Hating Hate Crimes

July 6, 2009

Hating Hate Crimes


Law: The Senate is considering an expanded federal hate crimes law. And who wouldn’t be for such a law, given its obvious noble intent? Beware. This new law won’t reduce hate one bit, but it will limit your rights.

Read More: Judges & Courts

Sadly, hate is an ineradicable part of the human condition. But one person’s hate is another’s righteous anger. That’s why passing a law making a state of mind illegal is dangerous.

That won’t stop Democrats in Congress, though. They held hearings last week and soon may bring a bill up for a vote. Anyone who values the rule of law in America should reject it.

As it stands, the bill criminalizes any violent act perpetrated against someone because of race, color, religion, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity or disability.

In doing so, it makes crimes of things that are already crimes. Like murder. Is one person’s murder worse than another’s if the suffering is the same? This only creates special victims out of certain classes of people, a perverse form of reverse discrimination.

Suppose a middle-aged white man gets beaten to a pulp in a mugging. His assailant will be charged with the crime, nothing else. If the same crime is committed against a member of the special victim class, the crime becomes worse — a “hate crime.”

He’ll have a federal case. So, in effect, the justice meted out depends on the victim’s status — not on the severity of the crime.

This violates major swaths of the Constitution. It certainly twists the 14th Amendment’s “equal protection” clause beyond recognition. And it likewise impinges on First Amendment’s guarantees of freedom of speech and thought. And subjecting those guilty of state crimes to additional federal prosecution is double jeopardy.

The very idea of a “hate crime” is a sickening echo of the “thoughtcrime” for which people could be tortured or executed in George Orwell’s dystopian classic, “1984.” This is what Hitler and Stalin did — make victims of whole classes of people.

Proponents of tougher hate crime laws like to cite the murders of Matthew Shepard, a gay man who was beaten and left to die on the side of a road, and James Byrd, an African-American who was chained to a truck and dragged until little was left of him.

Both ugly, vicious crimes. But both were fully prosecuted under state laws. In Shepard’s case, one perpetrator got two life terms, the other a life sentence — the maximum allowed. Byrd’s murderers got death. Hard to imagine a “hate crimes” law topping that.

Equal treatment under the law is a fundamental principle of American jurisprudence. Hate crimes trample this principle by creating a special class of victims.

Congress might mean well, but this is a bad law that will have bad results and only add to our nation’s growing divisions.


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