Hate-Crime Hysteria

by Mandi Steele
September 20, 2000

The vast attention "hate crimes" get by the major news media is not surprising. Crimes that involve the motive of "hate" towards certain "minority groups" get much publicity. The murder of James Byrd, because he was black, and of Matthew Shepard, because he was gay, weren't reported quietly by any means. Supporters for The Hate-Crime Bill use the above instances as a means of pushing the bill towards passage. Something that is not widely reported, however, is that "The real effect of the bill would be to dramatically increase Federal jurisdiction and power."

Rep. Bob Barr (R.-Ga.) said that the bill has nothing to do with deterring crime, it will only succeed in "grabbing more power for an already bloated Federal government." The bill, which passed the Senate in June but has stalled in the House, has many supporters in high places. In fact, The Washington Post ran an article entitled "Clinton Makes Hate-Crime Bill a Top Priority," in which it reports that "The President is fundamentally committed to an all-out effort to enact the hate-crimes bill before Congress adjourns."

"The logic behind laws against hate crimes - those committed by people who single out their victims on the basis of race, religion, sexual orientation or age - is that the crimes are seen as posing a greater threat not only to individuals but to communities," is how The New York Times explains the Hate Crime Bill to its readers. Others, opposing the bill, call it "The Thought Crimes Bill." In that, "Hate-crime legislation… turns out to be an attempt at thought control," Columnist William Raspberry says.

Those who oppose the bill also feel that it is "redundant." States and the Federal government already have laws against murder and violence, regardless of the perpetrator's motivation. Some argue that by punishing motivations, "the Federal government is punishing certain points of view," the VoxCap Network reported in a recent article. House Republican Conference Chairman J.C. Watts said the bill is not needed. "Anything that happens to any citizen in America today that's a crime, there's a law on the books to address it," he said.

The Family Research Council asks, "…should laws protect everyone equally, or should there be special classes of victims and increased punishments for harboring the wrong kind of thoughts?" William Raspberry believes " [the Hate-Crime Bill] says we'll punish you for what you did, yes, but also for what you were thinking when you did it. It says we'll punish you not merely for your racist or anti-gay behavior but also for your bigoted beliefs."

Since the Hate-Crime Bill would help the cause of the homosexual groups, their lobby organizations such as the Human Rights Campaign have made the bill a "top priority." The organization cites that being an "outspoken opponent of gay rights" is evidence of a "hate crime." Since, pro-family and religious groups' views on homosexuality are now being regularly labeled as "hate," The Family Research Council asks, "Could [the views] soon be a "crime?"

The opinion that "hate crimes" are "thought crimes," doesn't seem to be too popular. Many people read the "Hate Crime" headlines and begin to believe that the offenders should be punished harshly for their aggressive "hate." Since, "Sponsors hope that outrage over recent highly publicized killings will fuel support for [the Hate-Crime Bill]," the media seems to be helping the supporters of the bill in their crusade.

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