Hate Crimes: Penalizing thoughts instead of actions?

Grandmother Who Objected To Gay March Is Accus...A Q&A from the Family Research Council:

What’s Wrong with Thought Crime (‘Hate Crime’) Laws?

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What are “hate crimes?”

A federal law passed in 1994 (Public Law 103-322) defines a “hate crime” as “a crime in which the defendant intentionally selects a victim, or in the case of a property crime, the property that is the object of the crime, because of the actual or perceived race, color, religion, national origin, ethnicity, gender, disability, or sexual orientation of any person.”

Why do you call them “thought crimes”?

Violent attacks upon people or property are already illegal, regardless of the motive behind them. With “hate crime” laws, however, people are essentially given one penalty for the actions they engaged in, and an additional penalty for the politically incorrect thoughts that allegedly motivated those actions.

Isn’t there already a federal “hate crime” law?

A 1990 law (Public Law 101-275) required the federal government to begin collecting statistics on so-called “hate crimes” from states and local governments, but did not provide for any federal prosecution of them. A 1994 law (Public Law 103-322) provided for “sentencing enhancement” (that is, higher penalties) for existing federal offenses that are found to be motivated by “hate,” but did not actually create a new category of offense.

So what’s different about the currently proposed federal Thought Crime law?

This law, for the first time, would allow the federal government to prosecute any alleged “hate crime” that occurs anywhere in the¬†country, regardless of the other circumstances–thus effectively usurping the primary responsibility of states and localities for law enforcement.

Are you against all Thought Crime laws, or just ones based on “sexual orientation”?

We oppose all Thought Crime laws in principle, because penalizing people specifically for their thoughts, beliefs, or attitudes–even ones abhorrent to us and to the vast majority of Americans, such as racism–would undermine the freedom of speech and thought at the heart of our democracy.

However, we have a particular concern regarding such laws when they include “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” (a reference to cross-dressing and sex-change operations) among the categories of protection. This sends the false message that deviant sexual behaviors are somehow equivalent to other categories of protection such as race or sex. In fact, the very term “hate crime” is offensive in this context, in that it implies that mere disapproval of homosexual behavior constitutes a form of “hate” equivalent to racial bigotry.

Do Thought Crime laws limit freedom of speech and freedom of religion?

In some jurisdictions that have adopted these laws, “hate crimes” have been defined to include not just violent physical acts, but merely verbal ones as well, using terms like “hate speech,” “intimidation,” and even verbal “assault.” When Thought Crime laws are interpreted in this way, they pose a serious threat to freedom of speech and religious liberty. Indeed, Christians have already been prosecuted under Thought Crime laws for peacefully expressing disapproval of homosexual behavior in Sweden, England, Canada, and even in Philadelphia.

Would the proposed federal Thought Crime law allow people to be prosecuted for speech alone?

The bills that have been introduced in Congress in recent years target only violent actions, not peaceful expressions of opinion (only someone who “willfully causes bodily injury” or “attempts to cause bodily injury” could be charged). Nevertheless, by ratifying the Thought Crimes mentality, this bill paves the way for future expansions of its scope in ways that could eventually threaten freedom of speech and religion.

The 1990 “Hate Crime Statistics Act” (Public Law 101-275), for example, defines “hate crimes” much more broadly as “crimes that manifest evidence of prejudice,” and the statistics collected under that law include even non-violent offenses such as “intimidation” (in fact, nearly half–48.9 percent–of the “hate crimes” reported in 2005 consisted of “intimidation” alone). It would be a very simple matter for a future Congress to change the definition of a “hate crime” subject to federal prosecution to match the more sweeping definition of “hate crimes” on which the federal government already gathers statistics.

Why would anyone oppose free speech and freedom of religion?

Pro-homosexual activists like to claim that “hate speech” (which they define as any disapproval of homosexual behavior) leads directly to “hate violence.” For example, the 1998 murder of homosexual college student Matthew Shepard occurred the same year that pro-family groups had mounted a compassionate “Truth in Love” ad campaign highlighting the fact that many people have found happiness after leaving the homosexual lifestyle. When the Today Show’s Katie Couric asked Elizabeth Birch, Executive Director of the Human Rights Campaign (the nation’s largest pro-homosexual activist group), “Do you believe this ad campaign launched by some conservative groups really contributed somehow to Matthew Shepard’s death?,” Birch answered, “I do, Katie.” (There is no evidence that Shepard’s murderers even knew about the ads, and ABC’s 20/20 reported in 2004 that Shepard was not killed because he was homosexual at all.) The rhetoric of pro-homosexual activists makes it clear that their goal is not just to protect homosexuals from violence, but to protect them from criticism altogether by silencing those who seek to discourage homosexual behavior.

Do Thought Crime laws treat everyone fairly?

No. Thought Crime laws favor some victims of violent crimes over other victims of equally violent crimes, which violates the core principle of granting everyone the equal protection of the laws. This is a principle which is guaranteed by the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and is even carved above the entrance to the Supreme Court (“Equal Justice Under Law”).

Would the proposed Thought Crime bill increase the power of the federal government?

Yes, this bill’s sweeping grant of authority for the federal government to intervene in such crimes anywhere in the country would constitute a significant federal power grab over local law enforcement. Previous versions of the bill were deceptively named the “Local Law Enforcement Enhancement Act.” They might better have been referred to the “Local Law Enforcement Usurpation Act.” In fact, this law would even allow the federal government to prosecute someone who had already been acquitted of criminal charges at the state level, if “the verdict or sentence obtained pursuant to State charges left demonstratively unvindicated the federal interest in eradicating bias-motivated violence.”

Do we really need a federal Thought Crimes law?

There is no evidence that local authorities are failing to investigate, prosecute, and punish, as they should, violent crimes against homosexuals. Special Thought Crime laws therefore serve no practical purpose, other than advancing a political agenda for the official government acceptance of homosexual behavior.

So, do you think it’s OK to beat up homosexuals?

Absolutely not. There is no excuse for violence against anyone–including homosexuals. However, such violent attacks are already illegal. What’s needed is not a new law, but the strict enforcement of existing laws–to protect all Americans equally.

Peter Sprigg is vice president for policy at the Family Research Council

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8 Responses to Hate Crimes: Penalizing thoughts instead of actions?

  1. ksb193 says:

    How do you feel about the Ku Klux Klan? Is it okay for them to spew hatred of non-white people? And the Nazi party? Is it okay for them to hate Jews? Aside from some ancient Old Testament rules (many of which we have discarded as civilization has progressed), what exactly have gay people done to hurt anyone? As soon as a group of people adopts an ideology, they begin to feel that they are better than others. The others then become the "enemy" or those who must be changed, to become more like the holders of the ideological belief system. When does your excessive need for certitude become the vehicle for your own demise? Love is stronger than hate. Jesus preached "LOVE." Some of his proselytizers seem to have forgotten that in their desire to create a "pure" religion, which excludes anyone who is "different."

    Like

  2. CJ says:

    True love tells ALL people the truth in God's word; that would include ALL people since ALL people are sinners. No, I don't like ugly speech/rhetoric from KKK or Nazi groups…and I don't defend acts of violence. But the aforementioned groups have a right to free speech in this country (as do you) and so do people who believe the Bible. For me to tell a homosexual that he/she can be set free from perversion and find forgiveness in Christ is NOT hate speech. Those who are suppressing the truth in unrighteousness only call it hateful because they don't want to be held responsible before the law of a holy God. There is NOTHING more loving than to tell the truth to any person who is in danger of perishing for eternity. And BTW, I have the right of free speech to say this in response to you.

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  3. ksb193 says:

    Yes, I agree that you have the right of free speech, but with rights come responsibility. Please remember that gay people may not want what you are selling. You have every right to "offer" it, but it is rude to threaten people with eternal damnation who can't help the way they were born. Somehow I doubt that a loving God would damn a person for eternity for loving someone of the same sex. He might, however, damn someone to eternity for being a narrow-minded bigot.

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    • CJ says:

      I'm sure I see where you are coming from. Food for thought….if Thought Crimes are instituted in this country…according to your acerbic retort just now – you could be arrested.

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  4. Darrel says:

    ksb193,
    There are no gay couples/individuals in heaven, nor shall there ever be any. There ARE countless numbers of people in heaven who were homosexual, lesbian, or whatever, that have repented of their evil, thrown themselves upon the mercies of Almighty God, sought forgiveness and received it. Most people have constructed a god that will allow for all of their sins and yet, in the end, reward them with eternal life. This is NOT the Jesus Christ of the Bible. Actually, He spoke very little about the "love" that you wish He did. He spoke of Godly love only to His disciples. To the rest, He spoke of repentance from sin-"Go and sin no more." This is the same Jesus Christ who destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah specifically for their homosexual ways and the fact that they refused to turn away from their sins. Such is the fate of all who refuse to turn from their sins, you, me, everyone. The call from Jesus to you and all mankind is to repent and believe on Him for salvation.

    What I just told you has already been banned in most of Europe and all of Canada. It will soon be the case in the US. This is labeled "hate speech" by the LGBT friendly politicians. It could, in the not too distant future, have me arrested, tried, and jailed. Gee, that's the same thing that has been happening to those who truly do love the Jesus Christ of the Bible for thousands of years.

    It is my prayer that you and others like you will come to repentance and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. If you choose rather to hate me because I have told you the truth, so be it

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  5. Elizabeth Birch says:

    Dear Family Research Council,

    The quote you provided from me when I appeared with Katie Couric by omission. While I have never seen the tape, I am quite certain I go on to describe that the conversion therapy ads (which in and of themselves are harmful) create an atmosphere that gives license to those who which to visit ridicule and violence upon LGBT people — or anyone that has been represented as less than human. Hate Crimes laws punish ACTS, not words. In addition, there has been an overuse of the Bible to justify animus toward LGBT people. It has been well documented that the only passage that survives historic analysis is Leviticus. This entire section of the bible pertained to the survival of the jewish race. If we believe the message in Leviticus literally — and choose to ignore its very specific historic context — then we must never mix fibers, touch a football if it is made of pigskin and adhere to a variety of other tribal rules. The bottom line is this: If being gay or lesbian is a sin, it did not even make the Top Ten. And Jesus does not mention it even once in the new testament. The overall message of the bible, like in many major faith traditions, is about love and finding one's spiritual path. It would be refreshing if the Family Research Council focused on that rather than trying to tear down the lives of other citizens.

    Like

  6. Elizabeth Birch says:

    Dear Family Research Council,

    The quote you provided from me when I appeared with Katie Couric is incorrect by omission. While I have never seen the tape, I am quite certain I go on to describe that the conversion therapy ads (which in and of themselves are harmful) create an atmosphere that gives license to those who which to visit ridicule and violence upon LGBT people — or anyone that has been represented as less than human. Hate Crimes laws punish ACTS, not words. In addition, there has been an overuse of the Bible to justify animus toward LGBT people. It has been well documented that the only passage that survives historic analysis is Leviticus. This entire section of the bible pertained to the survival of the jewish race. If we believe the message in Leviticus literally — and choose to ignore its very specific historic context — then we must never mix fibers, touch a football if it is made of pigskin and adhere to a variety of other tribal rules. The bottom line is this: If being gay or lesbian is a sin, it did not even make the Top Ten. And Jesus does not mention it even once in the new testament. The overall message of the bible, like in many major faith traditions, is about love and finding one’s spiritual path. It would be refreshing if the Family Research Council focused on that rather than trying to tear down the lives of other citizens.

    Like

    • Darrel says:

      E B:

      Christ most assuredly spoke against homosexuals, adulterers, and all forms of sexual perversion. The words 'adutery' and 'fornication' are defined as any sexual activity outside the marriage bond between a man and a woman ONLY. Man has attempted to change the Word of God since the Garden of Eden. Regrettably, all of us do this at one time or another. You are no exception. His words are eternal, unchanging, and not subject to negotiation, no matter how distasteful they may be to you. In fact, all of mankind (including you, Elizabeth) will be judged by Him in righteousness. Those who have sought the mercy of Almighty God from His Son, Jesus Christ, and received eternal life from Him will not suffer the fate of those whose eternal destiny is hell. The reason for this is that Jesus Christ suffered the penalty of judgment for my sins as He was crucified on the Cross. His command to all mankind is to repent and believe the Gospel. Repent, meaning to turn away from all your sins and turn to Jesus Christ for forgiveness. Believe, meaning to place your trust, confidence, and the well being of your eternal soul into the care of the Lord Jesus Himself.

      Like

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