has repeatedly attracted majority, bipartisan support in both the Senate and the House.”

But there is one group opposing the bill, and you’ll never guess who:

Let’s say you preach from Genesis 19 or Romans 1, referencing the homosexual agenda or lifestyle. Your sermon could be heard by an individual who applies it in a way prohibited by a hate crimes law. Not only would the offender be prosecuted under this law, but you could also be prosecuted for conspiracy. Consequently, hate crimes laws would radically impact our freedom of speech as Christians.

Despite its wide bipartisan support, religious right groups like the Alliance Defense Fund and the Traditional Values Coalition are up in arms, hysterically warning that any bill which punishes hate crimes against gays and lesbians will be used to “silence Christian opposition to homosexuality”. This is a lie, as you can verify for yourself by reading the text of the bill, which says:

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 free speech or free exercise clauses of, the First Amendment to the Constitution.

As the language of the bill makes clear, it applies only to crimes of violence that are motivated by bias or hate. But religious right groups, as always, have no compunction in lying to their followers about the contents of this law.

The question is, given the demonstrable falsehood of their stated premises, what’s the real reason why religious right groups are so adamantly opposed to hate crime laws? If it’s true, as they say, that they “hate the sin and love the sinner”, one would think that they would support laws that give LGBT people more legal protection against crimes of bias.

The obvious answer is that they truly do hate homosexuals and want to preserve their right to discriminate against them. There’s too much evidence to dismiss this explanation out of hand: consider the cases, both famously cited in the “Gathering Storm” ad, in which a Christian doctor refused to perform artificial insemination on a lesbian patient and a church group refused to rent a pavilion, otherwise open to the public, for a same-sex commitment ceremony. (Both lost in court.)

The other explanation, which I suspect plays a greater role in their own minds, is that most right-wing Christians believe in a coming one-world government ruled by the Antichrist. Any political development that goes against their wishes, they assume to be part of this Satanic conspiracy against them. This explains the shrillness of their rhetoric: they’re positive that a day is soon coming when Christianity will be outlawed, and they see it coming around every corner. In the face of their faith, the actual facts of the matter – such as the fact that this legislation only criminalizes violence, not speech – are irrelevant to their minds.

About Adam Lee

Adam Lee is an atheist writer and speaker living in New York City. His new novel, Broken Ring, is available in paperback and e-book. Read his full bio, or follow him on Twitter.

  • mikespeir

    The problem with the “hate the sin but love the sinner” platitude is that we tend to define the sinner by his sin. Thus, it’s hard–perhaps impossible–to really love whomever we call “sinner.” Myself, I tend to cast Christians who think the way alluded to in the post in the role of sinner. It’s hard to hear the kinds of words they sometimes preach and feel much love for them.

  • Ritchie

    A good point, mikespeir. In fact, I’ve always thought the ‘hate-the-sin-love-the-sinner’ mantra to be hollow and essentially a lie. Too many Christians I know really mean that they will not judge others – because God will do it form them in the afterlife. This is not the same as truly being non-judgemental about other people’s lifestyles; it is simply deferring the judging and punishing to a being who has the power to be far more vicious and vindictive than they.

  • Ritchie

    Good point, mikespeir. I have often thought the ‘hate-the-sin-love-the-sinner’ mantra to be hollow and deceptive. I know too many Christians who use it when what they really mean is that they themselves will not judge others because God will do it for them in the afterlife. This is not truly being non-judgemental – it is simply deferring the judging and punishing to a being who is vastly more powerful, and therefore able to be far more vicious and vindictive than they could ever be.

  • Eric

    Why not just say, “I won’t judge you… I’ll let my rabid, under-fed dogs deal with you. Sick ‘em, boys!”

  • http://prostituee.wordpress.com/ Meretrix

    I’ve always hated the “love the sinner, hate the sin” mantra, especially coming from people like my parents who really believe that they love me. The problem with it, when it comes to homosexuals is that in the eye of the christian the homosexuality is the sin, whereas in the eye of the homosexual, the homosexuality is who they are (which, to the christian is the sinner). The christian interpretation works out for the homosexual as being “I love you (the sinner), but hate who you are (the sin).”
    Having parents who strongly believe that they love you, but just as strongly hate who you are (since they see it not as who you are, but what you do) is fucked up.

    As to hate crime legislation… the christian hysteria could possibly be understood due to similar legislation being discussed in NZ (I don’t recall if it passed or what the details were) and possibly other places: the Hate SPEECH law (same concept, but relevant to offensive/hateful speech as opposed to violent crime).

  • http://superstitionfree.blogspot.com Robert Madewell

    The “love the sinner, hate the sin” mantra never made alot of sense to me. Mainly because, I’ve never actually seen it practised. How do you separate the lifestyle from the person that lives it? The lifestyle is very much a part of the person.

  • http://paulforpm.blogspot.com/2009/04/morality-exposed keddaw

    Their reasons may be wrong and they may be complete hypocrites, but they are still correct.

    Hate crimes do not protect minorities, haters still hate, but it actually endangers people who are not in whichever minority is being protected.

    For example if I am with a group of and I am not one of them and are beaten up or in some way a crime is commited by someone who hates the minority and either assumes I am one of them or just for associating with them they get a lighter sentence than for beating on the minority. The motivation is identical but the crime is suddenly not? Logic people, please.

    Justice is blind, but apparently she has ESP.

  • Ritchie

    Sorry keddaw, could you repeat that please?

  • Wednesday

    I don’t believe that fear of the antichrist is necessary to explain the shrillness of right-wing anti-gay rhetoric. They’re losing the privileged status they’ve enjoyed – and other privileged groups in the past have reacted to advances in civil rights as deep insults or downright threats. It’s not just heterosexual privilege they’re afraid of losing, but Christian privilege, in a culturally Christian country that (despite its constitution) has long legally privileged certain types of Christianity.

    That’s not to say that some religious opponents of the Hate Crime legislation don’t fear the antichrist, too. But homophobic lies and shrill rhetoric aren’t limited to segments of Christianity with an antichrist mythos – I don’t think Mormons have much Rapture mythos, but Orson Scott Card has written several nasty anti-gay essays. And there are people who argue against _all_ Hate Crime legislation using the faulty “thought crime” rhetoric.

  • Mathew Wilder

    Violence against others (except in cases of self-defense, of course) is already illegal. Why do we need more laws outlawing what is already illegal?

    Enforce the laws we have. Making more laws is a useless gesture, in my opinion.

    I don’t really see the motivation behind such laws. Is killing someone for their race really worse than killing someone for money? Why? In both cases people end up dead.

  • Johan

    Ohh, when I read the title of this post, I was worried that they would ban hate speech, and go the same way as virtually all other Western countries have when it comes to this. Writing as a European, if there really is one thing to admit about the USA, it is its staunch protection of freedom of speech. Even Noam Chomsky who I have very, very little in common with, argued that this aspect is very important. Please don’t let us down on this. Because freedom of speech doesn’t exist to being able to talk about the whether. You can do that in Saudi Arabia too. It exists to enable all groups, even despisable Holocaust-denying neo-Nazis, express their views.

    “would allow the U.S. Justice Department to offer assistance when a crime that results in death or serious injury is committed against any American because of the victim’s race, color, religion, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity or disability. The federal government could even prosecute such cases if local officials were unwilling to do so.”

    That seems ok, but will whites also be included? Otherwise, that law is in itself racist.

  • Polly

    That clause re: 1st amendment is a good one and puts the lie to the fundies’ pretexts.

    I generally oppose hate-crime laws that affect sentencing in a purely punitive manner. Mandatory counseling or education might go a lot further.

    Only if greater recidivism can be shown in cases of bigotry-based crimes would I be more inclined to support longer confinement or parole periods.

  • Polly

    I realized my comments got off-topic for this particular post. I don’t really have a problem with more enforcement even if it’s from the fed except when some things are criminalized by the fed but not the state. And that’s not the case here.

  • Alex Weaver

    I don’t really see the motivation behind such laws. Is killing someone for their race really worse than killing someone for money? Why? In both cases people end up dead.

    Do robbers who kill people do it to “send a message” to everyone else with money?

  • http://paulforpm.blogspot.com/2009/04/morality-exposed keddaw

    Apologies Ritchie, I had some tags in my post and some words disappeared, here it is again:

    Their reasons may be wrong and they may be complete hypocrites, but they are still correct.

    Hate crime laws do not protect minorities, haters still hate, but it actually endangers people who are not in whichever minority is being protected but spend time with them.
    e.g. I am with a group of gay (or black or any minority you like) friends but I am straight. Some thug decides to go gay bashing but doesn’t like the extra punishment he’d get under hate crime legislation. He decides to pick on their straight friend instead as he is just as good because he hangs around with gays. Same crime same motivation, different target. How can the law be so different based on the victim? (if the victims are more vulnerable than other members of society, children etc. then this should be the case)

    Let’s test this law:
    I (white) am in a bar and someone (white) is spouting some racist comments and I try to get him to stop by saying I have a black wife. We argue, get into a fight he wins and I am seriously injured. The crime is normally assault. The barman heard his speech and my comment that I have a black wife. Is it now a hate crime? Is it still a hate crime if I don’t have a black wife?
    The motivation is identical but the crime is suddenly not? Logic people, please.

    Justice is blind, but apparently she has ESP.

  • Alex Weaver

    For example if I am with a group of and I am not one of them and are beaten up or in some way a crime is commited by someone who hates the minority and either assumes I am one of them or just for associating with them they get a lighter sentence than for beating on the minority. The motivation is identical but the crime is suddenly not? Logic people, please.

    sure looks to me like they’d be penalized under this lation for attacking you because they thought you were a member of a minority. Where in the law’s text do you see any indication to the contrary?

    That seems ok, but will whites also be included? Otherwise, that law is in itself racist.

    White is a race, isn’t it? So a law that applies more severe penalties to crimes committed against people “because of the victim’s race, color…” etc. would seem to apply, wouldn’t it?

    “Logic, people,” indeed.

    Only if greater recidivism can be shown in cases of bigotry-based crimes would I be more inclined to support longer confinement or parole periods.

    Bigotry-based crimes are a form of terrorism; as I touched on earlier, the purpose is not only to hurt the victim but to intimidate and cow the rest of the demographic group to which the victim belongs. When Klan-types beat up or kill a black person, every black person in America (or at least within the community) is in a sense a victim of that crime.

    (I think this line of argument makes the case, actually, for a more general purpose sanction against crimes committed for the purpose of intimidating third parties – gangsters “making an example” of people who resist them, for instance, even if it’s not on specifically racist grounds).

    Alternatively, we could simply include all of these kinds of crimes under the definition of “terrorism” and apply penalties accordingly.

  • Mathew Wilder

    Alex, that is an excellent point, which I had not considered, and actually have never seen raised in any discussions of hate crimes legislation that I’ve read before. Odd, since it seems to me to be the best argument for such legislation.

  • Leum

    e.g. I am with a group of gay (or black or any minority you like) friends but I am straight. Some thug decides to go gay bashing but doesn’t like the extra punishment he’d get under hate crime legislation. He decides to pick on their straight friend instead as he is just as good because he hangs around with gays. Same crime same motivation, different target. How can the law be so different based on the victim? (if the victims are more vulnerable than other members of society, children etc. then this should be the case)

    Can you, ah, provide an example of this happening? Because my understanding is that beating someone up because you think they’re gay/black/Native/female is treated as a hate crime even if you’re wrong. And I hardly think the argument “I knew he wasn’t Native, I beat him up because I hate Natives but didn’t want the extra penalty” will go down that well. In any case, hate crime laws exist because a hate crime is an act of domestic terrorism. A hate crime intimidates an entire group of people; your example still constitutes an act of domestic terrorism against gays.

  • http://gretachristina.typepad.com/ Greta Christina

    I don’t really see the motivation behind such laws. Is killing someone for their race really worse than killing someone for money? Why? In both cases people end up dead.

    The question here is motive.

    It is already a well- established legal principle that some motives for crimes — especially violent crimes — are worse than others, and deserve more serious punishment. Look at the differences between first- degree murder, second- degree murder, manslaughter, justifiable homicide, etc. Our laws already say that it’s worse to kill someone in cold blood for money than to kill someone in the heat of passion for anger; which is worse than killing someone recklessly and stupidly in an accident; which is worse than killing someone in self-defense.

    The laws say this for moral reasons — our morality holds that killing out of passionate personal anger, while not okay, is more understandable than killing coldly for financial gain. And they say this for practical reasons — crimes committed for some motives are more likely to be repeated, and/or do greater harm to society at large, than others.

    That is the purpose behind hate crime laws. They say that beating or killing someone because you hate their race, religion, nationality, gender, etc. is an unusually bad motive that deserves extra punishment. It does greater harm to society at large — it terrorizes an entire community and not just the immediate victim. And our society is coming to the conclusion that it is morally worse as well.

    For those who are interested, I’ve written a more detailed discussion of this principle in my piece Hate Crime Laws, and the Difference Between Speech and Evidence. (Sorry for the self- linkage, but it really is relevant.)

  • nfpendleton

    Biblically, homosexuality as a sin is given less print time than a slew of other “sins” and legal infractions one can commit. It was just another way for the Israelites to differentiate themselves from their “pagan” neighbors who tended to move fluidly from hetero to bisexual behaviors (like the majority of humanity for our entire existence). Tattoos and other body markings are death-worthy and restricted by code as well. So is a mouthy and/or contrary wife or daughter, according to the bible.

    The Americanization of the ancient Middle Eastern and Mediterranean religious texts has put a ridiculous amount of emphasis on things the scriptures merely touch on or simply prohibit. I think this undue emphasis finds its roots in not just extremist philosophies and cults (Puritanism, modern Fundamentalism, strict Catholic dogma, etc) but also oppressive historical eras – the most recent example being the anti-pinko commie 1950s of butch haircuts for men, dresses for women, and “God bless” this and that suddenly plastered on everthing from our Pledge to our money.

  • http://gretachristina.typepad.com/ Greta Christina

    Oh, BTW: There’s an important point that I think is being overlooked. And that’s that this law is already in place. The new bill currently being considered simply expands the existing law to cover sexual orientation and gender identity. In other words: It’s already a crime to beat or kill someone because of race, gender, religion, national identity, etc. This bill simply expands that coverage to protect LGBT people (And yes, straight people if they’re physically attacked for being straight. See below.)

    That seems ok, but will whites also be included? Otherwise, that law is in itself racist.

    Yes. Of course it would. The law doesn’t say that it’s a crime to beat or kill someone because they’re black or Asian or Latino. It says it’s a crime to beat or kill someone because of their race.

  • Jormungund

    I will never understand why liberals support this kind of thought crime legislation. Punishing people for thinking or saying hateful things before committing assault or murder sounds pretty absurd to me. We have already outlawed assault and murder. We don’t need more laws to give out special punishments to those who perform these crimes out of hate (as compared to what, those who murder and attack out of love?). Just enforce the laws against assault and murder and no more.
    This kind of legislation splits people up into groups and gives certain classifications of groups protected status under hate crimes laws. This law is divisive and attempting to force collectivist ideology onto criminal law. Though, I suppose that it has already succeeded since hate crime laws already exist. When will collectivists realize that they can’t defeat other collectivists (racists, gay-bashers, etc) by using more collectivism?

  • Alex Weaver

    I will never understand why liberals support this kind of thought crime legislation.

    1) it’s not “thought crime” legislation.
    2) perhaps if you were to READ THE THREAD you’d have some idea why we support it.
    3) did you miss the “broad bipartisan support” bit?

  • http://paulforpm.blogspot.com/2009/04/morality-exposed keddaw

    The best way to stop people committing hate crimes is to increase education and social unacceptability of the types of views that lead to these types of crimes.

    As for saying it would stop people committing crimes due to the punishment aspect is true, but if you gave the death sentence for shoplifting then virtually no-one would shoplift.

    And treating people less harshly for being in a rage is stupid. We used to treat people less harshly if they were intoxicated too, but we got over that.

    The only argument that even begins to hold water (and is a false one) is that it is an act of terrorism against a group of people. If there is a series of burglaries in a particular area should the burglar be treated differently as the neighbourhood were terrorised? No, thought not. What if it is a Jewish neighbourhood? Is that any different. No, it’s absurd as is all hate crime legislation.

    If we were less tolerant of intolerance there would be less intolerance.

  • http://paulforpm.blogspot.com/2009/04/morality-exposed keddaw

    Just a quick thought: would a gender (or race) specific rapist should get a longer sentence than an equal opportunities rapist?

  • Leum

    If there is a series of burglaries in a particular area should the burglar be treated differently as the neighbourhood were terrorised? No, thought not. What if it is a Jewish neighbourhood? Is that any different. No, it’s absurd as is all hate crime legislation.

    If we were less tolerant of intolerance there would be less intolerance.

    Just a quick thought: would a gender (or race) specific rapist should get a longer sentence than an equal opportunities rapist?

    If the neighborhoods were targeted because they were Jewish, then yes, it would (or at least could) constitute an act of terrorism. That would be for the courts to decide.

    There is an excellent case for regarding raping women as an act of violence against all women and thus a hate crime.

  • 2-D Man

    As for saying it would stop people committing crimes due to the punishment aspect is true, but if you gave the death sentence for shoplifting then virtually no-one would shoplift.

    Not necessarily.

    To further Leum’s point:

    If there is a series of burglaries in a particular area should the burglar be treated differently as the neighbourhood were terrorised? No, thought not. What if it is a Jewish neighbourhood? Is that any different. No, it’s absurd….

    I think you missed the point. Alex Weaver pointed out that hate crimes are a form of terrorism. Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary of Law defines terrorism:

    The unlawful use or threat of violence esp. against the state or the public as a politically motivated means of attack or coercion

    So in a legal sense, generally a burglar does not “terrorize” a neighborhood as he is not politically motivated in his attacks on society nor is he trying to coerce the neighborhood to do anything in particular. Whereas someone who attacks minorities for being of a minority is trying to coerce that community to withdraw from society.

  • http://gretachristina.typepad.com/ Greta Christina

    I will never understand why liberals support this kind of thought crime legislation.

    With all due respect, Jormungund: I don’t know how much more clearly we can explain it. We’ve already explained the already well- established legal principle: that crimes committed for some motives get punished more harshly than others, both for moral reasons and because of their practical effects on society. We’ve already explained why hate crime laws are important — because, among other reasons, hate crimes terrorize an entire community far beyond the immediate victims of the crimes. We’ve even explained that hate crime laws don’t give special protection to certain groups — a hate crime committed because someone is white is just as much a hate crime as one committed because someone is black.

    If you disagree with these ideas, or if you have objections to hate crimes on other grounds, then by all means, say so. But don’t just keep repeating “I don’t understand why people want this.” We’ve explained why we want it. Are you going to address those explanations? Or are you just going to keep saying, “I don’t understand”?

  • http://gretachristina.typepad.com/ Greta Christina

    And treating people less harshly for being in a rage is stupid.

    Are you really trying to argue that motive should not be a consideration in determining punishment for a crime?

    Are you really trying to argue that someone who kills because he’s a professional hit man who was paid $10,000 for it shouldn’t be punished more harshly than someone who kills because they think their life is in danger? Or than someone who, to use the classic moral dilemma, switches the out- of- control trolley car to the track with only one person on it to keep it from killing the five people on the other track?

    Are you really trying to argue that someone who breaks into an apartment and takes a stereo so they can sell it shouldn’t be punished more harshly than someone stranded on a mountain who breaks into an empty cabin and takes food and fuel and shelter because they would starve and freeze otherwise?

    Are you really trying to argue that a pharmacist who gives someone the wrong drug so they can save money and go to Aruba shouldn’t be punished more harshly than a pharmacist who gives someone the wrong drug because of an honest mistake… or because they work in a destitute part of the world where the right drug is unavailable and the wrong drug was the only one they had?

    It is a well-established legal principle that crimes committed for some motives deserve harsher punishment than others. It makes sense morally — motive is hugely important in ethics — and it makes sense practically, since criminals with Motive A are more likely to repeat their crimes than criminals with Motive B.

    If you want to argue that hatred of someone’s race, religion, nationality, gender, sexual orientation, etc. should not be one of those factors, then make that argument. But if all you can say is “Considering motive when determining punishment for a crime is stupid,” then your understanding of both the practical and ethical foundations of the law make no sense whatsoever.

  • Jim C.

    The rush to protect against terrorism is a tactic that many condemned George Bush for using to easily to justify whatever he wanted. I see some logic in the law regarding violence vs. speech, but there are already laws against speech that incites to violence, so I can see why some see “hate crime” laws as being applied to speech. If such speech occurs in a church, temple, mosque, is it somehow exempt? And what about limits? Why not add age, education, nerdiness, economic class, hair color, or whatever?

  • http://paulforpm.blogspot.com/2009/04/morality-exposed keddaw

    Are you really trying to argue that motive should not be a consideration in determining punishment for a crime?

    Yep. Enjoy :)

    Are you really trying to argue that someone who kills because he’s a professional hit man who was paid $10,000 for it shouldn’t be punished more harshly than someone who kills because they think their life is in danger? Or than someone who, to use the classic moral dilemma, switches the out- of- control trolley car to the track with only one person on it to keep it from killing the five people on the other track?

    Self defense is a valid legal argument and means the killing was lawful.

    Are you really trying to argue that someone who breaks into an apartment and takes a stereo so they can sell it shouldn’t be punished more harshly than someone stranded on a mountain who breaks into an empty cabin and takes food and fuel and shelter because they would starve and freeze otherwise?

    Stealing to save your own life or another person’s is not a crime and would not be considered a crime by anyone with any decent morality.

    Are you really trying to argue that a pharmacist who gives someone the wrong drug so they can save money and go to Aruba shouldn’t be punished more harshly than a pharmacist who gives someone the wrong drug because of an honest mistake… or because they work in a destitute part of the world where the right drug is unavailable and the wrong drug was the only one they had?

    You are talking about different crimes here! One is the willful distribution of the wrong medicine, the other is accidental. You seem to be equating the end result. If you knock someone down and kill them but they were suicidal and jumped in front of your car is 100% different to waiting for someone to cross the road then rushing them with your car.

    It is a well-established legal principle that crimes committed for some motives deserve harsher punishment than others. It makes sense morally — motive is hugely important in ethics — and it makes sense practically, since criminals with Motive A are more likely to repeat their crimes than criminals with Motive B.

    The only role motive should play in the legal system is to judge whether the crime was intentional or not.

    Poor people are much more likely to steal again, should we treat them more harshly then the Bernie Madhoffs of this world? Statistically some minorities are more likely to repeat offend, should they get different treatment to the majority? These may be practical, but they are far from ethical or moral!

    Do these last examples not show why people should be treated equally under the law?

  • http://paulforpm.blogspot.com/2009/04/morality-exposed keddaw

    I’ll need to work on my xhtml :)

  • Jormungund

    Or are you just going to keep saying, “I don’t understand”?

    Odd, I don’t remember saying that at all. It is almost as though you are putting words into my mouth.

    It is a well-established legal principle that crimes committed for some motives deserve harsher punishment than others.

    Yes, as in different kinds or degrees of murder for instance. That doesn’t lend support for hate crime laws though. Recognizing a difference between rage driven murder and premeditated murder is very different from inventing laws that give extra prison sentences to those who commit crimes out of hate. Not that I support recognizing a difference between premeditated murder and murder of passion.

    We’ve even explained that hate crime laws don’t give special protection to certain groups

    Once again putting words into my mouth. Did I argue that there was any special protection afforded by these laws? Nope. Yet you imply that I did. You aren’t, by any chance, beating down a straw man? I was merely saying that collectivist laws meant to combat collectivist ideologies seemed absurd to me. You aren’t going to defeat collectivist racists or collectivist gay bashers by being more collectivist than they are. I would rather denounce all collectivism rather than play into their game and make anti-collectivist laws that are collectivist in nature.

    hate crimes terrorize an entire community far beyond the immediate victims of the crimes.

    Good thing laws against assault, rape and murder are already protecting the community. If those laws are insufficient, then we need to legislate harsher penalties for them. But if we are going to punish certain crimes more harshly, then let us punish all of the criminals by the same standard (rape is rape, assault is assault, regardless of possible motivation) rather than punishing some more harshly based on arbitrary classifications of protected kinds of groups based on possible motivations that were against those arbitrarily defined groups.

  • rennis

    Once again, this post paints Bible believing Christians with a broad brush. While some do misrepresent the facts either intentionally or due to ignorance, that does not mean all do. When you stereotype all Christians it just shows the prejudice and disrespect you seemingly have for everone within a certain group. This is exactly the same thing you are criticizing them for. All Christians do not hate homosexuals just because they are living in a sinful lifestyle. You obviously have your beliefs based on whatever values you hold. Why are you so critical for others having values different from yours?

    Hate crimes are a form of terrorism and should be dealt with decisively…although all crimes of violence should already be dealt with decisively anyway. I think we all agree that violence against another individual is wrong.

  • Jormungund

    Or are you just going to keep saying, “I don’t understand”?

    I get that now. Right after I submitted by post of course. You were referring to my comment on how I don’t understand progressive support for these laws.
    I don’t understand why progressives support these laws because I thought that progressives supported free speech even if it was extremely unpopular. I thought that prison sentences for saying hateful things before a crime would be something that progressives would be against. Supporting prison-time punishments for free speech (even unpopular speech) seems odd for progressives to me.

  • Alex Weaver
    Are you really trying to argue that motive should not be a consideration in determining punishment for a crime?

    Yep. Enjoy :)

    Self defense is a valid legal argument and means the killing was lawful.

    Stealing to save your own life or another person’s is not a crime and would not be considered a crime by anyone with any decent morality.

    You are talking about different crimes here! One is the willful distribution of the wrong medicine, the other is accidental. You seem to be equating the end result. If you knock someone down and kill them but they were suicidal and jumped in front of your car is 100% different to waiting for someone to cross the road then rushing them with your car.

    Will you make up your mind?

  • Alex Weaver

    I don’t understand why progressives support these laws because I thought that progressives supported free speech even if it was extremely unpopular. I thought that prison sentences for saying hateful things before a crime would be something that progressives would be against. Supporting prison-time punishments for free speech (even unpopular speech) seems odd for progressives to me.

    Jormungand, you are being willfully obtuse. Look up what people are actually advocating, ffs. This straw man is exceptionally tiresome.

  • Chet

    Hate crime laws don’t have anything to do with motives or “thought police”-type regulation; it’s about the effect certain crimes have on communities. Burning something on someone else’s property might simply be a crime of arson.

    But burn a cross in the middle of a black neighborhood, and you haven’t simply committed arson, you’ve done harm to the entire community in a way that burning some garbage on a white person’s lawn simply wouldn’t. We punish crimes commensurate with their harm. More harm done, to more people – a stronger punishment for the crime.

    Hate crime laws reflect an essential principle of fairness – crimes that harm more people deserve a stronger punishment.

  • http://paulforpm.blogspot.com/2009/04/morality-exposed keddaw

    @Alex

    I re-read what I wrote and can understand your confusion, let me be clear.

    Motive is not the same as intent.

    Doing something accidentally is NOT the same as doing something intentionally. The motives are different (accidents tend not to have motives) but the outcome is the same BUT the important thing is not the motive but the intent.

    For example:
    1. You bump an old lady in the street because you don’t like old people, she falls and breaks her arm. You get punished for aggravate assault.
    2. You push an old lady into the path of an oncoming car because you don’t like old people, which stops, she falls and breaks her arm. You get punished for attempted murder.

    Same outcomes, same motives but different intentions.

    Intentions define the crime. Motives shouldn’t define the difference between muder1, murder2, manslaughter etc. it should be intent.

    So the hate crimes issue goes away, there are plenty of laws to deal with it. If the motive is because someone is gay, so what? If the intent was to scare the gay community then there are harassment laws that you can place on top of the assault charge and make the sentences consecutive. New laws are NOT required for this issue.

  • http://paulforpm.blogspot.com/2009/04/morality-exposed keddaw

    ALL communities are intimidated when a random person is attacked for no reason.

    When a minority is attacked or even one of the majority why is the punishment greater due to the motives?

    Because it’s a smaller subset we should punish it more? Should the smaller a subset is make the punishment greater?

    It makes NO sense.

  • Leum

    keddaw, when you reject one of the basic premises of criminal justice theory (that motivation should be a factor in determining the severity of the crime), you can hardly be expected to understand or agree with one of the conclusions based on that premise.

  • http://gretachristina.typepad.com/ Greta Christina

    That doesn’t lend support for hate crime laws though. Recognizing a difference between rage driven murder and premeditated murder is very different from inventing laws that give extra prison sentences to those who commit crimes out of hate.

    It does lend support. It is not, by itself, an argument for hate crime laws — but it provides them with a legal precedent, which is important.

    But if we are going to punish certain crimes more harshly, then let us punish all of the criminals by the same standard (rape is rape, assault is assault, regardless of possible motivation)…

    Are you opposed to the very idea of punishing crimes with certain motives more harshly than others? If so, then never mind. That is, as I’ve said what seems like fifty times now, a well- established legal concept supported by both ethics and pragmatism, If you’re arguing against it, then we have no basis for a conversation, and I’m not going to waste my time pursuing it.

    …rather than punishing some more harshly based on arbitrary classifications of protected kinds of groups based on possible motivations that were against those arbitrarily defined groups.

    I cannot say this clearly enough: The kinds of groups protected by hate crime laws are not arbitrary. The kinds of groups protected by hate crime laws are the kinds of groups most commonly targeted by these kinds of crimes, and calling those groups “arbitrary” seriously trivializes the problem. It’s not like lawmakers sat down and said, “Let’s give extra punishment when people are attacked for their eye color or their taste in vegetables.” That’s not necessary… since that’s not a widely common problem in society. Attacks based on race, religion, gender, etc. — that is a widely common problem in society. Hate crimes address it. They send a message that this type of crime is not tolerated.

    I thought that prison sentences for saying hateful things before a crime would be something that progressives would be against. Supporting prison-time punishments for free speech (even unpopular speech) seems odd for progressives to me.

    And once again, you’re missing the point. Hate crime laws are not the same as hate speech laws (which I absolutely do oppose). They do not criminalize speech. (If there’s speech but no violence, then there’s no hate crime.) They use speech as evidence of motive. And again, they do this in a way that is supported by ample legal precedent. If someone says, “Ha ha, my months- long plan to kill you for your insurance money has finally come to fruition” before they kill someone, that will definitely be used as evidence of first- degree murder. If you’re going to argue that that’s a violation of first amendment rights, then again, I think we have no basis for further conversation.

  • http://paulforpm.blogspot.com/2009/04/morality-exposed keddaw

    @Leum: keddaw, when you reject one of the basic premises of criminal justice theory (that motivation should be a factor in determining the severity of the crime), you can hardly be expected to understand or agree with one of the conclusions based on that premise.

    If a person chooses to attack random people for no reason they are harming a greater group (i.e. everyone) than if they attack a minority. If they are sociopaths, intentionally doing this, then they would get a lighter sentence than a person who attacks gays because he thinks it’s immoral.

    Thus the crime is exactly the same, the motive is exactly the same but the punishment is less to the person causing greater harm. I have removed motivation from the equation and what we are left with is a sentencing inequality based on hate crime legislation alone.

  • Leum

    Thanks for the explanation, keddaw. I don’t agree, but I have a better idea of where you’re coming from.

  • http://www.chl-tx.com TX CHL Instructor

    “When will collectivists realize that they can’t defeat other collectivists (racists, gay-bashers, etc) by using more collectivism?”

    Excellent! As for Alex’s response, yes, it *is* thought-crime legislation, and that is fairly obvious, when the punishment is to be adjusted in response to what the perp presumably thought about his victim.

    Murder (in the commonly accepted definition of “intentional killing of a human by another human” *) is illegal, and should be so. So-called “hate crime” legislation is counterproductive and unneeded. Even the definition(s) of hate crime is polarizing.

    (*) As I emphasize in my CHL class: The lawful purpose of the use of deadly force is not to kill, but to prevent or stop the use of unlawful deadly force or other violent crime. Intentional killing, even in self-defense, is illegal. The distinction is critically important.

  • velkyn

    “Your sermon could be heard by an individual who applies it in a way prohibited by a hate crimes law. Not only would the offender be prosecuted under this law, but you could also be prosecuted for conspiracy.Consequently, hate crimes laws would radically impact our freedom of speech as Christians. ”

    Sorry, but if something is hateful, no one is “hearing” it that way. It *is* that way. Always good to know that these Christians admit that their actions are indeed hate crimes to the rest of the world.

    I find it sad that so many Christians are wishing for the “end of the world” so they can get their scooby snack.

  • http://gretachristina.typepad.com/ Greta Christina
    “Your sermon could be heard by an individual who applies it in a way prohibited by a hate crimes law. Not only would the offender be prosecuted under this law, but you could also be prosecuted for conspiracy. Consequently, hate crimes laws would radically impact our freedom of speech as Christians.”

    Sorry, but if something is hateful, no one is “hearing” it that way. It *is* that way. Always good to know that these Christians admit that their actions are indeed hate crimes to the rest of the world.

    More to the point: No, you couldn’t. Read the statute. “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 free speech or free exercise clauses of, the First Amendment to the Constitution.” The only people who can be prosecuted for a hate crime are the people committing the crime. If someone makes a hateful speech that inspires someone to commit a hate crime, the statue explicitly protects the speechmaker from prosecution.

    As for this:

    As for Alex’s response, yes, it *is* thought-crime legislation, and that is fairly obvious, when the punishment is to be adjusted in response to what the perp presumably thought about his victim.

    TX CHL Instructor, I’ll ask you the same question I keep asking everyone else who’s arguing against this: Are you opposed to the very concept of judging crimes committed for certain motives more harshly than others? That’s what you seem to be saying here.

  • Polly

    Are you opposed to the very concept of judging crimes committed for certain motives more harshly than others?

    You didn’t ask me, but I’ll respond. If the motives we’re discussing are exclusively malicious (as opposed to accident or self-defense) then I would say that I find no reason to distinguish motive – not rage, not passion, not anything else. UNLESS, there’s a correlation between the motive and recdivism. If you can point me to a study or something, that would be very persuasive.

    The argument that hate crimes affect a larger number of people is better since ideally we should punish a person in proportion to the damage they cause. But, I still don’t find it convincing as I consider all crimes to be against all of society. I don’t stroll my neighborhood late night in the summer because I don’t want to get mugged (been there twice). And I live in a “good” neighborhood. The fact that I experience “terror” (exaggeration but that’s the practical effect) from generic none-hate crime makes me less likely to buy into the terror argument.

    All crime causes fear. It may be especially odious to target a specific group, but I don’t find that the solution is to punish based on motives. And, as I said earlier, better prosecution would go a long way to stopping any crime and to making the targeted community feel that they are not alone.

    It was lax enforcement, or worse, even complicity on the part of local authorities in the past that was so devastating and gave hate crimes their special terror. Even the best laws can’t overcome lax enforcement. That’s true today, too.

  • André Phillips

    Man, people really don’t like to read other people’s comments, do they? By read, of course, I don’t just mean ‘look at them for things you disagree with.’ This has become quite the circular thread.

    As for the comment that poor people are more likely to steal again, I think we need to see some statistics before that’s admissible. I get the feeling you’re simply going on intuition and thinking to yourself, “poor people need things, so they’ll steal more than rich people” which I think is backwards. My intuition says that people who have but steal anyway steal for greed and will therefore be more likely to repeat, whereas stealing to survive can have an actual goal and an end. Not to say poor people will always stop stealing once they are no longer poor, and I also have nothing to back up my intuition, but I wanted to mention that I found that to be a pretty ridiculous argument. Either side needs statistics.

    I also disagree with the idea that “ALL communities are intimidated when a random person is attacked for no reason.” Again, I think it’s the opposite; no communities are attacked when a random person is attacked for no reason. Then it’s simply an attack on an individual. Will there be a repeat? Maybe, but again, in your example it’ll most likely be a random person for no reason. No communities are involved and every individual has equal reason to be concerned. Although, technically, since the pool of possible next victims is larger, they probably have less chance of being the one, and therefore less cause for concern, than if they were actually attacks directed at a specific group of people. Just thinking out loud with that one.

    I can’t help but feel like there’s an analogy here, even if it is possibly a terrible one, with the difference between the phrases “I hate people” and “I hate you.” I guess I’m of the opinion that the latter is more vicious, worrisome, and worthy of special attention than the former, and such is the difference that makes hate crime worse than ‘non-hate’ crime, or at least more problematic. I’m just rephrasing the same things you’ve all said already I suppose.

    But yeah, those pesky overzealous Christians.

  • Jormungund

    no communities are attacked when a random person is attacked for no reason. Then it’s simply an attack on an individual.

    That’s the thing I don’t like about hate crime laws. It uses a collectivist view of communities rather than treat every one as individuals. Attack a man for his money and you just some individual attacking some other individual. The effects on the community are ignored in this case. Even if some people in the neighborhood are now to scared to walk around at night after learning of the attack, the community is not taken into consideration.
    Attack a person for their religion, skin color, ethnicity, sexuality or nationality and now you are assaulting a community and will be punished for your harm on the community. Now we are not considering some individual attacking some other individual. Hate crime laws turn this individual against individual crime into an individual against community crime. I would prefer that merely the individuals involved in the crime were considered rather then the effect on the larger community. When crimes that are not hate crimes effect the larger community, there is no special legislation to give bonus prison time to the attacker. But when a hate crime effects the larger community, now the attacker will get a longer prison sentence. Somehow, this is justice. I don’t understand why that is just and I think it is absurd that collectivist ideology is being used to punish collectivists in the form of hate crime laws.
    I denounce all forms of collectivism. Even the forms of collectivism that people consider to be good rob us of our individuality and view us only as members of some group. I wish to be treated (legally and otherwise) as an individual rather than treated merely as a representative of some arbitrarily defined community. The racist who can only see people as subsets of their skin-color based grouping is no worse than the progressive who enshrines those skin color based groupings in law. Hate crime laws are racist and sexist. They treat individuals only as members of larger groups rather than treating them as real individuals.

  • Alex Weaver

    Hate crime laws are racist and sexist.

    No, they aren’t.

    Now what?

  • Jormungund

    No, they aren’t.

    Now what?

    Yes, they are.
    Now what?

    But seriously, laws that judge people only based off of their sex or skin color are sexist and racist. Even if you don’t agree with that, my disdain for collectivists (even collectivists who think that they are protecting us from other collectivists) still prevents me from supporting these laws.

  • http://paulforpm.blogspot.com/2009/04/morality-exposed keddaw

    @Andre Phillips

    Wow, how much did you miss the point by? When the Washington sniper was on the loose EVERYONE in the DC area was panicking. He seemed to be picking targets at random. When it turned out to be SUV drivers, the Prius drivers breathed a sigh of relief. SUV drivers continued their panic until the sniper was caught.

    So tell me again how no communities are attacked when it is random???

    Looking for stats on how poor people are statistically more likely to repeat offend, as are black people and alcoholics and people with drug problems and people with no families or jobs. However, it is somewhat unimportant, the point I was making is that we don’t give ANY groups harsher sentences (and should not) simply because they are more likely to re-offend. I was offering that as a counterargument to the fact people committing hate crimes are more likely to re-offend so they are given longer sentences.

  • http://paulforpm.blogspot.com/2009/04/morality-exposed keddaw

    Greta Christina,

    Motive is used for determining the severity of the sentence, not deciding the actual crime. Which crime has been committed depends upon the act and the intent.

    Hate crime legislation wants to change that by altering the crime based on the motive.

    It is this new direction I am opposed to, especially as motive is much harder to prove than intent or the actual act.

    e.g. a person who is one of the lunatics who hates gay people will use the usual epithets as insults on a regular basis. If said person gets into a fight he may well call his opponent those words as insults rather than because he believed the opponent to be gay. Under these new laws he would have committed a hate crime but no-one knows for sure apart from the person himself.

    So like I said, justice can now read minds.

  • Wednesday

    Keddaw – Remember, conviction of any crime requires proof beyond a reasonable doubt. So there has to be actual evidence that bias was the cause of the crime. And sometimes there is, far beyond the occasional epithet.

    In the very recent murder and hate crime trial in CO, the defense outright admitted that the defendant killed the victim, and killed her because she was a transwoman. What they tried to do was argue that this was somehow okay, using a “trans panic” argument. Thankfully, this didn’t fly with the jury – among other things, there was evidence that he’d known for a substantial period of time that she was trans.

    Hate crime laws (of both sorts – see below) make the “foo panic” defense much riskier, and I think this is a good thing. Such defenses tend to be designed to appeal to the jury’s discomfort with LGBTness (if not outright homophobia) and are sometimes explicitly victim-blaming and homophobic.

    Not all hate crime laws do the same thing – some affect sentencing, some create a new crime someone can be charged with. So IMO it’s a little disingenuous to say hate crime legislation (in general) redefines crimes in terms of motive.

  • Chet

    ALL communities are intimidated when a random person is attacked for no reason.

    Not always, not in the same degree, and not in the same way. Hate crimes, after all, aren’t limited to assaults. Maybe you could address my example? Should burning a cross on someone’s lawn simply be considered an act of arson?

    I fail to see how that’s fair. There’s a qualitative difference between burning a cross on a lawn in a black neighborhood, and burning some garbage on a lawn in a white neighborhood. Hate crimes laws exist to reflect that difference. It’s not a function of “intent”, though that’s relevant – it’s a function of the fact that our laws need to reflect the fact that some crimes cause greater harm than just the damage to property or person.

  • Chet

    That’s the thing I don’t like about hate crime laws. It uses a collectivist view of communities rather than treat every one as individuals.

    So treat them as individuals, then. When a cross is burned in a black neighborhood, Mr. Jenkins who owns the lawn is harmed, because he suffers damage to his property. But his wife is harmed, too. His neighbors, Bob and Melinda Thompson, are also harmed. Bill, Tommy, and Marsha, three kids who live in the neighborhood, are also harmed. (They have nightmares for weeks.) And so on.

    Shouldn’t the punishment for the crime reflect the harm they suffered? Or is Mr. Jenkins the only aggrieved party the law should care about? How is that fair? Just because it was his lawn? It was their community.

  • http://paulforpm.blogspot.com/2009/04/morality-exposed keddaw

    Thanks Chet, I had been meaning to address this.

    Burning your name across someone’s lawn is vandalism.

    Burning a swastika on a Jew’s lawn is vandalism AND harassment/intimidation (whatever the actual law is.)
    Burning go home to Kansas or else (to someone in Alabama) on a person’s lawn is vandalism AND harassment/intimidation…
    And if there are only two families in that town from Kansas then the fear (harm) is much greater and yet this isn’t a hate crime.

    The point is that we are idiots. We are able to find ways to hate each other that the law cannot hope to keep up with.

    It is a function of intent. Your motive is you hate people from Kansas (above). Your intent is to get them to leave your neighborhood.

    Burning a cross in a black neighborhood (is stupid – you got a death wish??) is a form of intimidation. There are laws for that already. If they are inadequate then strengthen them. Don’t say that blacks are in need of special attention under the law, have they not had enough of that over the past few centuries?

    I just want the law to treat people as equals. Anti-discrimination law does that (badly, as it mentions specific groups), affirmative action and hate crime legislation do not.

  • Chet

    Burning your name across someone’s lawn is vandalism.

    Burning a swastika on a Jew’s lawn is vandalism AND harassment/intimidation (whatever the actual law is.)

    But who was harassed? If not merely the owner of the lawn, but every Jew in the neighborhood – or, perhaps, every Jew in the city, or the state, or the country, or the world – shouldn’t the law reflect that?

    Or are we going to say “well, you were harassed, but you shouldn’t have considered yourself harassed because you didn’t own the lawn, therefore we’re not going to prosecute your harasser.” That seems pretty stupid. Hate crime laws exist because some crimes have victims that can’t be recognized under existing statute, but the harm they suffer deserves justice against the perpetrator.

    If they are inadequate then strengthen them.

    That’s what hate crimes laws did.

    I just want the law to treat people as equals.

    That’s what hate crimes laws do – they treat the people in the community as aggrieved parties in every way as equal to the person who owned the lawn, or who personally suffered the attack. Not equal in terms of having borne the precisely same amount of harm – after all, it wasn’t their lawn or their person – but equal in terms of having suffered harm to which the perpetrator must be brought to account.

    It’s a world without hate crimes laws where people are not treated equally, where some people who suffered harm as a result of a crime are told “sorry, but your kind of harm simply doesn’t count.” What’s fair about that?

  • Jormungund

    BTW, I recommend visiting Greg Laden’s Blog if you’re interested in reading lively discussions on the topic of race as a social vs. biological construct. In particular, his posts titled The Scientific, Political, Social, and Pedagogical Context for the claim that “Race does not exist.” (November 29, 2008), and Insisting that “races are real” is a self fulfilling and overt racist act. So stop it now, please. (February 3, 2009) have long comment threads.

    Exactly. You only bolster collectivists by enshrining their ideology in law for them. Don’t aide them by writing their arbitrary classifications of groups into criminal law.

  • http://paulforpm.blogspot.com/2009/04/morality-exposed keddaw

    Chet, hate crimes do not strengthen the law. They make new laws for certain people, mainly victims.

    They don’t treat people as equals. They make certain groups of people GROUPS. The law should have no concept of collections of people. Each person is an individual, a member of society, not a member of an artificial subset of society.

    If a particular subset of society is being targeted by another subset of society the law should not be changed or codified to protect them more than they protect the average citizen. If you want to have a blindfolded justice as a symbol of how the law treats everyone equally then at no point in any law can there be a different crime or punishment based on either the criminal’s or victim’s race, creed, color, sexuality, religion, hair color or name.

  • Chet

    hey don’t treat people as equals. They make certain groups of people GROUPS.

    Nonsense – that’s a power the law could never possess. Hate crimes laws simply recognize that people are in groups, and that some crimes cause more harm because the victims are of a certain group.

    If a particular subset of society is being targeted by another subset of society the law should not be changed or codified to protect them more than they protect the average citizen.

    Your “average citizen” doctrine is stupid (and, I suspect, racist, since by “average” I suspect you mean “white, straight, Christian, and male”, the people who generally aren’t covered under hate crimes law.) By this doctrine, we would tell the victim who lost his expensive luxury car in a theft “well, an average citizen would never possess such a car; therefore you’ve not suffered any harm that we can prosecute. We can’t treat you any different than an average citizen and such a citizen could never be the victim of that crime.”

    Hate crimes laws promote equality by recognizing that some crimes are more harmful than others because of the way the persecute certain minority groups. In that way, the harm that minorities suffer as a result of certain crimes is placed on an equal standing with other kinds of harm, instead of simply dismissed, as you would prefer, because the victims were not white, male, Christian, or straight.

    We’re not basing any of the hate crimes laws on race; we’re basing them on harm. Ignoring that harm, as you would prefer, is what is racist; you’re saying that harm that befalls nonwhites, nonmales, nonchristians, and nonstraights preferentially is less important than other kinds of harm. It is, frankly, racist.

  • Jormungund

    Chet, let me jump in here and try to explain some of the things that are wrong with your post.

    Your “average citizen” doctrine is stupid (and, I suspect, racist, since by “average” I suspect you mean “white, straight, Christian, and male”, the people who generally aren’t covered under hate crimes law.)

    So he denounces the idea of legislating classifications of social groups and that makes you accuse him of being a racist and sexist. Please tell me that you see the irony. Please tell me that you see the outright hypocrisy of being glad that those classifications are now legal classifications and announcing that those who don’t like that are actually collectivists themselves. It is genuinely weird that you are accusing only the non-collectivists as being collectivists.

    Hate crimes laws promote equality by recognizing that some crimes are more harmful than others because of the way the persecute certain minority groups.

    This is a fundamental misunderstanding of hate crime laws. They have nothing to do with minority groups. If you attack someone who is in one of the protected group classifications primarily because of that group classification, then you have committed a hate crime regardless of whether that group is in the majority or minority. Screaming anti-white rhetoric and then assaulting a white person is a hate crime. The fact that whites are the majority has nothing to do with the hate crime laws.

    We’re not basing any of the hate crimes laws on race

    That is factually incorrect. Racial groups are one of the protected classifications of social groups under hate crime laws. The laws have nothing to do with harm and everything to do with enshrining collectivist’s desire to treat people as being subsets of a group rather than individuals into law.

    Ignoring that harm, as you would prefer, is what is racist; you’re saying that harm that befalls nonwhites, nonmales, nonchristians, and nonstraights preferentially is less important than other kinds of harm. It is, frankly, racist.

    No, that is not what the anti-collectivists are saying. We are saying that equivalent amounts of harm against different individuals regardless of racial, religious and sexual status is really equivalent and should not be treated differently due to past rhetoric by the assailant against one of those groups. When did anyone say that non-whites and non-males are less important? Where are you getting this straw man from?

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/daylightatheism Ebonmuse

    Update: HR 1913 passed the House recently. I’ve added a widget to this post from OpenCongress.org that shows the bill’s current status.

  • Alex Weaver

    No, that is not what the anti-collectivists are saying. We are saying that equivalent amounts of harm against different individuals regardless of racial, religious and sexual status is really equivalent and should not be treated differently due to past rhetoric by the assailant against one of those groups. When did anyone say that non-whites and non-males are less important?

    Your refusal to accept that the amounts of harm done by a crime motivated by personal gain or individual-against-individual grudges, and a crime intended to terrorize an entire group, do NOT represent equivalent harm, is your problem, not ours.

    Where are you getting this straw man from?

    My guess would be either a pattern-matching error, or a psychological defense mechanism protecting the brain from the possibility that you could actually believe anything as absurd as what you’re saying and therefore searching for alternative motives you might be covering.

  • Chris

    I’m and atheist with no love for the religious right. That said, I do not like these hate crime laws. We have punishments for violent crimes already, I don’t think the motive of the crime matters. If you kill someone for being black, or gay, or having a different religion, you’re still just as much of a murderer as someone who kills the person their wife is cheating with. I don’t think the reason behind a murder makes the act any better or worse, which is what these laws are trying to claim. I realize it also affects things like assault and such, but we have punishments for those crimes already also. All I see these laws doing is creating a separate standard for committing the same crime against some people as opposed to other people. Tho in the case of children, the handicapped or others who are generally defenseless, that might be a good standard. I do like the provision about the Federal Government being able to try crimes (I’d prefer all violent crimes, not just those against minorities) if states refuse to, but can’t they do that already or is that only for felonies that cross state borders? I’m not much of a lawyer.

  • Scotlyn

    One significant question that isn’t being addressed here is what kind of crime is it that local law forces won’t or can’t prosecute. Perhaps it is the type of crime in which the prejudice of the constabulary concurs with the prejudice that motivated the crime against the victim.

    As far as I remember this was one of the original motivating insights of the early feminist movement – that women who were victims of rape went into courtrooms to suffer further victimisation in the court’s assessment that she might have “asked for” her rape by her dress, demeanour, her sexual history or some other thing she had said, thought or done – especially if she was known to be an “uppity” or assertive woman. Not only was a women assaulted by being raped, there were strong disincentives built into the very system that should have enabled her to fight back.

    Billy Holliday’s haunting “Strange Fruit” also attests that a similar dynamic would have applied to lynchings of black men (and women?) – trying to prosecute a case against neighbours who were possibly themselves part of local law enforcement would have been next to impossible, and if a case did get to court, the victim would be vilified and shown to be “asking for it” – particularly if they were known to be “uppity” or assertive in defense of their rights.

    These are not the only possible hate crimes to conceive of, of course, but it is easy to see how crimes against individuals can be compounded by this type of institutional complicity which make them difficult to prosecute by local means, and why an outside enforcement might be necessary.

  • Alex Weaver

    We have punishments for violent crimes already, I don’t think the motive of the crime matters. If you kill someone for being black, or gay, or having a different religion, you’re still just as much of a murderer as someone who kills the person their wife is cheating with. I don’t think the reason behind a murder makes the act any better or worse, which is what these laws are trying to claim. I realize it also affects things like assault and such, but we have punishments for those crimes already also. All I see these laws doing is creating a separate standard for committing the same crime against some people as opposed to other people. Tho in the case of children, the handicapped or others who are generally defenseless, that might be a good standard. I do like the provision about the Federal Government being able to try crimes (I’d prefer all violent crimes, not just those against minorities) if states refuse to, but can’t they do that already or is that only for felonies that cross state borders? I’m not much of a lawyer.

    Every point here has been addressed by posts earlier in the thread.

  • Chris

    Alex, I read the above posts already, and really all I saw as an argument was that when it comes to murder, motive is already considered. I can see how the lesser penalty for a crime of passion could fall under that (but I think that’s ridiculous also, it’s still murder, should be the same penalty as any other murder, tho I think the crime of passion really means it wasn’t premeditated) but unintentionally causing someone’s death, or doing so if you are without your mental faculties (like being retarded or insane or something similar) aren’t motives. I don’t think the motive should factor in at all, murder is murder regardless of the reasoning behind it. You intentionally ended someone’s life, the reason behind it is moot. The point about say, a black person being lynched to prevent other blacks from voting, etc… is murder, and should be punished as such, but it might also be considered a form of terrorism, which would be another charge, as well as vote tampering or something similar. I don’t think hate crime legislation needs to be added here and I don’t think the previous posts give a good reason why it’s needed on top of laws we already have in place. Again, it just seems to be setting a different standard for certain people. Murder aside, I don’t know of any precedent similar to the ‘degrees’ of murder for other violent crimes like assault and rape. Rape and assault aren’t differentiated if they’re premeditated or not, I don’t think. I’m not a lawyer so maybe there are motive differences already for these crimes. Again, if a rape or assault was done to somehow silence or intimidate a group in a community (of whatever size) I don’t see why it wouldn’t fall under already legislated terror laws. I still don’t see a good reason why this law is needed as written.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/daylightatheism Ebonmuse

    It’s been a long time since this was first posted, but I’m happy to report that the hate crimes bill was finally signed into law today. (It was passed as an amendment to a different bill having to do with defense spending.)

  • http://she-who-chatters.blogspot.com D

    I share some of Chris’ sentiments, basically on the grounds that bigotry is a thought-crime. But then, so is planning to murder someone (as distinct from doing it in the heat of the moment). So my thoughts on hate crimes are rather thoroughly mixed. I think the most important thing to keep in mind is that there is a difference between a crime that is in fact motivated by bigotry, and a crime that merely might be motivated by bigotry: the former is indeed a more despicable form of evil than the latter, while the latter could in principle be used to describe any crime ever. Oh, and let’s please also remember the pragmatic corollary to presumption of innocence: it is better by far to let a guilty person walk free for want of proof, than to punish an innocent person for any reason at all.

    That said, I cannot but applaud the passage of this measure. If nothing else, it finally gets gender identity on the same footing as sexual orientation as something you can’t legally hold against a person, which puts us one pronounced step closer as a nation to accepting the fact that people come in all shapes, sizes, and flavors. My thoughts are still mixed, but on balance, I see this as a net good. Thanks for the update!

  • http://anexerciseinfutility.blogspot.com Tommykey

    I was once reflexively opposed to bias crime laws but eventually came around. There is a distinction between one Person A killing Person B in a fit of rage because Person B stole Person A’s life savings and Person A killing Person B because Person B belongs to a particular group that Person A just plain doesn’t like and Person A wants to send a message that no one from Person B’s group should come to his town.

    A lot of conservatives decry hate crime laws as giving special preferences to minority groups, but we also treat people who murder police officers different from those who murder your average Joe Sixpack. In NYC, where I work, they even have stiffer punishments for assaulting employees who work for the subway or are conductors on the rail roads.

  • Rowen

    I would just like to point out and reiterate some things I’ve been seeing here, though I realize this thread might be over with.

    1) Groups of people, as we normally think of them (whites, gays, blacks, catholics, etc) aren’t protected classes here. However, if there is a crime, and it can be found out that the intent of the crime was to terrorize someone based on their race, sex, religous affiliation, or sexual orientation (I know there’s a few more), there are harsher punishments that the prosecution can seek.

    2) This bill only adds real or perceived sexual orientation and gender identity to a list that was ALREADY long established in our nations laws. So, “hate crimes” already exist in our country, and crimes motivated by hatred tend to be more violent and have deeper psychological impact on the victim. (Oh, btw, a year ago, two hispanic men were beaten and one was killed, because they were walking home arm in arm, and they were brothers. Someone got the idea they were gay, and gay bashed them. Under this act, that would be a hate crime)

    3) The FBI will now start keeping track of attacks against someone due to real or perceived gender identity.

    4) This bill also allows the state and federal government to step in, when the local government decides to balk, for whatever reason. (as in, when the local police decide that that “kikey faggot had it coming”)

    Lastly, though it was only said a few times, we can BOTH fight for legal rights and protections AND influence the community at large. I’m tired of hearing people bitch about “why do you keep trying to press for the ineffectual laws? No change will come without changing people’s minds?” Well, what the hell do you think I do every day as an out gay man? I’m working on changing peoples minds. However, laws like this set a trend. And waiting around for the majority to blithely give me my rights is gonna take a hell of a lot longer then I have time for.

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