The 3 Facts You Should Know about Hate Crime Laws
August 20th, 2010
Maggie Gallagher recently vented — dishonestly — in a column decrying Judge Walker’s “judicial tyranny,” quoting Rush Limbaugh:
Rush Limbaugh had his finger on the truth. In the nearly half-hour speech he gave after the Proposition 8 ruling (“the American people are boiling over!”), Rush said that Walker “did not just slap down the will of 7 million voters. Those 7 million voters were put on trial — a kangaroo court where everything was stacked against them. … Those of you who voted for Prop 8 in California are guilty of hate crimes. You were thinking discrimination. That’s what this judge has said! Truly unprecedented.”
Rush is completely wrong, but that doesn’t matter to the anti-gay echo chamber. He might just have veered into over-the-top hyperbole, but now Maggie is repeating the lie in print. It suits her purpose: the big new goal of the National Organization for Marriage is to paint anti-gays as victims of intolerant homosexuals who persecute good, sweet, gentle Christians. If that means telling lies about hate crimes, then so be it. Fortunately, you can refute this sort of paranoia with 3 simple facts.
The 3 Facts
1. Hate crime laws don’t make anything illegal.
Hate crime laws merely provide enhanced penalties for actions traditionally recognized as crimes, but motivated by bias. That’s all. Don’t believe me? Ask the FBI:
[H]ate crimes are not separate, distinct crimes; instead, they are traditional offenses motivated by the offender’s bias (for example, an offender assaults a victim because of a bias against the victim’s race).
In other words, if it wasn’t a crime before the hate crime law was passed, then it’s still not a crime afterward.
Do you know what people are doing when they claim American hate crime laws will criminalize the Bible or send pastors to jail for preaching homosexuality is a sin? They’re lying. Or, at the very least, speaking from ignorance. They may give you examples from Canada or Sweden or other countries that don’t have a First Amendment, but they don’t apply to the US.
2. Homosexuals don’t get special protection from hate crime legislation.
The Matthew Shepard Act added sexual orientation to the federal hate crimes statute. It doesn’t specify homo or hetero. If a gay man assaults a straight man out of hatred for straights, he can be charged with a hate crime.
Now at some point an anti-gay will protest, “But that STILL gives gays special treatment, because no one assaults straights for being straight!” I hope I’m there, because it’ll be fun to watch him realize what he just said and try to suck those words back into his lungs.
3. Christians are protected by hate crime legislation.
Actually, that’s true for people of all religions. Been true for decades. The religion protection is exactly the same as the sexual orientation protection (at the federal level at least; many states have protection for religion but not sexual orientation). So when pastors say they worry about being prosecuted under hate crime laws for saying homosexuality is a sin? If that were true, I could be prosecuted for saying that the bigotry of Pat Robertson or Jimmy Swaggart is a sin. But neither of those things will happen because hate crime laws don’t make anything illegal.
Using these facts
It’s amazing how much crap you can refute with just these 3 facts.
After the Carrie Prejean/Perez Hilton rumble, a US senator or representative said something like this (if anyone can find a reference I’d much appreciate it): If Perez Hilton had marched on stage and ripped Carrie’s crown off her head, she could have been charged with a hate crime for stating her religious view, but Hilton would have been charged with nothing.
Hate crimes don’t make anything illegal. It’s never been illegal to state your religious views, and the Matthew Shepard Act doesn’t change that. Carrie could not have been charged.
Christians are protected by hate crime legislation. If Hilton assaulted Prejean for her religious views, he could be charged with a hate crime. Ripping a tiara off someone’s head counts as assault, so it’s already illegal regardless of hate crime legislation, and the anti-Christian bias would qualify it as a hate crime.
Senator Jim DeMint spread this blatant untruth about the Matthew Shepard Act:
So if someone in effect were to hurt a homosexual, or maybe not hire one, that would become a hate crime, which is punished more than if you just hurt someone else.
Homosexuals don’t get special protection from hate crime legislation. A bias-motivated crime would be treated no differently if the victim were attacked for being gay than if he or she was attacked for being straight.
Christians are protected by hate crime legislation. Hate crime legislation has been around for decades and has never been used to prosecute discriminatory hiring, whether it based on the applicants’ religion, race, or national origin. The Matthew Shepard Act does nothing to change that. And even if it did, you could apply the law in exactly the same way against employers who refuse to hire Christians. In fact, though, this is just a made-up scare tactic, so it doesn’t matter anyway.
Representative Jim Pence said this:
Individual pastors who wish to preach out of Romans Chapter 1 about what the Bible teaches about homosexual behavior, they could be charged or be subject to intimidation for simply expressing a Biblical world view on the issue of homosexual behavior.
Hate crime laws don’t make anything illegal. It’s never been illegal to state your religious views, and the Matthew Shepard Act doesn’t change that.
That’ll do it. There are a few other things you might want to remember, like our Constitution’s First Amendment, which sets us apart from other countries and limits our government’s ability to restrict free speech. Also, the fact that the Matthew Shepard Act does have explicit (redundant and unnecessary) free speech protections built into it. Mostly, though, the 3 facts above will help you shoot down our opponents’ lies.