Now, who in their right mind could be against hate crimes? Me. I spoke of this in my nightly PIX 11 commentary, I wrote about it in my book and it’s been a frequent topic and subject of conversation on my radio shows.
First. It is constitutionally protected speech to hate, abhor, loathe, name it. And that applies to religions, sexual orientations, genders . . . everything. Just don’t hurt someone because of it. There are certain behaviors that we recognize as culturally-identifiable symbols of hate: burning crosses, swastikas and the like. What if someone were to burn a Christmas tree on someone’s lawn? Sorry, Charlie, we don’t know about that one so you get a pass as far as hate crimes go. No matter what you intended. Rule No. 1: A hate crime must be readily recognizable as such.
Second, if you do hurt someone because of their religion, sexual orientation or gender we should care not why you hurt someone but that you did. Simple. Increasing the severity and punishment of a criminal sanction because of the crime’s motivation is insane. Let the sentencing judge know how a victim was injured in a victim impact statement or hearing. That’s kosher, but we should care not of someone’s thoughts. Especially when those thoughts are constitutionally protected expressions of speech.
What so many folks mistakenly believe is that my thesis advances the idea that hate criminals who exhibit violent behavior should be ignored. Au contraire, mon frère. As one judge announced in court to an incredulous defendant, “I’m gonna break it off in you.” Indeed, folks who exact significant pain and incomprehensible injury should be treated to an all expenses paid trip to Deli’s Island — for whatever reason the miscreant may have used or had to injure an innocent victim. Motivation and bias are inapposite. But so wedded to the idea of a hate crime are some that they can’t let go of the labeling. No guarantee of severe punishment will suffice for some hate crime enthusiasts unless and until a law is passed that is specifically entitled “hate crime,” nothing suffices. They see this as the bad guys getting away or a callous and indifferent society shrugging its collective shoulders in nonchalance. Wrong! Laws against violence will always exist no matter the victim or the type of animus attendant thereto.
There’s another issue here. Citizens should recoil in absolute terror over their government penalizing someone for thoughts, motive, bias, prejudice and, yes, hate. Correction: Make that the thought of such. Hate crimes are thought crimes. Hate crimes subject certain thought to aggravated criminal sentencing. And hate is as American as apple pie. It’s funny how certain groups of hate victims are protected by and included in hate crime legislation. Hit someone while dropping an N-bomb and that’s a hate crime. Hit someone while cursing the Aleuts or professing a hate of Alsatians and you’ll get a quizzical look accompanying your criminal charge. Because remember, no one’s advocating that criminal charges not lie. Also, were you to keep your mouth shut while truncheoning some hapless citizen, we’ll reward you by not upping the sentencing ante. That stinks.
Speech should remain unfettered, uncensored and free except in the most egregious and injurious of cases. It should always remain against the law to yell “Theater!” in a crowded fire.
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