Monday, May 07, 2007

Hate Crime Update

Sometimes you have to wonder at the blatant pandering of our wonderful elected officials. I mentioned HR 1592 in a previous post, and the House actually passed it. Unbelievable.
Thankfully, President Bush has pledged to veto it (this would only be his third or fourth, I believe).
In an email newsletter, Congressman Ron Paul summed up the unconstitutionality (hey, don't let that old piece of paper get in the way of pandering to gays and minorities! We got votes to buy!) of the resolution, and it bears reading:

May 7, 2007

Last week, the House of Representatives acted with disdain for the Constitution and individual liberty by passing HR 1592, a bill creating new federal programs to combat so-called “hate crimes.” The legislation defines a hate crime as an act of violence committed against an individual because of the victim’s race, religion, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability. Federal hate crime laws violate the Tenth Amendment’s limitations on federal power. Hate crime laws may also violate the First Amendment guaranteed freedom of speech and religion by criminalizing speech federal bureaucrats define as “hateful.”

There is no evidence that local governments are failing to apprehend and prosecute criminals motivated by prejudice, in comparison to the apprehension and conviction rates of other crimes. Therefore, new hate crime laws will not significantly reduce crime. Instead of increasing the effectiveness of law enforcement, hate crime laws undermine equal justice under the law by requiring law enforcement and judicial system officers to give priority to investigating and prosecuting hate crimes. Of course, all decent people should condemn criminal acts motivated by prejudice. But why should an assault victim be treated by the legal system as a second-class citizen because his assailant was motivated by greed instead of hate?

HR 1592, like all hate crime laws, imposes a longer sentence on a criminal motivated by hate than on someone who commits the same crime with a different motivation. Increasing sentences because of motivation goes beyond criminalizing acts; it makes it a crime to think certain thoughts. Criminalizing even the vilest hateful thoughts--as opposed to willful criminal acts--is inconsistent with a free society.

HR 1592 could lead to federal censorship of religious or political speech on the grounds that the speech incites hate. Hate crime laws have been used to silence free speech and even the free exercise of religion. For example, a Pennsylvania hate crime law has been used to prosecute peaceful religious demonstrators on the grounds that their public Bible readings could incite violence. One of HR 1592’s supporters admitted that this legislation could allow the government to silence a preacher if one of the preacher’s parishioners commits a hate crime. More evidence that hate crime laws lead to censorship came recently when one member of Congress suggested that the Federal Communications Commission ban hate speech from the airwaves.

Hate crime laws not only violate the First Amendment, they also violate the Tenth Amendment. Under the United States Constitution, there are only three federal crimes: piracy, treason, and counterfeiting. All other criminal matters are left to the individual states. Any federal legislation dealing with criminal matters not related to these three issues usurps state authority over criminal law and takes a step toward turning the states into mere administrative units of the federal government.

Because federal hate crime laws criminalize thoughts, they are incompatible with a free society. Fortunately, President Bush has pledged to veto HR 1592. Of course, I would vote to uphold the president’s veto.

As much as I think Bush has messed up, he gets some things right. This is definitely one of them. Texans may recall that he wouldn't sign hate crime legislation into law in this great state - and the NAACP created one of the most disgusting, polarizing, divisive, race-baiting commercials ever to air on the "public airwaves" (but Imus had to lose his job... I digress). They ran "re-enactment" video of the James Byrd dragging incident while his daughter provided the voiceover: "(I)t was like my father was killed all over again." because Governor Bush wouldn't sign the hate crime bill. Hmmm. Two of the three perpetrators got the death penalty and the third got life in prison. What more is there? You get killed "extra good" if it's a hate crime? Besides, I thought the NAACP was against the death penalty because too many blacks get death sentences. Oh wait... if it's white guys, they're all for it (and then some!), apparently.

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