hate crimes

Some people say that there shouldn’t be hate crimes laws:

The bill directly violates freedom of religion in this sense as it declares moral disapproval to be unacceptable.

This is a hate crime:

“And they’re saying what’s why they killed him. Because he was gay. And he wasn’t gay,” said Thomas Hall. “I don’t know any crime on the planet that deserves that type of punishment.” Court papers show Gray and King brutally attacked, then photographed Hall. King hit him with his boots at least 75 times. The suspects told police they dragged Hall down the steps, loaded him into Robert Hendricks’ truck, and dumped his body in a ditch. They say they went back two days later, and found Hall in a nearby field. That’s when they tell police they wrapped the body in a tarp and hid it in Gray’s garage.

Either these people think that brutal murder is an acceptable form of “moral disapproval,” or they are confusing hate crime with hate speech.

Hate-crime laws are never about hate speech per se. They are only about acts that are already crimes. Now, certain acts of speech — particularly threats and intimidation — are the subject of criminal sanction already in the law, so if these crimes are committed with a racial, religious, or gay-bashing motive, then it is possible for some speech to be considered a hate crime.

But the core principle is this: The First Amendment has never covered criminal acts, because crimes are never a form of free speech. You can’t kill someone and claim it was an act of political protest, at least not under Western law as we know it.

These acts are still crimes whether or not the motive is considered, so why should the motive be considered and make the sentence more severe? For one, hate crimes hurt an entire community. If a man you know is tortured to death for being gay (or because someone thought he was gay), you understandably might do your best to appear not gay. If someone from your place of worship is killed for being a member of that particular religion, you may stop attending or talking about your faith.

And that is what hate crimes, in the end, are all about: Taking away the rights and freedom of our fellow citizens, denying them the right to participate in the community where they reside and forcing them to live as shadow citizens. People opposed to hate-crimes laws are, at rock bottom, profoundly anti-freedom.

An example of the fear and restriction a crime against someone you don’t even know can have (Via Feministing):

i thought about her on the train ride to work. and by this, i mean i thought about her and i thought about myself, in that we’re both women. as far as we know at this point, she was merely a young woman in a parking lot – i am that woman a lot of times too. and these horrible moments in time, regardless of how long the odds of them happening to any given woman are, exist for all women in the sense that we know it could happen to us. that we could walk out of a Target at 7:10 pm on a saturday and not make it safely to our cars. that we could be the victims of such terrorism, such pointed destruction, such punishment.

Hate crimes laws don’t just protect the queer community – they protect even Christians, who are often the ones most violently opposed to the laws.

the fact that the crime itself — arson against a place of worship — is backed up by a serious law carrying stiff penalties demonstrates once again how important hate crimes laws are in protecting everyone’s rights. The same laws that protect synagogues and mosques are now being brought to bear to defend the Victory Family Church and its members.

Hate crimes laws are also important because when no one speaks out specifically against these crimes, the perpetrators feel like their community actually approves. Often, the most outspoken opponents of hate crimes laws are Christians on the far right. This isn’t surprising considering the racism, sexism, and homophobia of some of their most beloved leaders (Via Majikthise).

But for Falwell, the “questions of the day” did not always relate to abortion and homosexuality–nor did they begin there. Decades before the forces that now make up the Christian right declared their culture war, Falwell was a rabid segregationist who railed against the civil rights movement

Even now, the Right defends the “white, Christian, male power structure” (via Feministing).


  1. Nathan says:

    The first article you posted was primarily about the role of the federal government, not a misunderstanding of hate crimes vs hate speech.

    And I know you might love Falwell because he makes Christians look like asses, but he was hardly a beloved leader. He might have been “famous,” but he’s not beloved by me, and I would say a majority of Christians.

    A suggestion on your posts…instead of interrupting your thoughts every few sentences with an excerpt, try writing an entire “essay” from start to finish. It’s really hard to follow what your point is when it jumps around so much. By the end of the post I’m not even sure what the point was to try and respond.

  2. Sean says:

    >>People opposed to hate-crimes laws are, at rock bottom, profoundly anti-freedom.

    Lulsical. I was taking it seriously until that point 😛
    I can still kind of see the point but anyone who goes ahead breaks it down to “anyone who doesn’t agree with me hates freedom and America” just … yeah. I’m sure you get what I’m trying to say.

  3. sarcozona says:

    You’re right Sean – it should read “profoundly against freedom for people not like them.” And it’s not saying that “anyone who doesn’t agree with me hates freedom and America,” it’s saying that people who think beating the shit out of someone because they’re gay is just fine are comfortable limiting the freedom of gay people.

  4. sarcozona says:

    Nathan, the very title of the article, “Hate Crime Laws: Criminalizing Free Speech” equates prosecuting hate crimes as hate crimes with limiting speech. He says “It [a hate crimes law] means that there will be a broad overarching definition of what kind of speech is against the law according to which federally protected groups become offended by the opinion of someone else.” Hate crimes laws don’t limit speech. Hate crimes laws limit gay-bashing and church burning.

    I don’t disagree with you. Falwell does not represent all Christians. However, he was the founder of the Moral Majority, which was hugely popular and influential. Falwell encouraged churches to become politically active and to influence their members on issues such as homosexuality and abortion. The religious right’s engagement in the political process was largely responsible for the election of our current president.

  1. […] for LGBT people, this shouldn’t be surprising. From laws prohibiting gay marriage to the failure to protect LGBT people from hate crimes the US isn’t doing enough to encourage human rights within our own country – how could we […]

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