U.S. hate-crime bills: Conservative concerns
More about free speech, equal
|One was written by Jennifer Mesko and titled "U.S. House Creates
Special Legal Status for Gay People."
|The other was by an anonymous author and titled: "Hate-Crimes Bill May Add Protection for Pedophiles." 2|
Both reports contained the same two curious statements. The second statement involved freedom of hate speech:
|"Similar laws have been used to prosecute religious speech in the U.S. and
abroad." The articles appear to confuse legislation against
violent criminal hate crimes with legislation against
hate speech or
hate propaganda. Countries differ in their treatment of hate
speech. Most do not have the near absolute freedom of speech as is experienced
in the U.S. and guaranteed by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution:|
Americans have been prosecuted for hateful actions that indirectly
involve speech. A fear-based commercial
broadcast by the National Organization for Marriage in 2009-Spring
referred to two such cases:
H.B. 1913 is not an anti-hate speech law. Section 8 of the bill specifically prohibits any use of the act to prosecute "... any expressive conduct protected from legal prohibition by, or any activities protected by the Constitution." Speech, including hate speech, is very definitely protected by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. HB 1913 did become law. It can only be applied in cases involving crimes of violence. Religious hate speech may hurt the victim emotionally, but is not a crime of violence.
President Tony Perkins released a statement after HR 1913 had been forwarded to the House by its Judiciary Committee. He wrote, in part:
"Congress should protect all Americans equally and not provide special protections to a few politically favored groups."
This appears to be a misrepresentation of the bill's wording. It does not provide "special protections to a few politically favored groups." As noted elsewhere, it protects persons:
|Of all sexual orientations equally: heterosexuals, bisexuals and homosexuals.|
|Of all genders equally: women, men, intersexuals.|
|Of all races, skin colors, national origin, etc.|
That is, every person in the United States is protected identically and equally from violent attacks motivated by hatred of their sexual orientation, gender, race, skin color, national origin, etc. It does not protect any "politically favored groups" more than any other group.
"A vote in favor of so-called 'hate crimes' legislation today is a direct violation of the Constitution's Equal Protection Clause. Congress needs to remember that preserving the meaning of equal justice under the law is more important than catering to the whims of political fashion."
Many social and religious conservatives agree with him. Consider a case where a person hated heterosexuals and hit one with a baseball bat because of the victim's sexual orientation. The perpetrator might be charged under a hate crime law and receive a higher sentence when compared to a case involving an identical assault that was not motivated by hatred. This is viewed by many conservatives as giving unequal treatment to different groups of violent perpetrators. A hate crime would result in a longer sentence than a similar assault that was motivated by the perpetrator's desire to rob the victim of their cash -- even though the injuries to the victims were the same.
But others disagree. They believe that a hate crime involves more than a physical attack on a person who is hated because of their race, color, religion, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, or some other attribute. It is essentially a terrorist act intended to intimidate an entire group of people, whether they be blacks, whites, hispanics, Jews, Wiccans, women, men, paraplegics, etc. So it harms both the immediate victim and the group(s) to which the victim belongs.
According to Wikipedia, the Supreme Court has ruled that such laws are constitutional:
"The U.S. Supreme Court unanimously found that penalty-enhancement hate crime statutes do not conflict with free speech rights because they do not punish an individual for exercising freedom of expression; rather, they allow courts to consider motive when sentencing a criminal for conduct which is not protected by the First Amendment." 3
Tony Perkins also wrote:
"Additionally, this poorly-worded legislation shows contempt for the moral and religious views of millions of Americans by including 'sexual orientation" and 'gender identity' as protected categories at a time when a large plurality of our fellow citizens rejects the implied meaning of those labels. The bill sends a message that disapproval of homosexual behavior alone -- even if expressed peacefully and lovingly -- constitutes a form of 'hate' that is equivalent to racial bigotry.
Actually, the bill sends a message that attempting to terrorize the homosexual community by a crime of violence against one of its members is as serious as attempting to terrorize all heterosexuals, all blacks, all whites, all women, all men, etc. by a crime of violence against one of their members. The only place where the bill mentions hate speech is where it reinforces the guarantee of freedom of speech found in the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and elsewhere.
Hitting someone with a baseball bat is hardly disapproving of homosexual behavior in a peaceful and loving manner. It is a crime.
The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.
Copyright © 2009 to 2012 by Ontario Consultants on Religious
First posted: 2009-MAY-01
Latest update: 2012-FEB-10
Author: B.A. Robinson
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