Hate Crimes Legislation

Southern Baptists are up in arms over a proposed hate crimes bill, officially titled the Matthew Shepard Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act (S. 1105), that would establish a new federal offense for so-called “hate crimes” and add “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” as protected classes, as well as mandate a separate federal criminal prosecution for state offenses for crimes motivated by “the actual or perceived race, color, religion, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability of any person.”

I’m not a supporter of “specific legislation”. If someone mugs me, I fail to see where their motivation mitigates their already illegal act. We have laws in place against violence toward others. There are appropriate moments in a trial to mention motivation, generally in the penalty phase. If Joe steals food from a store he’s guilty of theft and should be adjudicated as guilty. If he stole the food to feed his family due to his circumstances, then his motivation should be considered in meeting out punishment. If a person is found to be guilty of murder, why they did it is not material to the murder charge.

So despite my support for equal treatment of gays, straights and all those in between, I don’t support creating laws that are too specific and restrictive. That only adds to the burden of proof for the prosecution.

You might presume then that I agree with the Southern Baptists in their opposition to S. 1105. I don’t. Ironically, it’s their motivation I disagree with. I agree with their conclusion, but think their reasoning is faulty.

Stop Senate From Passing Thought Crimes Bill

By Richard LandJul 13, 2007comment

Dear Friends:

The U.S. Senate is expected to vote within the next few days on legislation that could ultimately cost Christians their freedom to share their biblical beliefs on homosexuality.

I realize that I asked for your help already this week to help restore the Federal Communications Commission’s authority to clean up indecency on broadcast television, but I believe this bill on “hate crimes” poses such a threat that it also warrants your attention and action.

On Wednesday, Sens. Ted Kennedy (D-MA) and Gordon Smith (R-OR) filed a hate crimes bill—officially titled the Matthew Shepard Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act (S. 1105)—as an amendment to the Department of Defense authorization bill, which is currently being debated by the Senate. The vote could occur anytime…

In essence, it would codify into federal law that certain lifestyles, in this case homosexuality, deserve greater protection under the law than others. This is a clear violation of the 14th Amendment, which provides equal protection under the law.

Better termed “thought crimes” legislation, it could result in law enforcement officials policing perceived thoughts that motivate violent actions against homosexuals, as well as speech that conveys a negative message about homosexual behavior, even if no violent action follows.

This is not a far-fetched understanding of the potential danger of this legislation. Sweden, for example, used its hate crimes law to imprison Pastor Ake Green for 30 days for preaching in his own church pulpit a grace-filled message on homosexuality taken from the Old and New Testaments. Other instances of policing thoughts and speech have occurred in nations like Australia, Britain, and Canada. Closer to home, police used a Pennsylvania hate crimes law to arrest 11 Christians in 2005 for urging people at a gay pride festival to turn from their behavior.

The truth is all violent crimes are hate crimes and are already prosecuted to the full extent of the law. S. 1105 is unnecessary and unconstitutional. Law enforcement officials should continue to prosecute actions, not thoughts or speech. (http://erlc.com/article/stop-senate-from-passing-thought-crimes-bill)

Their fear of this bill is groundless. It does not propose to limit free speech. Anti-homosexual rhetoric would only be punishable if it incited violence, and again we already have laws to deal with inciting violence. Their freedom to harass and annoy homosexuals would still be protected. They would still be allowed to hate those whom they love to hate.

I further find it revealing that they don’t protest the protection of religious belief the bill introduces.

[tags]hate crime, homosexuality, christianity, religion[/tags]