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HATE-CRIME LAWS:

INTRODUCTION

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About hate-crime laws:

Hate-crime laws: Contrary to much of the coverage on the Internet and in the media, a hate crime law applies only after a person has committed, and been found guilty of, an actual crime, like attempted murder, common assault, aggravated assault, etc. If it is determined that the crime was motivated by the person's hatred of people of a certain "class" then their sentence is increased. Depending upon the particular law, classes may include religion, skin color, race, sexual orientation, sex, degree of ability, age, etc. Note that those hate-crime law that include religion as a protected class, protect Christians, Jews, Muslims and followers all other religions. Similarly, hate-crime laws that include sexual orientation as a protected class does not merely protect homosexuals as the media so often emphasizes; it protects everyone equally, whether they are homosexual, heterosexual or bisexual. 

Hate-crime laws are controversial:

bulletThose in favor of these laws argue that hate-crimes represent more than an attack on an individual. They are, in essence, a terrorist assault on the entire group of whom the individual is a representative. So, an assault on a Jew, who is probably a stranger to the criminal, and which is motivated by anti-semitism, is really an attack on the entire Jewish community. Gay bashing is really a terrorist attack on all persons with a homosexual orientation. Because of the larger consequences of the crime, the penalty should be increased.
bulletThose who oppose these laws generally argue that the punishment should precisely match the crime. The sentence should be related to the damage done to the victim. What was going on in the mind of the perpetrator is inconsequential and should not be considered when assessing punishment. To increase a person's sentence on the basis of their thoughts attacks their freedom of belief.
bulletSome favor hate-crime legislation in general but are strongly opposed to extending these laws to include sexual orientation. They feel that homosexuals and bisexuals should not be given the extra protection that hate-crime legislation offers. They ignore any protection that they would personally obtain from hate-crime laws

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Why does adding sexual orientation encounter so much resistance?

Some of these laws have been around for decades. Only now, when the addition of sexual orientation to the list of existing protected classes is being considered, has strong opposition surfaced. Religious and social conservatives in the U.S. have committed a great deal of effort to prevent the addition of sexual orientation to existing hate-crime legislation. Their Canadian counterparts have strenuously fought the addition of sexual orientation to their country's hate propaganda law. There reasons for their opposition may be linked to beliefs commonly held by  conservatives: That homosexual behavior:

bulletIs immoral,
bulletShould be criminalized,
bulletEndangers children,
bulletIs caused by poor parenting or sexual abuse during childhood
bulletIs a form of mental illness, addiction, or a behavior disorder,
bulletIs chosen,
bulletIs abnormal,
bulletIs unnatural, and
bulletIs relatively easy to change,
bulletIs hated by God, and
bulletPrevents a person from attaining heaven after death.

If these beliefs are believed, then the following beliefs may result:

bulletGiving gays and lesbians protection from hate-crimes which is on a par with the protection given to heterosexuals represents a major step towards accepting homosexuality as a normal and natural sexual orientation for a minority of adults.
bulletAs gays and lesbians experience greater security of person and are more generally accepted in society, they more are likely to choose to remain homosexual rather than change.
bulletFor the same reasons, more youths will choose to become homosexual.
bulletBy changing hate propaganda legislation to include homosexuality, religious conservatives who simply discuss their traditional beliefs about homosexuality may violate the law -- even if this happens in a church sermon. Even if the possibility of legal action is small, the presence of an augmented hate propaganda law would have a chilling effect on conservative religious speech. It is an attack on religious freedom. The Canadian law has an exclusion clause that protects hate propaganda if it is religiously motivated. However, many conservatives are concerned that some future court might declare that clause to be unconstitutional. That would make clergy in Canada vulnerable to prosecution. Sweden does not have an exclusion clause exempting religious speech. A Pentecostal pastor there, was arrested, charged with inciting hatred against a group of people on the basis of their sexual orientation, tried, convicted and sentenced in the fall of 2004. Conservatives fear that the same event could happen in North America.

It is important to realize that the vast majority of gays, lesbians, bisexuals, religious liberals, mental health professionals, and human sexuality researchers hold beliefs about homosexuality which differ from those of conservatives. The former generally believe that homosexual behavior:

bulletLike heterosexuality, is morally neutral,
bulletShould remain decriminalized,
bulletDoes not endanger children,
bulletIs not caused by poor parenting or sexual abuse during childhood
bulletIs a not form of mental illness, addiction, or a behavior disorder,
bulletIs not chosen,
bulletIs normal, for a minority of adults,
bulletIs natural for a minority of adults, and
bulletCannot readily be changed.

In addition, those who believe in the existence of God and of life after death, generally believe that homosexuality:

bulletIs accepted by God,
bulletDoes not prevent a person from attaining heaven after death.

Many of the differences between conservatives and others are matters of opinion. Some are factual. There appears to be little or no progress towards reaching a consensus on the latter.

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References used:

Copyright © 2004 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally posted: 2004-AUG-12
Latest update: 2004-AUG-13
Author: B.A. Robinson

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