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01/19/2007

'Concerned Women' not concerned enough with hate crime facts

by Jeremy Hooper

 Good As You Images  Good As You Images  Good As You Images Img4297E7C83Ba21 1-1Commenting on H.R. 254, proposed federal legislation designed to prevent hate crimes, the Concerned Women For America's Matt Barber says today:

"This bill sets the table, and places us on a slippery slope toward religious persecution. If it becomes law, it can easily be misapplied and used as a hammer against free speech. So-called 'hate crimes' laws are already being used in the UK, Canada - and even right here in America - to intimidate and silence people who honor the Biblical model of human sexuality, and who value the sanctity of marriage," ... "If they speak out against homosexual behavior, they are somehow guilty of 'hate speech.' This bill attempts to get into the mind of the offender and penalize him for his thoughts. Are the bill's proponents going to now lobby for a Federal Department of Thought Enforcement?"

"H.R. 254 elevates one group of Americans above others, creating a special class of victims. All things being equal, it means that if a 5-foot-2-inch grandmother is violently attacked on the street, she is less worthy of justice than the 6-foot-4-inch homosexual man who is attacked by the same assailant."

And since we apparently have CWA's attention, let us now point out the holes in Mr. Barber's logic.

>> "If it becomes law, it can easily be misapplied and used as a hammer against free speech"

-- How, Matt? In order for the hate crimes penalty prescribed in the bill to be enacted, a crime of some sort has to first be committed! We are not talking about whether or not hate speech should be protected as free speech, as it currently is in this country. That is an entirely separate debate and the criminalization of hate speech would be an entirely different bill (one, we might add, that we would likely not support). But what H.R. 254 addresses is the punishment given to those who commit a physical crime that's deliberately targeted towards a person's race, religion, sexual orientation, etc.

>>So-called 'hate crimes' laws are already being used in the UK, Canada - and even right here in America - to intimidate and silence people who honor the Biblical model of human sexuality, and who value the sanctity of marriage"

-- No, again you are talking about "hate speech," which is subject to much harsher penalty in places like Canada, the UK, Sweden, etc. But with H.R. 254, we are not talking about people who assemble to demonstrate their religious-based antipathy for gay folks; we're talking about someone who beats the hell out a man and writes "kill the queers" on his forehead. Or, we're talking about someone who burns down a church and writes an anti-Baptist epithet on the charred ruins.

>>"This bill attempts to get into the mind of the offender and penalize him for his thoughts. Are the bill's proponents going to now lobby for a Federal Department of Thought Enforcement?"

-- Well, no, but perhaps we should lobby for a Department of Rational Thought in Terms of Hate Crimes! Because Mr. Barber, you are again spinning this bill into something it is not! Nobody is trying to bastardize the criminal justice system here. Ideally, we don't want ANYBODY to ever be charged with a hate crime, which is the real impetus behind the bill. There of course must be demonstrable evidence that a crime has been intended to threaten, intimidate, or scare a larger community, and just like with any legal situation, it will be up to judge and jury to weigh the facts. If a woman has murdered her husband for cheating on her, and then separately it is learned that she was at an anti-gay marriage rally earlier that day, of course she won't be charged with any sort of hate crime. However, if she murdered her husband because he was cheating with a man and she testified that she did it because she hates gays with a fiery passion and she wanted to make an example of him -- then that falls more in the territory of what this bill is targeting. While we know we sound like a broken record (kids, ask your parents what a record is) on this -- nobody is trying to penalize thoughts that do not result in some sort of a criminal incident!

>>"H.R. 254 elevates one group of Americans above others, creating a special class of victims. All things being equal, it means that if a 5-foot-2-inch grandmother is violently attacked on the street, she is less worthy of justice than the 6-foot-4-inch homosexual man who is attacked by the same assailant."

-- You see it this way only because you are looking at this bill as if it deals 100% with gays and lesbians. In actuality, it deals with hate perpetrated against ANYONE! Mr. Barber, we would be as quick to lash out against a gay activist for burning down CWA's headquarters as we would a "pro-family" activist for burning down HRC's! We are trying to eliminate bias attacks against EVERYONE! And in your example, if the assailant who attacks the gay man or the elderly woman does so simply because either victim cut them in line or gave them a cross look (and not because of their sexuality or age), then it most certainly WOULD NOT protect the gay man more! In order to be addressed by this legislation, the crime has to be deliberately committed BECAUSE of the victim's actual or perceived characteristic! But if the perp screams "I HATE HOMOSEXUALS" while punching the gay man and "YOU WERE MEAN TO ME WHEN YOU WERE MY KINDERGARTEN TEACHER" while punching the elderly lady, then yes, the anti-gay incident could hold a stiffer penalty. That's due to the fact that the former incident is going to put a target on gays all over, but the latter incident, while possibly a warning sign for those who instructed the criminal in grades 1-12, is not likely to encourage violence against all teachers nationwide.

Matt, we understand that you guys want the right to speak out against homosexuality. You have strong religious-based convictions and you feel a need to express them. We get it! If someone proposes alterations to the way our country handles free speech, then we will discuss that matter when it's a real issue. But for now, please do us a favor and start presenting this bill for what it truly is (decent and moral) and for whom it was designed (any and everyone)!

"Thought Crimes" Bill Re-introduced in Congress [CWA]

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Your thoughts

Always tickles me when American bible-thumpers use Britain as an example to bolster their arguments. For a start, the UK is a very secular place compared to the US (see polling data here: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/programmes/wtwtgod/3518375.stm); people call themselves "Christian" in polls and on census forms but very few attend church unless it's to get married. Those that do are generally peacable and level-headed, not subject to the kind of anti-gay hysteria (or creationist hogwash) one sees regularly across the Atlantic. The idea that these same churchgoers are being harrased by hate crime legislation is nonsense. Our concern here is with the more usual, very un-religious, gay-bashing thugs that still torment (and even kill) gay people in Britain. That's what the laws are for.

Posted by: John C | Jan 21, 2007 1:47:25 PM

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