The Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Prevention Act Would Not Stop Anyone’s Religious Free Speech; Read the Bill, Then Shut Up!

hate-crimeFirst of all, I can’t say I am whole-heartedly in favor of the hate crimes bill in Congress. For my tax dollars spent on social issues of this kind, I’d much rather see Congress, first, get rid of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT) and the “Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).

The bill, which if enacted, would be called the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Prevention Act. (Click to the bill from the Library of Congress. Read it; it’s just one page.) After reading it for myself, I’m getting sick of all the christian whiners all over the net crying that they are going to lose their ability to spew out hate. The bill does basically these things:

  • Gives the necessity for having such laws
  • Defines what hate crimes are
  • Says the support, both financial and otherwise, can be given to state and local jurisdictions, especially when the crime involves more than one state or in rural areas, basically in the form of grants
  • Gives more specifics on what hate crimes are (those involve bodily injury and death)
  • Explains in what situations the federal government can get involved
  • Explains what evidence is admissible
  • Explains that the Act follows the Constitution, which gives free speech.

In fact, the bill directly stipulates that speech, including religious speech, is still protected; read from Section 10:

    • (3) CONSTITUTIONAL PROTECTIONS- Nothing in this Act shall be construed to prohibit any constitutionally protected speech, expressive conduct or activities (regardless of whether compelled by, or central to, a system of religious belief), including the exercise of religion protected by the First Amendment and peaceful picketing or demonstration. The Constitution does not protect speech, conduct or activities consisting of planning for, conspiring to commit, or committing an act of violence.
    • (4) FREE EXPRESSION- Nothing in this Act shall be construed to allow prosecution based solely upon an individual’s expression of racial, religious, political, or other beliefs or solely upon an individual’s membership in a group advocating or espousing such beliefs.

If someone says that his religious speech will be limited because of the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Prevention Act, he hasn’t read it, or he is just lying and trying to stir things up for others who won’t bother to read it.

17 Responses

  1. So, if you aren’t whole heartedly in favor, is that because there shouldn’t be a need to make any group of citizens different than another group? I agree on that point. It would be nice if everyone could be treated as human as the next human and all be deserving of the same dignity.

    I think it takes mental instability to hurt another person, but I see a distinction and a need of the hate crimes bill. When a person loses control of themselves and causes bodily harm or death to a single individual that doesn’t mean they will go looking for another to hurt. When a person is motivated to inflict bodily harm or death to all persons who are of a certain race, gender, sexual persuasion, etc., they are a danger to a large number of people and deserve the distinction and stiffer penalties of ‘hate crimes.’

  2. I agree with what you have said. Actually, I didn’t understand what the hate crimes bill entailed until we started discussing it, and about the same time, I saw all over the net, these religious and/or conservative people ranting that it would take away their freedom of speech, especially in terms of their religious beliefs.

    So I wanted to see what it said and finally hunted it down. Now, I am not a lawyer, so I am interpreting it just as a layman, with vested interest.

    In the post, I outlined the bill as I understand it; granted, I may have a somewhat biased point of view, but the two elements that seem to me the most important are: 1) that (and this is basically what you have said) when a hate crime is committed against a member of one of the protected groups, not only the direct victim is affected, but others in that group are affected.

    I see this somewhat like the day of 9/11. After watching or hearing about the terrorist planes crashing into the buildings back east, most everyone around the country was terrified that more planes might be coming and could have been coming to where each of us were. And, of course, this was exactly what these terrorists wanted to do: put us all in fear.

    The other main element that I get out of the bill is that it will help support local and state agencies when they don’t have enough money or manpower to investigate and prosecute cases like these, or if because of bias, they do not put out full effort to investigate and prosecute.

    My hesitation with the first point is that criminals can terrorize people and it wouldn’t fit as a hate crime; I’m referring to cases of serial killers and gangs that do home invasions in specific neighborhoods or towns.

    With the second point, I sit even more on the fence. When it comes to support, agencies that lack the money or manpower to fully investigate and prosecute any crime should be able to get that support, whether from the state or federal government. Say that a murderer came in to one of those counties out in western Kansas that have only 2 o 3 thousand people. If the killer wasn’t local or fled out of state or out of the country that would be very difficult for the county to pay for, let alone have the personnel to do the job. It’s not a hate crime but they should be able to get the support (like the grant mentioned in the bill) they need.

    Where I think there is definite justification for the law to do something in terms of specific groups (but even as I sit here thinking I see that maybe it also applies more generally) is when local law officials and prosecutors don’t do an effective job investigation or trying cases because of their own personal biases. We know that this happened in the South, and no doubt other places, in the case where Blacks were attacked or murdered, but local officials turned their heads, and there is no doubt that this kind of bias is still happening towards various groups of people.

  3. You’ve discovered all the reasons this bill does make sense and is needed. It has less to do with singling out any group of people as it does to protecting them. If it’s a federal crime there is more money, more personnel, more chance of finding the ‘perp.’ It’s necessary!

  4. Next will be the thought police, nevermind the hate patrol.
    They cant stop people from hating other people, its HUMAN nature.
    How about: GOVT: STAY OUT OF MY LIFE?
    I am ALL for that.

    • Mad–I think you didn’t take time to read the bill, and I’m not really sure how you think it would get involved in your life. I’m curious; aside from paying taxes and maybe having to go to jury duty what have you wanted to do lately that the government has gotten involved in?

      Likewise, I’m not sure all hate is human nature; a lot of seems to be learned and passed down from generation to generation.

      And the bill wouldn’t and doesn’t say it would try to impede anybody’s hatred.

      So the Imam can still say in the mosque, “I hate Jews, and you should hate Jews too,” and he would still not be prosecuted under the law. If one of his people who attends the mosque then goes on a rampage and kills Jews, the member could certainly be prosecuted under the law.

      However, yes, if the Imam says, “I hate Jews and we should kill Jews, and a member goes out and kills Jews, then they both could be prosecuted, but as I understand it that kind of speech has never been protected under the law. It’s basically the same as crying “Fire” in a crowded theater when there is no fire and people are injured or killed trying to escape. That kind of speech is not protected and whoever commits such an act could be prosecuted.

      Finally, it’s pretty clear that brutal murder of Johanna Justin-Jinich, the Weslayan University student was a hate crime. After all, the guy that shot her wrote this: “Kill Johanna. She must Die” and, “I think it’s ok to kill Jews and go on a killing spree.”

  5. I want the GOVT OUT of my life, that is how I think.
    Now tell me…HOW can YOU or the govt. control peoples thoughts OR hate.
    Human nature. Maybe NOT you, but I have enough hate on my blog from nazis, more than you can shake a stick at.

    I believe that without ANY form of Godliness, hate will be out of control regardless of any bills being passed, good, bad or indifferent.
    Sorry, I am a Jew, we get accused for ALL of the worlds woes- whether I am a right winger, a left winger, a good Jew or a bad Jew, people hate Jews, and I dont care. I dont like these type people much either.
    I have read all of the bills. Every new bill they make is an affront to the Constitution since Jan 10, 1963:
    This was entered into OUR Congressional record. Governing powers have succeeded.

    • As fervent as you seem to be about wanting government out of your life, I think you’ll have to try to find an isolated island where you can live alone, for even if there are just two people, a division of duties and responsibilities is required, and, thus, government begins. Like it or not, society without some type of government becomes chaos. As for me, I prefer the type of government in which I can express my opinion openly and, at least at some level, be an active member.

    • I sure don’t hate Jews. I know a bunch of people who don’t!

      I’m sorry you feel hated. That’s sad. Maybe you’re looking at the negative and ignoring the positive? You really don’t want government out of your life — you want the fire department to respond if your house is on fire, you want parks, streets in good enough repair your car doesn’t have to spend all its time in the repair shop, foods and drugs that are safe. I don’t need to go on, as you understand. We all want a government that keeps their nose out of where it doesn’t belong. But we need government and in America we’re very blessed!

  6. “chaos” Where we are headed now.

  7. You should read that link, I can tell you haven’t. How sad.

  8. I looked at it, and it sounds like the same load of caca put out by McCarthyites of the 50s and the John Birch Society of the 60s.

    It’s no better to follow that extreme stuff without really putting in any of your own thinking, whether it’s on the Left or on the Right.

    I don’t care whether non-thinkers want to follow Rush Limbaugh or Leon Trotsky over the cliff, I’m not going with them.

    I will say this: if you just want to be a parrot, why don’t you sprout colorful feathers, go live in a tree on a tropical island, and lay eggs.

  9. wow- you are such a HATER. Wow, so mean and HATEFUL!
    Those are in our congressional record, they are now our life, you are paranoid for all the WRONG reasons.

    • I didn’t read anything hateful. Are you reading something into words that aren’t there? Why so negative? I haven’t walked a mile in your shoes and admit I don’t understand as well as you, but do you know how much better or worse we can make our world just by changing our attitude?

  10. You are also so judgemental! Wow!! Mean and nasty! Rush Limbaugh does NOT represent MY beliefs, and stance on the affairs of man, NO way Chump. You really need to be more LIBERAL and SWEET, you come across SO Militant!!

  11. Comments by the previous poster will now go to spam. I welcome comments on my blog, but this is still my blog and no one gets to enter and blather on incoherently.

    • OK! I responded as I read. And here I am to the end. It’s your microphone. 😉 S/he had a long row to hoe, but needs to change that for themselves.

      • That was just getting to be too much. I definitely am not used to having to moderate much on my blog, but every time I responded, it just seemed to just elicit a less coherent and more berating response. I clicked on that person’s blog, and after looking at it, I decided that wasn’t really someone I wanted responding on my blog. It’s one thing to take the other side and state your point, but I never got what point was trying to be made, except to be angry.

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