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The Crime of Hate Crimes
by Sean Turner
29 October 2003

No matter how repugnant the thought or motivation -- thinking, judging, bias, and prejudice are not crimes, but rights of free speech guaranteed by the 1st Amendment.


In 1990, Congress enacted the Hate Crime Statistics Act, which required the Department of Justice to establish guidelines for collecting data regarding crimes that “manifest evidence of prejudice based on race, religion, sexual orientation, or ethnicity.”  This definition of a “hate” or “bias” crime was later expanded to include color, national origin, gender, and disability.  The FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting Program went so far as to outline specific types of bias to be reported, such as “Anti-Asian/Pacific Islander,” “Anti-Mental Disability,” and “Anti-Atheism / Agnosticism.”

To put it plainly, one could go on ad nauseam profiling the innumerable “bias” motivations behind the crimes that are committed in America and elsewhere.  A common burglar, for example, who would rob a home as a source of income, could be guilty of anti- “people-who-work-for-a-living” bias.  Sound silly?  Well, no more than distinguishing any other motivation for committing a crime.  Regardless of the motivation, perceived or real, the result of the crime is the same.  Murder is murder, rape is rape, and robbery is robbery.  In each case, the victim is no more or less a victim whether the motivation is considered, or even determined -- if possible.

This reality does not, however, preclude Congress from enacting laws to ostensibly attempt to abridge a perceived “epidemic” – especially when an election is close at hand.  Such was the case with then Representative Charles Schumer (D-NY) and Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), who in 1994 introduced the Hate Crimes Sentencing Enhancement Act, which was later enacted into law as part of the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994.  The law directed the U.S. Sentencing Commission to increase sentencing for criminal offenses deemed to be “hate” or “bias” crimes. 

The existence of such a law would lead one to believe that these so-called “hate” crimes are skyrocketing out of control.  As usual, the facts paint a different picture.  More than 11,000 law enforcement agencies in 49 states and the District of Columbia collectively reported 11,451 separate bias-motivated offenses incidents during 2001 -- while the overall number of offenses in the United States was approximately 11.9 million that same year.  This .097% “hate” crime ratio must indeed be staggering to a politician attempting to secure his or her future.

In effect, Congress has achieved the enhancement of punishments based on a person’s motivations or biases – i.e., their thoughts.  No matter how repugnant the thought or motivation – thinking, judging, bias, and prejudice are not crimes, but rights of free speech guaranteed by the 1st Amendment.  In the case of murder resulting from racism, the crime, though vile, is not racism, but the act of murder.

Regardless of the nature of the crime, the punishment should be swift, with a severity commensurate with the level of atrocity.  The criminalization of thought is anathema to a free country, and the designation of so-called “hate” crimes is a furtive attempt to legislatively engineer the minds of a people whose liberty is already under constant assault.

Sean Turner is a regular columnist for RenewAmerica.us, GOPUSA.com, and MensNewsDaily.com, and has appeared in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and the Washington Times.

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