Steven Waldman

Steven Waldman


The Case Against A Hate Crimes Bill

posted by swaldman

In response to my post about the hate crimes bill, Commenter “Dean Myrick” writes:

“I am against any kind of hate-crime legislation. My reasoning for this is three-fold:
1. There are already laws on the books that cover all of these crimes. These laws should be enforced to the fullest.
2. I do not believe in laws that are specifically targeted to any group or individual, no matter the purpose. The law should be applied equally to all human beings, otherwise it is not an effective law and should be thrown out. The death penalty is a perfect example of this. It has never been applied equally and is not currently. It should be abolished until such time that it is. Then the debate over it’s use should begin anew.
3. Hate-crime legislation involves punishing individuals for their purported thoughts. There is no way to prove the existence of a thought. There is no way to prove the content or intent of a thought. I have always held freedom of thought above of all other rights, it is essential and fundamental to all other human rights. Deeds are all we should be punished or rewarded for. They are concrete and can be evidenced either physically or by witnesses.

This is one of the most articulate arguments against hate crime legislation I’ve seen — sure better than the Coral Ridge “argument” that the bill would “mean a loss of liberty for Christians who stand up for the biblical truth that homosexual conduct is sin.”
Part of the problem in American life is that much “argument” (on the left and right) is not actually to persuade but to a) raise money b) increase radio ratings, book sales or web traffic and c) get validation and applause from those who already agree with you.
One quibble, with reason #3. There’s no crime at all if the thoughts don’t translate into violence or attempts at violence. However, it does provide for greater potential penalties and federal law enforcement involvement if the crime was directed at certain groups — including, by the way, evangelical Christians.
P.s. I forgot to mention in the original post: while I think conservatives way overstate the dangers of hate crime legislation, I agree with much of the conservative critique about regulating hate speech. That’s dangerous territory which invariably conflicts with the First Amendment.



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freelunch

posted June 16, 2009 at 10:21 am


One other reason not to bother with hate crime legislation is that prosecutors can find interesting ways to apply it. This will give the local prosecutor another opportunity to pile on. We already imprison too many people, particularly if they are poor. The impulse and the execution don’t always match.



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Panthera

posted June 16, 2009 at 11:13 am


um…freelunch…the trouble is, with conservative Christians the impulse all too often leads to an execution.Of a gay or transgender or doctor or guard…



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Dan

posted June 16, 2009 at 11:40 am


I have to take complete exception to point #3. The hate crimes act punishes physical violence done with a particular motivation, NOT the motivation itself. Courts of law already look to words, actions and testimony to infer thoughts all the time — hence the difference between the various degrees of manslaughter and murder, for example.
Point #2 is equally problematic. The notion that laws that are applied unequally should be repealed seems absurd to me. If there is a disparity in enforcement, why not fix the enforcement problem directly rather than repealing the law? The validity and necessity of, say, anti-pollution laws does not depend on whether Chevron gets away with it and the local heating company doesn’t. Such disparity is far more likely to be a problem with the relevant enforcement agency, not the law itself.



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Michael

posted June 16, 2009 at 11:48 am


While I understand the libertarian/philosophical argument against hate crime laws, the reality is that these laws are already on the books. To oppose them at this point when they are about to be expanded to a group that is proportionally one of the likeliest of targets seems to logically consistent but meanspirited.



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jack ellisd

posted June 16, 2009 at 11:54 am


These are good, common sense arguments against the proposed Federal Hate Crimes bill.
But, the writer makes the mistake of assuming the proponents of Hate Crime Laws are fair, honest people looking to reduce or prevent violent hateful crimes.
Instead, the reality is Hate Crime Laws are part of aggressive power plays to help certain groups gain more power at the expense of other groups.
The key is to have your group officially designated as a politically correct “Victim group” which has suffered discrimination and other insults, abuse in the past and thus needs special protections, and new “programs”, “positions” in various Human rights commissions to make up for past injustices.
It is very much along the lines of Orwell’s 1984 – where “all (people) animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others”.
Thus, under proposed Hate Crime Laws – hateful crimes like rape, assault, murder will be prosecuted very differently according to the race, gender, sexual orientation, immigration status of the accused and the victim.
I live in Chicago – we led all cities last year with over 500 murders. But, few if any of these murders qualify under the politically correct categories of hate crimes (by PC definitions, Black and Latino gang members are members of oppressed victim groups, so they can’t be racist, just like the National Council of La Raza – THE RACE isn’t supposedly “Racist” , nor is the Black Congressional Caucus, nor is gerrymandering all state representative and national Congressional voting districts to secure that members of officially designated victim groups win elections.
Hate Crime laws in the European Union and Canada have been accompanied by explosive growth in Human Rights Commissions/Tribunals – with high salaries, high budgets – supposed victims of Hate Crime, hate speech appeal to these commissions and the persecutions begin – and there are few BIll of Rights protections for those accused.
Those people who think Hate Crime Laws will only be used against Right Wing, Conservative Christian, White Nationalists or World War II Historical Revisionists should google Ezra Levant and Brigitte Bardot.
Muslim immigrant groups – hardly known to be “liberal”, “progressive”, or “gay friendly” have learned how to use Hate Crimes/Hate Speech laws to persecute anyone who says or writes something negative about their customs/culture (abuse of animals, honor killing of women, terrorism etc).
In conclusion. Hate Crime Laws suck.
For more information on this subject visit:
http://www.bikers4freedom.com



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freelunch

posted June 16, 2009 at 12:37 pm


jack ellisd –
You may have talked me into supporting hate crimes legislation.
By the way Animal Farm, where your quote came from, is not 1984.



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Patriot

posted June 16, 2009 at 12:53 pm


Call Congress Toll Free at 1-877-851-6437 and tell your Congressman to vote NO against this terrible thought crimes bill S.909.



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Hunter

posted June 16, 2009 at 2:49 pm


I have to agree with Dean Myrick.



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Husband

posted June 16, 2009 at 3:27 pm


“One quibble, with reason #3. There’s no crime at all if the thoughts don’t translate into violence or attempts at violence. However, it does provide for greater potential penalties and federal law enforcement involvement if the crime was directed at certain groups — including, by the way, evangelical Christians.”
My ‘quibble’ Steve, is that violence-prone people generally don’t get up out of bed with an intention to just go out and bash someone – anyone, and particularly not ‘I think I’ll go out and kill a Christian today.’ They very often do, however, get up and think to themselves, ‘I’m gonna go get me a queer today.’ Or a Muslim, jew, black guy, etc.
This is what is called pre-meditation. They involve demonstrable thought and planning. Pre-meditation is influential in placing a charge of 1st or 2nd degree murder, which come with different penalties.
I disagree with Dean when he says, “Hate-crime legislation involves punishing individuals for their purported thoughts. There is no way to prove the existence of a thought. There is no way to prove the content or intent of a thought.” And I believe the pre-meditation argument disproves his theory. People already are ‘punished for their thoughts’ (as in pre-meditated/planned murders vs. manslaughter charges). And lawyers very much do prove the content AND intent of a thought in these very cases. Exactly why, for example, Dr. Tiller’s assasin had his computer searched – what websites did he visit? Did he plan his actions? Well, planning involves thought. And thought very much does enter into it in hate crimes.
“P.s. I forgot to mention in the original post: while I think conservatives way overstate the dangers of hate crime legislation, I agree with much of the conservative critique about regulating hate speech. That’s dangerous territory which invariably conflicts with the First Amendment.”
Again, although we can (and do) differentiate between free speech and responsible speech, the law likewise takes into account the incitement to terror, or to violence/harm. Just as no one is “free” to yell “FIRE!” in a crowded theater, I doubt anyone is free to stand on a street corner and yell out, ‘The fag at 221 West Wiltshire should be strung up, shot and set fire to.’ Explain why preachers should still be allowed to (quoting the Bible, natch) advocate killing gays saying “surely they shall be put to death”? Is that the kind of “free speech” you wish to encourage? No limits at all, Steven?
Pace Matt Shephard.



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Husband

posted June 16, 2009 at 3:48 pm


jack ellisd,
Ezra Levant is about as far right as you can get. You’ll need a much better example to convince me.



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Inherit the Wind

posted June 16, 2009 at 9:22 pm


If we preachers are so concerned about people using our condemnation of homosexuality to kill homosexuals, then we should also remind our congregations that it is their Christian duty to sacrifice their life for the rights of those homosexuals. There is more in the Bible on the latter than the former. Maybe our fears will balance ourselves out.
I think section 245 and S 909 are both a violation of the 14th amendments, but Christians generally only oppose the latter.



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Guy Allen

posted June 17, 2009 at 2:52 pm


Hate crime laws send the message that when local law enforcemnt ignores crimes that are covered the Feds can step in. No longer can the local bully and bigots feel free from prosecution. It was always against the law to lynch african americans but they knew it was not going to be enforced by the locals. Things change with the civil rights laws.



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Simpleton

posted July 16, 2009 at 4:42 am


Hate crime should be illegal unless someone can somehow tie it to be a crime against Christianity.
Then the criminal should be roasted alive.
Now that I have fed the persecution complex of the 80% Christian population,
What is the number of children born without arms or legs that have been miraculously restored and verified by a before and after video by a prayer to Jesus?
1. Too many to count
2. Over 1,000
3. Several dozen
4. Zero, but only because their faith was not strong enough, and a video is testing God, and conveniently God should not be tested



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