The Washington DC City Council kindly provides us a perfect example of how “anti-hate” laws do nothing to protect us from bias—instead they write bias into the laws of the land.
The Council passed a symbolic measure condemning hate crimes—after receiving requests from ten individuals and local organizations. (See? Just a few people can do a lot!) The Washington Blade reports on the measure and reminds us that in 1989 DC passed “one of the nation’s most far-reaching hate crimes laws that calls for penalties and prison terms 1.5 times higher than the maximum sentence for other offenses for persons convicted of committing a hate crime.” (So, say you and I both murder a ten-year-old, but yours was black and you’re racist. I’ll be in prison one and a half times shorter than you even though I committed the same heinous act.)
The Council, of course, doesn’t condemn outright violence or crime. Nor does it condemn hatred as a category. (It’s pretty much okay to hate Catholic priests and televangelists and close-minded fundamentalists, oh, and creationists, etc.) No, it’s certain kinds of hatred that aren’t okay. The Council defines hate crimes as “acts of subtle and overt racism, anti-Semitism, homophobia and ethnic bigotry.”
Please note the categories. You’re condemned if you have bias against a particular race (though probably not the white race), against Jewishness, against homosexual preference, or against ethnicity. It’s not surprising that one of the instigators of this resolution— Peter Rosenstein—is a homosexual Jew.
Where’s the condemnation of bias against fundamentalist Protestants or Catholics—bias that definitely exists and is continually propagated by big media? Look, bias is bias. I firmly believe it shouldn’t be illegal at all. But the Council should have at least gone all the way and said nobody can be biased against anybody—we should all be emotionless, belief-less Vulcans. Their measure as it stands is radically hypocritical.
But, back to that other point, "fighting words" and incitements to violence are illegal; but personally held bias shouldn’t be illegal at all. People can preach and write and argue for and against beliefs and prejudices 'til the ocean turns to ice cream—that’s what people do and should do, since beliefs matter. In fact, “hate crime” biases often revolve around the most serious civic and moral questions, like sexuality and family and national identity. Everyone should be free to state and possess whatever beliefs they choose, no matter how extreme or distasteful. No one’s particular biases (a bias for homosexuality, for example, which says Bible believers are dangerous idiots) should be enshrined in state or federal law. That undermines our entire way of justice and freedom.
In Britain this past February, two street evangelists were threatened with hate crime charges and told to leave a Muslim neighborhood where they were witnessing. They are now suing the police for violating their freedom. Whether the courts rule on their side, the incident reveals how police are trained to advocate for certain groups and against others, based on political training, not basic rules of law and justice. That’s what happens with hate crime laws. They promote certain groups and statements at the expense of others. When that happens, the freedom of all citizens is compromised and ultimately lost.
The majority of American states have hate laws on the books, and we’ve written about numerous miscarriages of justice based on them. Most notable was the arrest of 11 Christians in Philadelphia for peaceful witnessing. But a Texas newspaper ran a recent story about how few hate crimes have been prosecuted there since the state passed a hate law in 2001. Jasper, Texas was the site of the famous James Byrd Jr. killing, and the state hate law bears his name. But for the first five years of the law’s existence, Texan prosecutors used it only eight times. I wonder why.
The paper quotes an explanation from the director of government relations for the Texas Department of District and County Attorney's Association. It makes good sense. "There is no 'CSI'-type scientific test to prove such motivation, so absent a valid, legally admissible confession, the jury has to get inside the other person's head and try to deduce his or her intent from circumstantial evidence," she says, "That is not always easy to do." Um, no, it’s not easy to get in someone’s head. It’s a challenge to understand even my closest friends, let alone a perfect stranger.
Maybe the government needs to spy a little more. (If you’re truly committed to stamping out a particular set of beliefs among the minds and hearts of Americans, be ready to go all the way.) Can’t you see now why snooping into phone calls, library and video records, and, definitely, use of web time could come in handy? Indeed, it could become necessary to gather this information about all citizens. We’re all potential hate criminals whose heads the government might need to get inside. In fact, why not practice crime prevention by monitoring our biases, starting now?
The criminalization and prosecution of human beliefs and emotions has never, ever been a good idea. It wasn’t a good idea in Socrates’ time, in Jesus’ time, or in ours.
Harmony Grant writes and edits for National Prayer Network, a Christian/conservative watchdog group.
Let the Anti-Defamation League of B'nai B'rith teach you how they have saddled 45 states with hate laws capable of persecuting Christians: http://www.adl.org/99hatecrime/intro.asp.
Learn how ADL took away free speech in Canada and wants to steal it now in the U.S. Congress. Watch Rev. Ted Pike's Hate Laws: Making Criminals of Christians at video.google.com. Purchase this gripping documentary to show at church. Order online at www.truthtellers.org for $24.90, DVD or VHS, by calling 503-853-3688, or at the address below.
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