The U.S. Senate has passed Ted Kennedy’s so-called “hate crimes” bill. In the words of the Traditional Values Coalition, it will criminalize a person’s thoughts and provides unequal penalties for the same crime?depending upon the motivation of the accused. That means that the media that possibly provoked or influenced commission of the crime will come in for scrutiny. Yet our liberal media have remained silent on the constitutional and First Amendment implications of this approach.
Some, mostly on the conservative right, are speaking out. Besides the Traditional Values Coalition, Paul Weyrich of the Free Congress Foundation has denounced the bill, noting that France has pursued the same approach in the prosecution of Brigette Bardot for a book she wrote critical of Islam. The Republican Study Committee produced an analysis of the Kennedy approach that concludes that it creates a federal “thought crime.” The approach requires that prosecutors inquire into “an offender’s overall philosophy or biases?” It declares, “The Kennedy bill makes philosophy, politics, biases, and general viewpoints the subject of almost every violent crime.”
There are two main groups pushing for this approach. They are militant homosexuals and militant Muslims. Talking about “hate crimes” against Muslims in the U.S., Kennedy declared, “These hate crimes included murders, beatings, arson, attacks on mosques, shootings, and other assaults.” Since these are already crimes that can be prosecuted under the law, what is the added significance of branding them “hate crimes?”
Because a “hate crime” is usually detected by a background investigation of the accused person, authorities could analyze an accused person’s diaries, journals, books, magazines or favorite television programs. This opens the door to judgments that certain news organizations could be deemed “hateful” if they are said to have played a role in provoking a particular crime.
Here, the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) has featured “action alerts” targeting Paul Harvey, Dr. Laura, radio host Jay Severin, Rich Lowry of National Review, and Sean Hannity and Bill O’Reilly of Fox News. In response to “increased attacks on Islam by conservative talk show hosts,” CAIR has now launched a “Hate Hurts America” campaign. Ironically, Muslims themselves could come in for scrutiny under the “hate crimes” bill because their religion teaches that homosexuality is wrong.
Senator Rick Santorum said he did not believe in “criminalizing thought.” He explained, “I have always said the greatest of the freedoms we have in this country is the freedom to believe what we want to believe and the freedom to think what we want to think. I know there are lots of motivations for people to do things and there are lots of bad thoughts out there in people’s minds, but we do not criminalize those. We only criminalize them if there are actions taken?I think protecting the freedom of belief and the freedom to think the way one wants to think is an important concept in our country?and I believe this hate crimes amendment violates that very premise.”