The following press release has just come across my virtual desk:

Letter from Conservative Leaders Implores Senators to Filibuster Hate Crimes Bill

MEDIA ADVISORY, June 16 /Christian Newswire/ — This week, a letter is being hand-delivered to every member of the United States Senate imploring conservatives to join Senator Jim DeMint’s filibuster of the pending Hate Crimes bill, which would criminalize preaching the Gospel and put preachers in the crosshairs.

The letter explains that, in its current form, the Hate Crimes legislation would: “Silence the moral voice of the Church” — “Punish principled dissent from the homosexual agenda” — “Be a savage and perhaps fatal blow to First Amendment freedom of expression” – – and “Empower the left and encourage it to move forward with even more radical measures.”

The letter is signed by more than 60 conservative leaders, including some of the leading lights of the Values Voter movement, among them: James Dobson (Focus On The Family), Tony Perkins (Family Research Council), Don Wildmon (American Family Association), Gary Bauer (American Values), Hon. Tom DeLay (former Majority Whip, U.S. House of Representatives), Phyllis Schlafly (Eagle Forum), Mat Staver (Liberty Counsel), Wendy Wright (Concerned Women for America) and Rick Scarborough (Vision America).

Vision America President Dr. Rick Scarborough commented: “We are urging Senators to join DeMint (R, SC) in filibustering this pernicious — one might almost say ‘toxic’ — legislation. As Values Voter leaders, we are saying this vicious assault on the Church and the First Amendment must not and will not be allowed to succeed.”

From TFN

Comments

  1. #1 Martin
    June 17, 2009

    Neither unexpected nor surprising. The signatories read like a Who’s Who of the anti-gay crowd.

  2. #2 Bill James
    June 17, 2009

    I suspect Christian Conservatives opposing the Anti-Hate Bill are on the right side of the issue for all the wrong reasons.

    Be that as it may, we are left with the fundamental question: does anti-hate legislation make good law?

  3. #3 Geoffrey Falk
    June 17, 2009

    Be thankful that your (American) conservatives are mobilizing to protest that bill: We already have similar “hate crime” legislation in Canada–and kangaroo courts to enforce it–the enacting of which was a huge mistake. And here too, the Christians and conservatives are leading the fight for the repeal of those laws, in no small part because after centuries of silencing others who disagreed with them, they are now the ones being charged with “blasphemy” against liberal/multicultural ideals. (cf. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Canadian_Human_Rights_Commission_free_speech_controversies )

    Schadenfreude has its place, but this issue is not it. The price of preserving your own free speech, and freedom to offend or hurt the feelings of others even just by voicing unpopular ideas, is that you allow others the same right.

  4. #4 GrayGaffer
    June 17, 2009

    It’s not anti-hate, its adding extra strength to classifying certain crimes as hate crimes. A hate crime is a crime that is committed for the purpose not only of hurting the immediate victims but also of intimidating other members of the victim’s community. This is already on the books for many such communities, this legislation is only adding sexual orientation-based hate crimes to the list.

    To repeat: the behavior covered is already criminal – assault, battery, property damage, murder, etc. No new actions are made criminal. But the intent of the action if it is for intimidation carries additional sentencing beyond the basic charges for what is already a crime.

    Since what these right(eous) folks are complaining about does not exist, one can only assume they wish to be able to beat up gays and continue to suffer only simple assault repercussions.

  5. #5 Stephanie Z
    June 17, 2009

    Geoffrey, the Canadian law is nothing like this law. As GrayGaffer observes, this law only addresses bodily injury. Specifically:

    […] Whoever, whether or not acting under color of law, willfully causes bodily injury to any person or, through the use of fire, a firearm, a dangerous weapon, or an explosive or incendiary device, attempts to cause bodily injury to any person, because of […]

    and

    (1) the term ‘bodily injury’ has the meaning given such term in section 1365(h)(4) of this title, but does not include solely emotional or psychological harm to the victim;

    Bill, to the extent that one supports terroristic threats being recognized under law and to the extent that RICO prosecutions are recognized as a legitimate means to address the broader problem behind individual crimes, damned right anti-hate legislation makes good law.

  6. #6 Bill James
    June 17, 2009

    Having been tasked with implementing a solution to squirrels in the strawberry bed prior to a scheduled appointment, I will be disconnected from the computer a few hours and don’t have time at the moment to give much in the way of due consideration to your reply but the thought process you invoke does seem the good bit of a stretch.

  7. #7 Stephanie Z
    June 17, 2009

    Bill, I freely admit that there are a few assumptions implicit in my statement, for example, that the point is to stop the violence.

  8. #8 Rob Jase
    June 17, 2009

    Hate = family values

    At least that seems to be what these people are saying.

  9. #9 Dan J
    June 17, 2009

    Well, since the religious right derives their hatred of the LGBT community from their religious tenets, telling them they can’t hate is a violation of their religious freedoms.

  10. #10 Greg Laden
    June 17, 2009

    Ah, Bill? Thought process? Cut and paste of a press item? Hmm…. But good luck with the squirrels. The squirrels usually win.

    I don’t have an opinion on this bill, but neither do the christian conservative republicans. They are simply producing the usual knee jerk reaction that those jerks produce.

    As to redundancy and the law, I’m of two (or three) minds on that.

    But, alas, I’ve got another iron in the fire at the moment and can’t address these issues in the detail I would like to until a bit later on. For now, the argument against new hate crime laws can be gleaned form this post of mine dating back a couple of years:

    http://gregladen.com/wordpress/?p=243

  11. #11 A Man Zed
    June 17, 2009

    One more point. These anti-Gay groups believe that Gays “deserve” consequences, including violence (as well as bullying, being fired, deprived of housing, called names) as a “consequence” of homosexual behavior.

    They oppose any attempt to make these “consequences” illegal (or to heighten the punishment based on extenuating homophobia).

  12. #12 Jason Thibeault
    June 17, 2009

    I am strongly of the opinion that if you commit murder, you should be tried for murder and punished severely, however if you commit murder specifically because the person is of a particular ethnic group or sexual orientation or belief system or thought process, then you should be punished more severely. This cuts both ways — if a free-thinker went around killing Christians because they were Christian, or a gay man went around killing straights because they were straight, then that’s as bad as the other way around. Maybe only slightly less bad, in that it’s the minority killing the majority, but I don’t want to split that hair.

    Now, the bar should probably be set higher for proving this than for proving murder, since you can’t know a person’s intent, but you can certainly infer that a person was a homophobe if he has three priors for attacking gay men in bars while screaming “fag”. And the crime is the more egregious because it serves as an act of terrorism against the group in question. Perhaps these hate crime laws could be written broadly enough to catch other acts of politically motivated, bigotry-inspired violence. Like, oh, say, killing a doctor for providing medically necessary late term abortions.

    As for the Canadian law, it most certainly is not being used as thought police fodder right now, and I defy you to find some corroborating evidence to your statement.

  13. #13 Jason Thibeault
    June 17, 2009

    Incidentally, I don’t agree with the HRA 13.1. I think it’s been used to punish some very specious instances of racism that showed people as ignorant, but not specifically overtly racist, due to the inclusion of the clause “[i]ntent is not a requirement, and truth and reasonable belief in the truth is no defence.” I just don’t know of any cases where it was used to impinge on the rights of entire groups of people for daring to think things outside the “liberal ideals”.

  14. #14 jay
    June 17, 2009

    I am also bothered by this family of crime concept which gets away from the actual crime and becomes obsessed with motives, hence we get the bizarre defenses that the perpetrator wanted to rob the victim, and did not attack because of sexuality or other social cues (is it somehow less offensive to kill someone for his jewellry than his ethnicity?) One kind of victim is treated differently from another kind of victim.

    Shades of ‘thought crime’

  15. #15 Stephanie Z
    June 17, 2009

    One of the things that is taken into consideration in setting sentences is the continued threat to society. Group bias strong enough to provoke violence (hate) is a factor that decidedly affects the level of ongoing threat.

    However, given the prevalence of ideas that lead people to believe, “We are society. They are not,” there is nothing like a guarantee that judges will make an accurate assesment in these cases. Hate crime laws that are specifically tied to other crimes recognize that elevated threat, whether an individual judge does or not.

    And Greg, it is a somewhat different matter to deal with terror as a response to a single event of overwhelming violence and terror as a response to a situation that has been there all one’s life, only occasionally crossing the line into what’s illegal.

  16. #16 Mike Haubrich, FCD
    June 18, 2009

    I am also bothered by this family of crime concept which gets away from the actual crime and becomes obsessed with motives, hence we get the bizarre defenses that the perpetrator wanted to rob the victim, and did not attack because of sexuality or other social cues (is it somehow less offensive to kill someone for his jewellry than his ethnicity?) One kind of victim is treated differently from another kind of victim.

    Shades of ‘thought crime’

    In trial, and in prosecuting crime, a necessary element of evidence by the prosecutor is demonstrating a mens rea. It’s not a new, nor a “politically correct” concept. Thought Crime is an invention of Christianity (Matthew 5:28) which basically has Jesus saying “If you thought it, you have done it.”

    If a criminal attacks a person because of the victim’s sexuality, the mens rea is to damage and not to rob. The larger crime against society is to attack someone for a characteristic that others share, and not for material gain. As Stephanie said, it is to cause fear in other members of the group that the victim belongs to, to make “example.”

  17. #17 Michael Spencer
    June 18, 2009

    I need some help on this one.

    We’re all on the same train with respect to the heinous nature of many ‘hate’ crimes. But I want to understand how motivation makes a crime worse.

    Circumstances around a crime–the deplorable nature, as an example- are already factors in the sentencing phase, so this is the part I don’t get. What would be the benefit of creating a different category of crime? Certainly the effort is causing a social ruckus, a ruckus we sure don’t need as we try to further gay rights and cure other social ills.

    I am about as lefty as they come and I have to say I don’t get the benefit of this approach. Anyone help me out on this?

  18. #18 Stephanie Z
    June 18, 2009

    Michael, when there are 16 comments ahead of yours, there’s a fair chance your question has already been answered in one of them. You’ve already been helped. Now help yourself.

  19. #19 Greg Laden
    June 18, 2009

    is it somehow less offensive to kill someone for his jewellry than his ethnicity?

    I humbly submit: Six million people in Central Europe would argue yes. But they can’t because their jewelry was stolen as they were being murdered for their ethnicity.

    Stephanie: That argument (that I sort of made with the link) is about something else that may not be important with much of the legislation. I’m still working on that.

    Michael: Circumstances around a crime–the deplorable nature, as an example- are already factors in the sentencing phase, so this is the part I don’t get. What would be the benefit of creating a different category of crime?

    Exactly. What is that benefit?

    … still thinking about it all.

  20. #20 Stephanie Z
    June 18, 2009

    Okay, guys, I’ll make this easier for you. If you’re going to talk about what is supposed to go into sentencing, please read and address comment #15.

  21. #21 Lee Daniel Crocker
    June 18, 2009

    I have to side with #2 here…all the wrong reasons, but totally the right thing to do. “Hate crimes” are thought crimes; they are punishment for presumed motives, not deeds. Punish the deeds, but combat the ideas with better ideas.

  22. #22 Greg Laden
    June 18, 2009

    I don’t think hate crime legislation legislates thought. If it did, that would be bad.

    Consider the structure of the following argument:

    http://xkcd.com/385/

    On the left, we have one victim. On the right, 150 billion victims. (Of snark, in this case)

    If the snark was a combination of some sort of physical crime (already covered by law) and a material contribution (“material” is an important word there, don’t gloss it please) to extending that nefarious act to the group (by others), then it matters. That is not thinking, but a kind of social conspiracy.

    These social conspiracies have lead to one form of holocaust or major cycle of repression again and again. In fact, these social conspiracies ALWAYS lead to such things unless checked.

    So yes, check the bad thinking with counter-thinking. But sometimes there must be more.

  23. #23 Stephanie Z
    June 18, 2009

    The conspiracy element is why I think it’s important to look at RICO when determining whether this is good lawmaking. So, of course, I’m reading up on RICO, which turns out to be an example of stunningly bad lawmaking. On the other hand, it may not be a bad law for all that.

  24. #24 Ben Zvan
    June 18, 2009

    @Jay: Motive is always a question for the jury to consider.

    I think that conservatives are missing the point that they will still be allowed to hate people, they just won’t be allowed hurt the people they hate.

  25. #25 Greg Laden
    June 18, 2009

    And to actively organize as part of their day to day political activity (like stuffing envelopes and handing out pamphlets) the active hating part on a routine basis like it was perfectly normal.

    BTW, I never aruged that RICO was good law. I really have no idea and I look forward to your eventual post on it, Stephanie! What I have argued is that it is there, so why bother with the patriot act?

  26. #26 Stephanie Z
    June 18, 2009

    I don’t really know either, Greg. I’m looking forward to finding out myself. I’ve heard about good results from the law, but that’s often the bias in reporting.

    I’d never considered that the reason I haven’t heard anything good about the uses of the Patriot Act is that the tools necessary for fighting organized criminal activity are all available under RICO (or with a judge’s oversight). Interesting.

    My thought in using RICO to look at hate crime legislation is that RICO doesn’t give the tools to address criminal behavior that’s supported in a much broader, less organized fashion. It can and has been used to deal with direct support of political terrorism, but it can’t handle winks and nods and general societal attitudes that the victim “was asking for it,” even though those still support crime.

  27. #27 GrayGaffer
    June 18, 2009

    Michael @17: It is not exactly intent that makes a hate crime: it is worse than simple assault because the other members of the class of the attacked person are also harmed by the attack. i.e. the effect of the intent harms many. Hence the harsher sentencing. So it is not sufficient to show intent, and probably not possible iof that exists only in the perps mind, it is necessary to show class harm. Such as the local gay society as a group deciding to avoid some neighborhood because of hate crimes committed there (a bit circular, but hopefully somebody with better legal chops than I can straighten it out). And thereby being harmed because the crime resulted in removal of some of their freedoms.

  28. #28 Timothy (TRiG)
    July 2, 2009

    This is something I posted originally on the CARM discussion forums. I later edited it slightly and posted it at h2g2. This is a quote of the h2g2 posting. I’ve lost the CARM posting.

    ***

    What is hate crime legislation? It says basically that criminal acts motivated by hate should receive tougher sentences. Note that the acts so punished are crimes anyway, under normal legislation. So muggings, burglaries, vandalism, and other such acts for which you may receive punishment of law, may receive tougher sentences if they are shown to be motivated by hate.

    Hate speech may also be incorporated into hate crime legislation.

    Now that we’ve clarified what hate crime legislation is, let’s talk about whether it is valid. The point has been made earlier that such legislation criminalises thought. The same attack can receive a tougher sentence if the court perceives it to be motivated by hate. That’s very odd, isn’t it?

    Yes, but there is another side to this argument. Picture yourself as a member of a despised minority: a minority by skin colour, sexual orientation, religion, … whatever. Now, because your group is small and widely looked down on, you tend to form a close-knit cohesive bunch, and you follow with interest news and gossip about other members of your minority, even if you don’t know them personally.

    So, a member of your minority living not far from you, but whom you don’t know personally, is viciously attacked only for being a member of that minority. The attack is motivated purely by hatred of that minority. The specific victim was merely representative. It might just as well have been one of your friends. It might just as well have been you.

    How do you feel?

    That is the reason for hate crime legislation. In a hate crime, there are far more victims than those who appear in the witness stand. A whole group feels hurt, frightened. There is an incalculable knock-on effect.

    With so much more hurt, with so many more victims, it is only right that there should be a greater punishment for the attackers.

    TRiG.

  29. #29 WEREFEAT
    July 6, 2009

    There are so many Communists on this page. Don’t you know that the Communists kill the liberals and the socialists when they take over? The liberals really believe all of the egalitarian nonsense, and the Communists only use these notions to de-stabilize society.

    Since the Communists don’t believe any of this idiocy, they kill the liberals, since they would finally “get it” and start a counter-revolution.

    Hitler, on the other hand, only put liberals in prison to work instead of listening to their stupid excuses for thinking. I guess he was pretty liberal after all.

  30. #30 Jason Thibeault
    July 6, 2009

    Why are you jerks ALWAYS so damn late to the party?

  31. #31 the real meme
    July 6, 2009

    WEREFEAT: “put liberals in prison to work instead of listening to their stupid excuses for thinking”

    Huh? If I recall correctly, Hitler and the Commies only had one thing in common:Hitler killed the Jews and the liberals with a variety of means, and the Stalinists–led by a Jewish KGB boss–killed the liberals AND the religious Right Russians with starvation and Siberian exile.

    Or, maybe you were talking about different liberals?I HATE you guys when you get your facts wrong!

    As for RICO, it was a really good excuse for another kind of racial profiling: Italians and Irish and then ‘blacks’ as ‘non pure’ people who are ‘all criminals’. The only thing good about RICO was that all of those racist Jewish racketeers in Hollywood were able to make great movies about Italians,Irish, and other non-whites and continually paint them as criminals while avoiding any analysis of Jewish gangsterism,like Bugsy or Louis Mayer; and the complicity of bad law financed by Hollywood lobbyist bucks made the Bernie Madoffs possible.

    Oh, yeah: and we got to find out about

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