Senate Will Move on Hate Crimes Bill; Critics Claim Bill Simply Unnecessary
ON APRIL 29, THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES passed the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2009 (H.R. 1913) by a vote of 249 to 175. It is expected to be taken up in the Senate any day now.
Critics of the measure contend that, if the bill becomes law, it will force local and state law enforcement to prosecute and sentence individuals not only for the crimes they commit, but also for their beliefs—a slippery slope which will take the country down the road toward eventually criminalizing the thoughts of the American people.
Conservatives were quick to blast the bill for elevating a few in the eyes of the law.
“In addition to posing a litany of constitutional problems, today’s legislation alarmingly overturns the cornerstone of equality in our justice system by placing a higher value on one life over another,” said Rep. Paul Broun (R-Ga.) on the House floor. “In no way could I support a bill that more harshly punishes criminals who kill a homosexual, transvestite or transsexual than criminals who kill a police officer, a member of the military, a child, or a senior citizen.”
But there’s more. The bottom line is, the provisions in this new hate crimes bill, which federalize certain crimes, are unnecessary, as they are already being effectively prosecuted by state and local law enforcement.
During the heated debate on the bill, Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-N.C.) ran afoul of the thought police for candid comments she made regarding Matthew Shepard, whose brutal murder in Wyoming on Oct. 12, 1998, was the purported inspiration for the bill.
The mainstream news had originally reported Shepard was killed solely because he was a homosexual. But a series of in-depth reports have shown that that claim was false and that his murder was more motivated by money and drugs than his homosexuality. Echoing those reports, Mrs. Foxx said that the story behind Shepard was a “hoax” and should not be the impetus for the creation of new laws. Of course, her comments, which were taken out of context, prompted howls of protest from Democrats.
The congresswoman later publicly apologized to Shepard’s mother, saying
the word hoax was “a poor choice of words.” But that doesn’t take away from the fact that the story, which inspired the bill, is not true and should not be exploited to create laws that target thoughts.
“This unconstitutional hate crimes bill raises the possibility that religious leaders or members of religious groups could become the subject of a criminal investigation focusing on a suspect’s religious beliefs, membership in religious organizations and any statements made by a suspect,” said Rep. Broun.
“Religious leaders and others who express their constitutionally protected beliefs should not be silenced out of fear of prosecution.”
As AFP goes to press, the bill is in the Senate Judiciary Committee and is expected to come to the floor for a vote at any time.
(Issue # 20, May 18, 2009)