Updated February 13, 2005










Bill Would End Hate Crimes Laws in New Hampshire

By James P. Tucker Jr.

In landmark legislation, lawmakers in New Hampshire are trying to abolish the state’s hate-crimes law on the grounds it punishes people for their words and thoughts. Speech and thoughts are protected under the First Amendment. Could New Hampshire be a trendsetter among states that have enacted—and now want to reject—their own “hate-crime” laws while Congress weighs national legislation?

“With the introduction of hate-crime laws, the government has entered the realm of prosecutions based on attitudes and beliefs,” Rep. Robert Giuda told a tension-filled hearing in Concord.

Rep. Elbert Bicknell, a former police officer, explained the reasoning for his bill by saying: “If I’m going to harm you, it’s not because I love you.”

Bicknell said hate-crimes laws are unnecessary. “Everyone—no matter what race, creed, sexual orientation or background—is equal,” he said.

Like the proposed national legislation, the hate-crimes law provides special protection to racial, ethnic and religious minorities and homosexuals.

For centuries, it has been well settled in U.S. law that “the court has no remedy for hurt feelings.”

This means you can say the most terrible things to another individual by mouth or in a letter with impunity. But if you allow a third party to hear or see these words, a civil action for libel or slander could be brought. In some states, loudly shouted obscenities are prosecuted as disorderly conduct,
and harassing letters and speech are prosecuted as such.

But even the ACLU, which wraps itself in the First Amendment every day, now supports punishing people for their thoughts or words with “hatecrime” laws.

“Criminal acts based on hate are wounds to society,” said Clare Ebel of the New Hampshire chapter of the ACLU.

Professional “victims” spoke out. “There are groups of people who hate me,” said Glinda Allen, who is a black woman. Some people say things that are not nice, she argued.

“This crime is a form of terrorism,” were the words of Adam Solender of the Jewish Federation of Greater Manchester.

But if the First Amendment is to be eroded, and centuries of law rejected, critics ask, where does it end? In Canada and in Europe, Revisionist historians are in prison for raising questions about the “Holocaust.”

While these views may be unpopular among many people, these same people threaten themselves even as they threaten others’ rights. If some words or thoughts can be criminalized today, any word or thought can becriminalized tomorrow.

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