Beliefnet
Steven Waldman

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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