How can we still be arguing over "hate crime" laws? Is there not a Constitution on which this country runs that claims equal treatment under the law for one and all? Unfortunately, over the years, under the influence of special interest groups, one municipality and state after another has enacted some form of law that gives greater legal protection only to certain victims, based on their race, gender, sexual proclivities, etc.
Over most of this time, with a few exceptions, one heard hardly a peep in protest against the injustice of these biased laws from the "conservative" evangelical community. I guess the activists among them were too occupied with their futile endeavors to rid the nation of Roe v. Wade, which kept them too busy to think of other matters. Now, however, when it appears that a federal hate crime statute is likely to pass in Congress – one that adds homosexuals to the special status categories of aggrieved groups, the right wing evangelicals are mobilized as never before.
Long before this homosexual dimension presented itself, it was clear to anyone who cared about traditional American principles that so-called hate crime legislation is designed to punish thoughts. In reality, these are thought crime laws, and constitutionalists, among others, who cherish individual rights, have condemned such decrees for at least the past decade. [See here and here.]
What is now worrying the good "Christians" about this latest proposed federal bill is the prospect of the law being used here in the U.S. as it is in places like Canada and several European countries (especially those under the aegis of the EU). In those countries, the interpretation of "hate" has resulted in arrests and prosecutions of citizens, usually of a religious bent, who speak out against the normalization of homosexual behavior. To publicly criticize aspects of a "protected" group, such as blacks or Jews or Muslims or homosexuals, is considered promoting or inciting "hate" and is, therefore, a crime.
In the U.S., the typical "conservative" does not worry himself about the general un-American nature of such specially targeted laws; he is simply opposed to the addition of homosexuals to the list of aggrieved, possibly putting their behavior and practices beyond the bounds of public criticism.
Now, along comes the upfront homosexual activist and writer Andrew Sullivan expressing agreement with opponents of hate crime laws. In "Intent vs. Motivation," Sullivan makes the rational case that there is plenty of legislation on the books to punish all infractions of the law, and that these special laws now being proposed are not to protect citizens from crime. Instead, they are the brainchild of special interest groups that desire "boutique legislation to raise funds for their large staffs and luxurious buildings."
In this regard, Sullivan cites the Human Rights Campaign, the most prestigious of the organized crusaders for homosexual civil liberties. He could just as well have cited the NAACP and the B'nai Brith Anti-Defamation League, both of which hype racism and anti-Semitism in order to justify their endless fundraising drives. (The ADL's Abraham Foxman brags about the role he has played in crafting many of these "hate crime" statutes that now exist in various cities and states.) Claiming the need for special status is, as Sullivan says, "very, very powerful as a money-making tool."
In a related article, "Hate Crime Laws" (The Atlantic, 5/1/09), Ta-Nehisi Coates writes, "The thing that made me leery of Hate Crime Law was the infamous Fat Nick case," and goes on to describe how a teenager was sentenced to a total of 15 years in prison (instead of seven), because he used the expletive "Nigger" in an assault he believed to be justified. Syndicated columnist and civil libertarian Nat Hentoff was outraged by this sentence and wrote, "Those eight years were not because of Minucci's act, but for what he said." In other words, a thought crime. [See details of the Minucci case here.]
See also the separate cases of two young men hardly out of their teens sentenced to 10 years each for activities in which no one was physically harmed.
Nat Hentoff at Cato Institute
Laws that punish one time for the crime and another time for the hate violate the First Amendment, the 14th Amendment and protections against Double Jeopardy.
Paul Craig Roberts on hate crime laws
How will a court know whether a violent act was committed because of hatred or because of sexual lust or the need for money? The issue will be resolved by whether the attacked person is a member of a protected class.
Eugene Volokh on The Perils of Hate Crime Laws
People sometimes act in illegal -- often mildly illegal -- ways when engaged in protest. It's right to punish them for such actions. They shouldn't be punished more because they were motivated by disapproval of a religion, a religious practice, a sexual orientation, and the like, or were motivated by a desire to offend people based on these criteria.