Why Are Conservative Christians Fighting Hate Crimes Legislation?

Only a few groups would have the balls to oppose legislation intended to protect victims from hate crimes. Some of those are conservative Christian groups who (once again) see themselves as the victims.

Check out this PDF from the Illinois Family Institute (when they go after my Republican Congressperson Judy Biggert, you know it’s a big deal to them).

My favorite excerpt:

The bill is not about stopping crime, but about giving sexual preference the same legal status as race. This legislation is just a stepping stone to regulate the speech of people who support family values, as in the case of the Philadelphia 11, a group of people holding signs about freedom from homosexuality at a gay pride event in Philadelphia who were arrested and charged with hate crimes, even though no crime was committed.

Miss California, Carrie Prejean, could have been charged with a “hate crime” for her views on same-sex marriage if H.R. 1913 was already law. What could constitute a “hate crime” under this bill is a “gay” man or woman claiming they were discriminated against and hurt by what was said.

First of all, you can read about the “Philadephia 11″ here. They’re not as innocent as IFI claims.

Secondly, Miss California would be completely fine to speak her mind.

IFI must have a short attention span since they obviously didn’t read the very last part of the legislation:

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 groups that oppose this legislation must be hitting rock bottom as organizations or are desperate for donations from their base.

  • Lisa

    Honestly, I don’t know what I think about “hate crimes.” It sounds like such a good idea, but should we really punish someone for what they are thinking? Punish the action sure, but I don’t know if we should try to make a law against thought. It almost sounds like thought police to me.

  • Brian

    I have similar qualms about hate crimes. We do punish people for intentions, which can be seen as thought. Murder is intentional killing, manslaughter is unintentional. However, we don’t normally care about the motivation behind the intention, except as a means to prove there was intention. Except for these hate crime laws; they do punish motivation.

    On the other hand, if certain types of motivations are to be punished, then motivation based on the sexual orientation of the victim should be included.

  • andrew

    if this sounds familiar, it should. its the langauge from the Louisiana “Academic Freedom” bill:


    “This Section shall only protect the teaching of scientific information and shall not be construed to promote any religious doctrine, promote discrimination for or against a particular set of religious beliefs, or promote discrimination for or against religion or non-religion.”

    This is quite similar rhetoric to the language in this anti-hate crime bill.

    I find such language describing what the bill doesn’t do as a red flag, and am rather skeptical of the author’s intent.

    Also I wanted to learn about the “Philadelphia 11″, but story about it is horribly written and really doesn’t give much indication of what really happened.

    I’m not saying this bill should or shouldn’t be opposed, but I’m not sold that it is what you say it is.

  • http://www.raywhiting.com/MyLife Raytheist

    It isn’t about “thought police” or punishing people for having ignorant or bigoted beliefs. It is about actual crimes — crimes against another person specifically because of those opinions. If a person is hurt in the course of a crime being committed (like a drug addicted stealing a woman’s purse for money, and she falls and gets hurt), the victim is collateral damage. But if a person targets and attacks a person for being gay, the victim isn’t just collateral damage but the reason for the crime.

    Hate Crimes legislation addresses the crime itself AND the motivation for the crime. A drug addict steals to GET something for himself, and it doesn’t matter who the victim is. The perpetrator of a hate crime attacks with a view to target and hurt someone because of who they are OR who they are perceived to be (like bullies beating up a kid, thinking he’s gay, when he’s just not into sports and prefers to play chess, for example).

    There’s nothing in any pending legislation that would amount to “thought police”, penalizing people’s opinions. It’s about what people do (actions) as a result of their opinions.

  • http://primesequence.blogspot.com/ PrimeNumbers

    I don’t like the concept of “hate crimes” one little bit. If a crime is committed, then it is the crime that must be dealt with. There is no need to add in the cherry on the cake that this criminal motivation is oh so much worse than that criminal motivation, when it’s the crime, or cake that is the really bad bit that is getting dealt with.

  • Miko

    I agree with Brian 100%. While I oppose all hate crime laws, sexual orientation has as much grounds to be covered by them as anything else does.

    The problem is that hate crime laws must always and necessarily be thoughtcrime laws. As Raytheist suggests, actions are (ideally) involved as well when these laws are invoked, but since the actions are punished separately it’s illogical to suggest that the hate crime law is punishing anything other that thought.

    Hate crime is one of those labels, like sex crime, that prosecutors can trot out to whip the public into an illogical frenzy, often for reasons counter to why the legislation was created in the first place.

    Plus, the notion is just inconsistent. To take Raytheist’s example: if bullies beat up a chess player because they (perhaps mistakenly) think he’s gay, that should be covered by a hate crime law; if they beat up the chess player because they hate chess players, presumably it shouldn’t be covered (unless you’re planning on taking the laws far beyond anything currently conceived).

    And from a pragmatic standpoint, figuring out someone’s intentions is often really hard. What happens the first time there’s a traffic accident and one of the drivers alleges that the accident was intentional since the other driver somehow knew that they were gay/black/a chess player/etc.? Since human beings have a strong tendency to look for patterns in random data, this sort of thing is a very realistic problem.

    And, of course, the conservative Christian arguments against the legislation are really bad. But that goes without saying.

  • http://suttersaga.com Sam Sutter

    No, there’s obvious differences. There should be a bigger punishment for spray-painting a swastika on a Jewish person’s front law vs carving your initials in a tree. (both technically vandalism/destruction of property)

    Side note and only marginally related -I think everyone agrees, that no one should believe that it’s wrong to be Jewish. But there are a lot of people who think they should have opinions about people’s sexual practices. I happen to make fun of Mormons and people who live in Kentucky – I don’t want hate crime legislation to condemn me for thinking that marring your sister, or having 5 wives is wrong and hilarious.

  • Vincent

    Not only where the Philly 11 not so innocent as described, but the writer outright lies.
    They were not charged with hate crimes.
    Disturbing the Peace and failure to comply with the lawful request of a law enforcement officer are not hate crimes.

    I see this so often and always from Christian groups. If the message is so great, why do you have to lie to get people to accept it?

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

    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).

    I’d put it down to confusion on their behalf. Or something along those lines.

  • Lost Left Coaster

    I’m always amazed, whenever the topic of hate crime laws comes up, how people completely misunderstand or misrepresent them or seem to think that spray painting Swastikas on the garage door of a Jewish person’s house should just be treated like petty vandalism rather than a more serious crime. The reasons for hate crime legislation is this: when someone is attacked or targeted simply for being a member of a group, whether black, white, gay, immigrant, etc, the attack is targeted not just at the individual that was victimized but also the entire population in question. The point of hate crimes legislation is to push back against the terror that can be waged against an entire population of people through one or a few criminal acts. Are you so blind to history to ignore the fact that hate crimes have been used in the United States, especially in the Southeast but also everywhere, to intimidate entire populations of people? What if you were one of seven black families in one town, and two of the black families or even one awoke in the middle of the night to find a burning cross in front of their house? Would you not feel the terror? Would you not know that you were a target of the crime too, even if no cross was burned in front of your house?

    And yet, according to many of the commenters on this site, if the perpetrators of the cross burning were to be caught, they should be charged no differently than if they had been playing a prank and set a trash can on fire. But the intent was clear: to intimidate and terrorize black families in that town.

    Look, hate crime enhancements are not just thrown around on a whim. It is the duty of the prosecution to prove in court that the crime was in fact a hate crime; it is not just something that applies whenever the victim was different than the perpetrator.

  • Larry Huffman

    I too have problems with hate crimes…in that I do not feel, philisophically speaking, that additional emphasis should be made based on the persons thought process when they commit a crime. (Vandalizing a church is vandalism already…no need to tack on more…in theory anyway)

    However…maybe it is comments like the one above that show the real need for such a thing.

    The bill is not about stopping crime, but about giving sexual preference the same legal status as race.

    So…according to these enlightened bozos, this is wrong because it is protecting…what…people they want to be free to hate? These people really want to oppose this by singling out one group of people who should not be protected? They seem to be saying, “Look, you have already made us leave people alone based on race…at least let us bash and commit crimes against people who differ from us in their sexual tastes”.

    So…maybe hate crimes are necessary. I don’t know.

    And the reason why conservative christians oppose hate crimes so loudly is not because of any notion of a thought crime…but because they simply have a lot of hate. Their religion and bible teach it implicitly.

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

    I would have to agree with the fundie-mentals on the free-speech issue. It’s horrible that they say hateful things about people, but I have to agree that they should have the right to say those things.

    Also, I should have a right to point at them and say, “You’re freakin’ wrong!” without that being considered a hate crime.

    Of course, freedom of speech shouldn’t cover cross burning. Burning a cross is actually doing something physical not to mention threatening or tresspassing. That should be prosecuted to the extent of the law.

  • http://www.gregorywalsh.net Greg

    I tried to access the link about the “Philadelphia 11″ from work and discovered that the US Naval Academy’s web filters block sites with “Gay or Lesbian or Bisexual Interest”

    Interesting. I always thought the military was supposed to be defending our freedoms.

  • Aj

    Clearly hate crimes are clearly thought crimes, as has been said they punish motivation for a crime. I don’t know what screwed up morals these people have but I wouldn’t be best pleased as a victim if my attacker got a lesser punishment because of his motivation. Murder to steal property is some how better than murder because you don’t like what someone does or believes? That’s insane.

    Should there be a bigger punishment for spraying a swastika? That’s punishing the message not the crime. I may not like the message but I support freedom of expression, punishing certain expression clearly goes against that idea. Of course if it’s intimidation then that’s another matter.

    Not only that but hate crime legislation discriminates against atheists and other groups. To attack people for being an atheist or something else is apparantly not as bad as attacking someone for being religious or homosexual. Special protection for special groups, that’s not fair or equal.

  • http://mylongapostasy.blogspot.com ATL-Apostate

    I agree with what many have said here.

    Don’t care if the victim is gay, black, or polka-dotted with stripes. If a crime is committed, the perp should receive the same punishment he would receive if he had harmed a straight white businessman (assuming this is what most agree upon as the “favored status”).

    No need for special laws here. Just enforce the current laws fairly. I’m no lawyer, but I don’t think there’s a “gay” clause or “black” clause excusing violence against these or other minorities. Someone please correct me if I’m wrong.

    I realize there are differences between 1st degree murder, etc, and those differences have to do with forethought, planning, etc. I think that’s fine, but it’s not the same as punishing someone for the ideology that lead up to the crime.

  • http://paulforpm.blogspot.com/ keddaw

    Hate crimes legislation should never be passed.
    Justice is blind, but apparently she has ESP.

    I was hoping for some reasoned debate on here and some good reasons why a logical, rational person would support legislation that treats people differently due to what they think while they are doing an act.

    The act is a crime, the motivation for the act is not a crime, neither is it an additional cause of harm.

    As for someone’s motivation causing fear and ‘terror’ to a group of people, so what? Since when has panicking the public been a crime, newspapers do it all the time, they suggest global pandemics when it is only a few people who have/will die of SARS or swine flu. Who genuinely thought the next letter they opened would contain anthrax?

  • AnonyMouse

    The point of hate crime legislation was covered in an earlier thread on the subject. I don’t remember what exactly was said, but I’ll paraphrase:

    When someone commits a crime, it’s more-or-less an isolated incident. Sure, the perpetrator is more likely to commit another crime, but unless he’s really organized, these crimes occur when and if they’re convenient to him and don’t really mean anything to anyone (outside of the damage done).

    When a hate crime is committed, it’s personal. The person committing the crime has said, through his actions, that he has something against a given group and he isn’t afraid to do whatever it takes to get rid of them. It’s very likely that if he went uncaptured that he would perform the same act again – or take it further next time.

    The example given above – between spray-painting a Swastika on a Jewish lawn and carving your name in a tree – captures this perfectly. Carving your name in a tree is relatively harmless. Painting a Swastika on the lawn is a form of nonverbal threat.

  • http://thebitchreport.blogspot.com/ Milena

    To treat all crimes the same would be to pretend we live in an ahistorical world detached from social hegemony. We don’t. We construct certain people as lesser than others, and then interact according to those constructs.

    Not only that, but law enforcement has often fallen in favour of members of the hegemonic group (white heterosexual males), even when they were the perpetrators. By extending special protection to groups that are specifically targetted for oppression and have been treated as less-than by law enforcement, legislatures announce their commitment to protecting all citizens, regardless of their identity. These bills are still very new, so of course they’re still missing groups (sexual identity is often not included), but they are being amended. And yes, this means that certain groups get privileged protection, but that’s because they have been shown to need it.

    Finally, I don’t think anyone here is going to be charged with a hate crime for simply saying that homosexuality is wrong, or that Christianity is wrong, or whatever. It’s not thought-police. In the US free speech is part of the Constitution, and in Canada it’s part of our Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Those are pretty hefty documents. Law enforcement isn’t going to bother you for simply stating your opinion, unless your opinion literally incites violence against people/groups.

  • 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.

  • Shane

    “By extending special protection to groups…”

    Because reverse discrimination works? I believe it simply makes things worse by driving a wedge that fuels further racism. By attempting to address the symptom you make the root cause worse.

    “Finally, I don’t think anyone here is going to be charged with a hate crime for simply saying…” Look here in Canada. Yes, we have had hate crimes charged for simple statements or cartoons which go to the guilty-until-proven-innocent Human Rights Commission.

    I don’t agree with making special laws to address “historical” issues. Make one law and only actual crimes are illegal. If there are historical social problems, this is an area where law enforcement should focus but we do not need new laws. You can’t accomplish social engineering with ham-handed measures like these and I think they actually make things worse.

  • http://chaoskeptic.blogspot.com Iason Ouabache

    The groups that oppose this legislation must be hitting rock bottom as organizations or are desperate for donations from their base.

    They hit rock bottom long ago and just kept on drilling.

    And hate crime laws aren’t about “thought crimes”. Hate crimes are a form of terrorism. They are about intimidating and silencing a specific group by inciting others to violence against them.

  • http://thebitchreport.blogspot.com/ Milena

    I don’t agree with making special laws to address “historical” issues. Make one law and only actual crimes are illegal. If there are historical social problems, this is an area where law enforcement should focus but we do not need new laws. You can’t accomplish social engineering with ham-handed measures like these and I think they actually make things worse.

    These aren’t historical issues. Discrimination is very much a current problem that can’t be addressed simply by being ignored. And the Canadian cases you were talking about were brought before the Human Rights Commission which has severe flaws, they weren’t deemed hate crimes.

  • Aj

    Iason Ouabache,

    They are about intimidating and silencing a specific group by inciting others to violence against them.

    Things that are already illegal, but those long established laws didn’t discriminate against groups not on the special list.

  • http://paulforpm.blogspot.com/ keddaw

    Here’s an argument against hate crimes I think came from a gay man: (paraphrase)

    “Why do we need special protection under the law? We have been fighting for years for equal treatment under the law.

    Look at who else has special protection under the law: children and the mentally disabled. In other words: the vulnerable. We are not children or mentally disabled so we do not need extra protection.”

    Just saying…

  • http://thepuckwrites.com Neal Jansons

    We already make distinctions based on motive (self-defense, crimes of passion, pre-meditated murder, possession with intention to distribute, taking a minor across state lines with licentious purpose, etc) in the law. This stance of “it shouldn’t be any different” refuses to acknowledge:

    1. The social effects of hate crimes to intimidate and control minority populations as well as reinforce social stratification.

    2. The power relations involved between the different parties.

    3. The distinct difference in the social message sent by the acts.

    Essentially, you are wanting to pretend (just for these kinds of crimes) that the acts of individuals somehow remain individual and should always be treated as such by the law. But this can’t be the case, because we live in a society that has a context and a history and a future. The crimes have different effects, and effects are primarily what we are, as a society, interested in dealing with.

    While the murder of someone for their purse doesn’t make anyone less dead than the murder of someone for their race, gender, religion, class, or sexual persuasion, it does have different social effects. You are only counting what is “different” to the victim, not the difference to the rest of the society of the victim. This notion of a legal system that ignores the real world effects of a crime only works in an individualistic la-la-land that doesn’t exist save in the fantasies of Ayn Rand. So long as we live in groups, the differing effects on the groups of our actions must be taken into account when judging them.

    Also, if you think about it, this whole notion of a moral or legal code divorced of social effects is a hold-over from religion, where god is to “deal with each soul individually on its own merits”. In real life, no one exists in a vacuum and neither do their crimes.

  • http://primesequence.blogspot.com/ PrimeNumbers

    Hate crimes are a form of terrorism. They are about intimidating and silencing a specific group by inciting others to violence against them.

    Terrorism – already a crime. Inciting violence and intimidation. Already criminal.

    All “hate crime” legislation does is pick out special groups for special treatment as if hating them is magically worse than hating any other identifiable group. It’s in direct contradiction to any form of equality.

  • River

    It’s amazing how much far-right propaganda has become so permeated throughout American thought. A hate-crime is not a thought-crime. A thought-crime is one where you are punished for even having the thought of something, like the Christian god is wont to do, or as demonstrated in Orwell’s 1984. And sifting through a criminal’s motivation is nothing new in justice — what do you think the differences between manslaughter and first-degree murder are? Merely ones of motivation and intent. Recall the term mens rea? It means “state of mind” — the judge/jury attempt to discern what was going through the perpetrator’s mind concerning the crime. If you accidentally kill somebody, the penalty is lighter than if you intend to do so, and plan it out.

    If someone vandalizes property because they’re drunk and/or bored, that’s one thing. If someone does so because they think very low of the victim’s race, gender, religion, etc., the intent is to terrorize the victim in particular, and the victim’s associates in general. We allow increased sentencing for terrorists of the Al-Qaeda and ELF sorts, why does it then not follow that we cannot be as stringent on the more common kind of terrorist?

    An important point to bring up is that Christians are among the biggest targets of hate crimes in the US. This is perhaps merely because there are more of them than anyone else, but the fact is that they stand to gain the most out of any group. I may disagree with them, but burning down churches is several lines too far to cross. Small groups are not the only ones who will gain from hate crimes legislation; such legislation will help curb the most localized and most pernicious kind of domestic terrorism, and help all people in the US. Let me say this again: such legislation doesn’t benefit narrowly-defined groups, as the propaganda says, it benefits anyone and everyone who is the target of crime motivated by hate.

    With a quick trawl through this blog you can find a lot of writing on why hate crime legislation is a Good Thing: David Niewert.

    I must admit that I shared many of the same thoughts and feelings as the commenters here. But after giving a close look to issue, I think such legislation is important, and the FUD thrown up about it is precisely that.

  • Josh BA

    How about this. Instead of calling it a hate crime, call it what it really is: terrorism. What distinguishes a hate crime from a normal crime should not be the mindset of the perpetrator but the manner in which it is carried out and the intent behind it.

    A person who kills 10 people at random has done something different than a person who kill 10 people of a certain subset of society and makes it known that they killed them for that reason. The first person killed 10 people. The second killed 10 people AND committed an act of terrorism.

    A person who tags “you suck” on a Jewish person’s house has done something different than the person who tags a swastika on a Jewish person’s house. The first person committed vandalism. The second person committed vandalism AND an act of terrorism.

    Thus, it is not the motive that hate crimes (should) address, it is the intent of the crime that makes the difference. A hate crime is not a thought crime any more than attempted robbery is a thought crime. Sure, the guy didn’t actually rob the place but it was his intent to do so and intent matters.

  • GullWatcher

    Terrorism – already a crime

    But isn’t terrorism itself considered a special type of crime, based on motivation? It doesn’t really affect so much whether something is or isn’t a crime, or whether someone is guilty, but it does add years to a sentence and volume to the public outcry.

    If terrorism is a special, legitimate case for different treatment of a crime, then why aren’t hate crimes in the same category? They seem very similar to me.

    (FYI – I’m not saying either is legit or not, I’m just saying that they seem so alike that I don’t see how one can be ok and the other not be.)

  • Zadius

    What anti-terrorism, or anti-intimidation laws were the killers of Matthew Shepard charged with again?

  • Mathew Wilder

    I honestly had never considered that hate crimes could/should be categorized as terrorism. I think that makes sense. However, I don’t think current terrorism laws probably have ever been applied/interpreted in this way. If that is the case, I don’t think the hate crimes legislation would problematic, since it would really just be clarifying existing law.

  • http://primesequence.blogspot.com/ PrimeNumbers

    But isn’t terrorism itself considered a special type of crime, based on motivation?

    Yeah, but we don’t lock up terrorists for thinking about it. We lock them up for blowing people up.

  • Zadius

    PrimeNumbers,

    That’s exactly the way hate crimes works too.

  • GullWatcher

    What Zadius said.

    Although, there is a fine line between thinking about something and planning it. Jose Padilla was convicted of ‘conspiring to commit terrorist acts’ and is serving a lengthy sentence for it. So, while what he did apparently went a little beyond just thinking about it, it fell well short of personally blowing people up, and yet he was indeed locked up for it.

  • ConservativeSailorMarine

    What part of the 1st Amendment don’t you understand? It is wonderful to watch you “thought police” undermining the Bill of Rights. Freedom of Speech? Only for those with a liberal agenda. The America I knew is gone. . . More and more this is sounding like I am living in the Soviet Union.

  • Aj

    We already make distinctions based on motive (self-defense, crimes of passion, pre-meditated murder, possession with intention to distribute, taking a minor across state lines with licentious purpose, etc) in the law.

    Intent is not motive in the law.

    But isn’t terrorism itself considered a special type of crime, based on motivation?

    “Terror laws” tend to be badly written and ill thoughtout as well.

    So, while what he did apparently went a little beyond just thinking about it, it fell well short of personally blowing people up, and yet he was indeed locked up for it.

    Intent to commit the crime is different to the motive behind the crime.

  • GullWatcher

    Intent to commit the crime is different to the motive behind the crime.

    Yes, I know, I wasn’t confused about that, I was discussing both aspects separately.

    On the matter of motivation I was comparing terrorism to hate crimes, and seeing them in the same category, as crimes given a special treatment because of motive.

    On the matter of intent, I was responding to Primenumbers comment about how terrorists don’t get locked up for thinking about it, only for doing it. From the Padilla case, my memory is that while they convicted him of intent, they didn’t prove he actually did anything other than think or talk about it. In this, my memory may be faulty, so feel free to correct me if I’m wrong.

    I’m not sure exactly what the legal meaning of ‘intent’ is. Can there be intent without action? Can one be convicted of criminal intent on speech alone? If so, doesn’t that infringe on free speech? Maybe someone here has the legal background to clarify that, as it’s something I have always wondered about.

  • http://gaytheistagenda.lavenderliberal.com/ Buffy

    IFI must have a short attention span since they obviously didn’t read the very last part of the legislation:

    They know very well about it. They’re just counting on others not knowing about it/not caring to read the actual legislation. They want everyone, including legislators, to take their word that pastors and beauty quens will be put in jail for daring to say they “disagree with homosexuality”. It’s fearmongering and lying at its worst.

    Funny how they never remember to mention how they are covered by hate crimes protections, and they never denounce those protections as “thought crimes” laws. But then that would require honesty of which they’re incapable.

  • http://paulforpm.blogspot.com/ keddaw

    So… a gender (or race) specific rapist should get a longer sentence than an equal opportunities rapist?

    Should we also not include gangs for this too as gang members are picked out for violence solely based upon their gang colors?

    How about robbers who prey on the elderly? (That one might actually be okay if it the infirm the robber targets.)

    Sorry, there is no moral or practical or logical way for hate crime legislation to work.

    What happened to justice being blind?

  • Awesomesauce

    So… a gender (or race) specific rapist should get a longer sentence than an equal opportunities rapist?

    Yes, if the rape is an act of terrorism. If the rapist just happens to stick to one population and has no terrorist motivations, then no.

    Should we also not include gangs for this too as gang members are picked out for violence solely based upon their gang colors?

    This is an interesting question that sounds a bit like sophistry. I would assume that gangs qualify as criminal organizations and it’s not likely that anybody is trying to include criminal organizations under the protection of the law.

    How about robbers who prey on the elderly? (That one might actually be okay if it the infirm the robber targets.)

    Aside from the fact that the robber happens to target elderly people, in your hypothetical question, is s/he also overtly making attempts to terrorize the geriatric population through these robberies or simply robbing them? If the former, then the elderly victims are victims of both robbery and terrorism. Hate crime is the term used to deal with the consolidated effect of the crime providing that both effects were intended.

    Sorry, there is no moral or practical or logical way for hate crime legislation to work.

    I’m not quite sure. Before tonight I would likely have agreed with you. However, I am struck by the concept of terrorism.

    After reading these comments tonight, it seems to me that the same thing separating terrorist bombing (for example) from murder also separates public lynching of black citizens (again for example) from murder.

    In both situations, the targets of the crime extend past the primary victims.

    What happened to justice being blind?

    This is the argument that I still need to have addressed before I can say that I fully support hate crime laws. White males are covered under the protection based on race and gender as well, correct?

    In other words, the protection is for those victimized on the basis of race, gender, etc. right?

    So what’s the deal? If suddenly white male corpses started showing up on Caucasian people’s doorsteps with “Death to whitey” carved in them, I would imagine that this counts as a hate crime.

    If not, then wtf?

  • Autumnal Harvest

    “Finally, I don’t think anyone here is going to be charged with a hate crime for simply saying…” Look here in Canada. Yes, we have had hate crimes charged for simple statements or cartoons which go to the guilty-until-proven-innocent Human Rights Commission.

    What’s the relevance of this? Canada’s a different country, with different laws. In the United States, hate speech is constitutionally protected—see R.A.V. vs. City of St. Paul.

    The responses of “this is a thought crime!” that always come up just don’t make any sense. There are about a billion different examples of ways in which U.S. law looks at what a person was thinking when they committed an act, and use their best guess as to those thoughts to decide how to classify the crime and how to punish it. We don’t go around calling them all “thought crimes.” Because that would be stupid. Invariably these debates always proceed the same way. Supporters of hate crime legislation point out all kinds of different laws whose classifications and punishments depend on what the accused was thinking. Then people who are committed to calling hate crimes “thought crimes” come up with all kinds of specious reasons why those cases are totally different.

    I’m not really crazy about hate crime legislation, because I’m not convinced that there are good policy reasons to distinguish this particular class of motivations. But it’s crazy to act like this is some “thought crime,” hithero only found in Orwellian nightmares.

    White males are covered under the protection based on race and gender as well, correct? In other words, the protection is for those victimized on the basis of race, gender, etc. right?

    Yes. In fact, I believe that U.S. hate crime laws are applied more often against African-Americans than whites, although I wouldn’t swear to that.

  • Pseudonym

    Aj:

    Intent is not motive in the law.

    Thankyou! It took ages, but someone said it.

    Spraypainting a swastika is, 99.99% of the time, associated with an intent to hurt someone or some group. Regardless of what you said, you intended to intimidate someone. That’s the difference.

  • Autumnal Harvest

    I’m not sure exactly what the legal meaning of ‘intent’ is. Can there be intent without action? Can one be convicted of criminal intent on speech alone? If so, doesn’t that infringe on free speech?

    In some cases, speech is tantamount to action, and so can be a crime. For example, if I give the Chinese classified information, all I’m doing is speech, but that’s a crime. Or, on a less dramatic level, solicitation of prostitution also consists of nothing but speech.

    On the other hand, for most crimes that you’re probably thinking about, such as murder or robbery, the courts will require that you carry out overt actions that bring you pretty close to committing the crime. Just saying that you want to kill Bob, and even buying a gun and bullets, and getting Mapquest directions to his house, won’t be enough to convict you of attempted murder.

    On the other hand (for a total of three hands), once you’ve committed a crime, there are lots of different ways in which what you were thinking can affect your punishment, and of course your speech can be used by the courts to determine your thoughts. For example, if you’re found with drugs, whether you were intending to sell the drugs will affect what crime you’re charged with. If I kill you by shooting you with a gun, the crime may be murder or manslaughter depending on whether I did it because I want your wallet, or because you killed my daughter two hours earlier. If you intentionally set a building on fire, the degree of the felony will be different depending on whether you were hoping to kill people, hoping to collect insurance money, or enjoy setting fires but in a way careful not to hurt people.

    On the other hand (maybe foot works better?), there are also some rarer cases in which otherwise legal acts can become crimes because of why you carry them out. For example, legal acts can become illegal when they’re part of a conspiracy to participate in some illegal enterprise. Or otherwise legal bank transactions can become illegal when they’re structured in a way so as to avoid bank reporting laws and thus hide illegal activities.

    OK, that was probably a longer answer than you wanted.

  • Aj

    Pseudonym:

    Spraypainting a swastika is, 99.99% of the time, associated with an intent to hurt someone or some group. Regardless of what you said, you intended to intimidate someone. That’s the difference.

    Intimidate? I don’t think so most of the time, and there is already an established law against intimidation. Burning crosses? Yes, that’s intimidation most of the time, and people have been charged with the crime of intimidation because of it.

  • http://paulforpm.blogspot.com/ keddaw

    Just to continue picking on the elderly…

    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.

  • Zadius

    *sigh*
    @keddaw
    The gay community was intimidated when Matthew Shepard was murdered, were they not? Yes, because that is what inevitably happens when a gay person is attacked for being gay, regardless of whether the attacker intended to intimidate the gay community. Yet, his killers were not charged with intimidation, terrorism or harassment or anything like that. The law was inadequate.

  • http://paulforpm.blogspot.com/ keddaw

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

    What’s your point? 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.

  • Zadius

    Minority groups are easier to intimidate, because they are… minorities! *shock*

    But yes, certain random crimes can intimidate an entire community, such as a serial murder spree. And I would not be opposed to charging a serial killer with terrorism for that reason. This is what happened with John Allen Muhammad.

  • http://paulforpm.blogspot.com/ keddaw

    How about this, just for a laugh.

    Instead of creating new hate crimes legislation to lock people up longer based on their victim selection techniques, why not use the existing time they would get in prison to treat their anti-social disorder and educate them out of their prejudices?

    Or would that remove the blood lust in the American judicial system?

    Release him after 5 years because his underlying hate issues and racism are gone? Not a chance, he’ll serve the full 10 years.

  • Zadius

    Is there some reason why those options are mutually exclusive? I’m all for having a better correctional system, but that doesn’t mean I have to pretend that all crimes are equal.

  • http://paulforpm.blogspot.com/ keddaw

    Zadius, you haven’t gotten past the random vs selective attacker argument yet. I cannot accept that you are right that we need new or different laws to deal with a random attacker because new laws put in place mean that if he is selective he would get a longer sentence.

    If the previous laws governing a random attacker were good enough for people, and are good enough for the majority, how can you say “certain random crimes can intimidate an entire community, such as a serial murder spree. And I would not be opposed to charging a serial killer with terrorism for that reason.”?

    I am loathe to use the serial killer as they are likely to get life anyway, I prefer a serial attacker who would get a lesser sentence and so show up the discrepancy that much more.

  • http://paulforpm.blogspot.com/ keddaw

    Damn, can’t edit posts…

    Anyway, basically what you are saying is that selecting victims should have a harder punishment but wait, so should randomly selecting victims.

    You have just increased the prison time for all attacks except… nope that seems to be them all. Congratulations, you have changed the way the law works and no-one has noticed, instead they think they are doing good. I suppose they did accept the Patriot Act without reading it, so what can I expect?

  • Zadius

    This will be my final post on the subject.

    The question isn’t whether a crime is random or selective. The question is whether the crime traumatizes the community or not. That’s the distinction between hates crimes and terrorism on the one hand, and ordinary crimes on the other hand. In the case of the former, more harm has been caused, so they are indeed more severe crimes.

  • http://paulforpm.blogspot.com/ keddaw

    And which one was the Washington Sniper?

  • http://paulforpm.blogspot.com/ keddaw

    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.

  • Vincent

    Hate crime legislation supporters don’t want to alter a crime based on the motive.

    They want to alter a crime based on the harm caused by commission of that crime.

    If someone starts leaving pipe bombs on random doorsteps, everyone is scared.
    If someone starts leaving pipe bombs on the doorsteps of homosexuals, then homosexual are scared to a greater degree.

    Living in a community, we expect a certain level of crime and we adjust for it. Being of a particular minority should not mean you are supposed to expect a higher level of crime.

  • http://paulforpm.blogspot.com/ keddaw

    “If someone starts leaving pipe bombs on random doorsteps, everyone is scared.
    If someone starts leaving pipe bombs on the doorsteps of homosexuals, then homosexual are scared to a greater degree. ”

    And if someone starts targeting people with red hair…

    And if someone starts targeting people called Sarah Connor…

    The problem is that we are placing people into artificial groups and saying “that group needs special protection.” It is patronising and patently unfair.

    Someone said “it would be great if we didn’t need this legislation.” How we treat equality when we do not have it is what makes us. We need the law to be equal, ESPECIALLY when people are being inequitable. All these groups have been fighting for equality under the law for many years but now we say no, you are not equal, you need protection that others do not. Children and the mentally disadvantaged need special protection under the law, NOT gays, blacks and muslims.

    As an example, the US said it was a nation that didn’t torture. That is easy to say in peace time when you don’t have terrorists attacking you. When people do start attacking you that is when you have to prove that you are a nation that doesn’t torture.

  • Vincent

    Then how do you justify other laws protecting people against discrimination based on race, religion or national origin?

    I see it as very similar to that form of protection.
    If you discriminate on those grounds you will be penalized, whether in the context of employment or in the context of committing a crime.
    Not identical, but similar

  • http://paulforpm.blogspot.com/ keddaw

    I don’t.

    All and any laws that discriminate against functioning adults are wrong.

    The law should protect people from discrimination based on anything other than ability for the task at hand is okay. The law should not specifically mention race, religion, nationality*, hair color, shoe size or any other way you wish to group or separate people.

    *The US president has to not only be a US citizen, over 35 but also to have been born on US soil. Is that right? I think not.

  • http://paulforpm.blogspot.com/ keddaw

    However, I am totally against affirmative action.

    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.

  • paulman

    If people are in such favor of passing hate crime legislation in an unbiased manor they should have the laws but include hate crimes against Christians as well in the same bills. I am certain much of the church defacing and spitting on clergy that occurs by homosexuals would apply. If you want to be fair then lets be fair and include that rediculous behavior as hate crimes against that segment of the country. Being a majority or minority has nothing to do with being treated poorly.

  • Ellen

    Thank you, Paulman! If ANYONE is not protected under the law then WHY NOT? Isn’t that what the law is for? to protect people? I have a son who is handicapped and I am thankful that people where we live are kind. I believe it’s because of the high population of Christians in this area. There is MUCH more hate toward Christians all over the world than toward the homosexual population. Still, all people should be protected against hate crimes, and if I understand the legislation, this does protect everyone.

  • Jake

    Why does liberal atheist Nat Hentoff oppose it?

  • http://travismonitor.blogspot.com Travis Monitor

    “Honestly, I don’t know what I think about “hate crimes.” It sounds like such a good idea, but should we really punish someone for what they are thinking?”

    The answer is so obvious to anyone who has read Orwell’s 1984 or has a passnig knowledge about the victims of totalitarian communism and nazism in the 20th century. The most fundamental freedom we have is freedom of conscience, and the worst dictatorships take away that freedom – they always have a reason/excuse. If you give a fig about human liberty at all, if you dont want the First Amendment to be toilet paper, the answer is NO. Another comment says:

    The responses of “this is a thought crime!” that always come up just don’t make any sense. There are about a billion different examples of ways in which U.S. law looks at what a person was thinking when they committed an act, and use their best guess as to those thoughts to decide how to classify the crime and how to punish it. We don’t go around calling them all “thought crimes.”

    The difference is simple and clear – in most all laws, the ACTION is the crime. In the case of hate *speech*, the expression is the crime. If the underlying crime *is* crime anyway – like assault or vandalism – then the hate crime law is redundant. But We are not talking about hate crimes of actual violence, but extending ‘hate crime’ to include mere expression. That extention is a clear violation of rights of free expression and should certainly be opposed. The record in Europe, Canada, US campus rules and states like PA shows that in most cases, hate crime laws have morphed into attacks on free speech. The claims that this doesnt happen defy the facts. The reason this happens is that the underlying concept of hate crimes are flaed – the thinkng *is* made the crime… ThoughtCrime. that’s why its a ‘hate crime’ bill and not a vandalism or ‘assault crimes’ bill.

    Commenter asked: “Why does liberal atheist Nat Hentoff oppose it?” … Because Nat is intellectually honest. Some non-intellectually honest athiests will get on the hate-crimes bandwagon because some conservative christians’ ox is getting gored. BIG MISTAKE. the same laws/mindset have been used in Europe to attack free speech rights of people speaking out against muslim extremism. Atheists are as much at risk as Christians from the battering ram of ThoughtCrime political correctness.

    Also, spare us “Philadelphia 11 is not so innocent” … that’s not what the Pennsylvania supreme court finally decided. They threw out the convictions and overturned the bill as an offense to their free speech rights:

    “The group of Christians, who were given the title Philadelphia 11, had been giving their testimony on public property at the city’s tax-funded celebration of homosexuality in the city’s downtown in 2004. But based on a 2002 “hate crimes” plan then in force in the state, they were arrested, jailed and threatened with up to five decades in jail.

    The criminal charges later were dismissed and the group members then challenged the law itself, suing over its adoption. The Supreme Court’s ruling affirms the 4-1 decision in the Commonwealth Court that the amendments were unconstitutional.”

    See:
    http://www.worldnetdaily.com/index.php?fa=PAGE.view&pageId=70565
    You may not agree with their view, by why make it a crime for someone to preach? Face it, when you extend ‘hate crimes’ to outlawing ‘hate speech’ you destroy free speech.

  • http://travismonitor.blogspot.com Travis Monitor

    “Then how do you justify other laws protecting people against discrimination based on race, religion or national origin?
    I see it as very similar to that form of protection.”

    The same people in favor of freedom-reducing hate crimes are in favor of the racist discriminatory policies of favoring one group (minorities) via affirmative action quotas.

    I find such people (liberals/leftists) consitently capable of preaching one thing (equality and tolerance) and then doing the opposition (reverse discrimination and political correctness intolerance).

  • http://travismonitor.blogspot.com Travis Monitor

    “I am certain much of the church defacing and spitting on clergy that occurs by homosexuals would apply.”

    There were many assaults by anti-prop 8 extremists against prop 8 supporters in the wake of prop 8 victory, one case a crazed activist took a cross from a grandma and stomped on it. It would be ironic if hate crimes were to be used in those cases – but turnabout is fair play.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QD1AITHS2Wc
    http://forums.contracostatimes.com/topic/anti-prop-8-groups-show-their-intolerance

    http://www.facebook.com/topic.php?uid=33283194670&topic=8383

    Thousands of gay-rights demonstrators stood in front of the Mormon temple in Los Angeles shouting “Mormon scum.” The Mormon headquarters in Salt Lake City received threatening letters containing an unidentified powder. Religion-bashing protesters filled with hate decried the “hate” at Rick Warren’s Saddleback Church in Orange County, Calif. Vandals defaced the Calvary Chapel in Chino Hills, Calif., because church members had collected Prop. 8 petitions. One worshiper’s car was keyed with the slogans “Gay sex is love” and “SEX.” Another car’s antenna and windshield wipers were broken.

    JMHO: There are crimes here, but I am against making it more of a crime (or a ‘hate crime’) because it is motivated by hate due to political differences. Assault is assault, vandalism is vandalism. Still, surely this would be called a ‘hate crime’ if the shoe were on the other foot.

  • Dixie L Trent

    We already have “laws” against all kinds of crimes. I do not see the need for more, which truly are based on “thought”, or “opinion”. Murder is murder, and the “thought” or “intent” of the murderer is not that important—it means very little. The crime of murder does need to be punished, and is. I am a Christian—I am against abortion—but that does not make me a “hate monger” or a “criminal”. I do not picket abortion clinics (or bomb them), and I DO pray for all those women who believed they had no other choice at the time—I harbor no ill will towards them. Yet, Christians, of late, have been “grouped” into being haters and racists. That’s like saying that ALL gay men are pedophiles—which IS NOT TRUE.

  • Denise

    I see more opinions against this bill from people who have not even read the bill. It is hilarious. First of all this bill does not prohibit you from hating anyone. It prohibits you from taking the hate and physcally hurting them because of race, etc. Also, it does not protect only minorities. Another words, if a black guy who hates white people goes out and kills someone because they are white, then that would fall under this bill also. The bill lays out all of the reasons why this bill is needed in the first place. A lot of it has to do with giving states a local government financial resources to investigate hate crimes. When a hate crime happens it not only effects the individual victem but a whole class of people and a whole community. Please get a history book and read this bill. Stop commenting on something you know nothing about. (I know I can’t spell, but I do read)

  • Denise

    Travis – You just wasted so much of my time. READ THE BILL. A violent act has to take place. This bill is not about your thoughts, its about the actions of those who have so much hate against persons in the human race that they would harm them. You can continue to hate people, don’t worry. This bill will not stop you from doing that.


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