Wednesday, May 09, 2007

H.R. 1592, An Attack on Liberty

Today's Focus on the Family broadcast was aimed squarely at the recently passed House bill, H.R. 1592, which is titled "Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2007".

Their arguments against the bill were almost entirely centered around the notion that this bill creates a "slippery slope" towards Hate Speech legislation.

There is valid reason for concern. Canada, our neighbor to the north, has such legislation. And disturbingly, in 1998, Mark Harding was convicted under a Canadian "hate crime" statue for distributing a pamphlet that dared to criticize Islam.

I don't see anything that would stifle free speech in the passed House bill though. And frankly, I think the extent to which major evangelical political action organizations are getting worked up about that angle of the bill is over-doing it. Especially when they try to invoke the notion that the bill is part of some intentional crusade to "muffle" them. I don't have enough confidence in either major political party to believe either could pull off such a crusade against a targetted group, even if they wanted to.

And, if having their speech be muzzled is such groups' main concern, I'd suggest they start working to influence the culture rather than the congress, because things are already quite bad.

This is not to say I like the bill. I don't. And, I do think it's a dangerous infringement to liberty.

First, let's look at what the bill's called again - the "Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2007." Now let's take a look at the bill's text:


Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2007 - Authorizes the Attorney General to provide technical, forensic, prosecutorial, or other assistance in the criminal investigation or prosecution of any crime that: (1) constitutes a crime of violence under federal law or a felony under state, local, or Indian tribal law; and (2) is motivated by prejudice based on the actual or perceived race, color, religion, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability of the victim or is a violation of the state, local, or tribal hate crime laws. Directs the Attorney General to give priority for assistance to crimes committed by offenders who have committed crimes in more than one state and to rural jurisdictions that have difficulty covering the extraordinary investigation or prosecution expenses.

Authorizes the Attorney General to award grants to assist state, local, and Indian law enforcement agencies with such extraordinary expenses. Directs the Office of Justice Programs to: (1) work closely with funded jurisdictions to ensure that the concerns and needs of all affected parties are addressed; and (2) award grants to state and local programs designed to combat hate crimes committed by juveniles.

Amends the federal criminal code to prohibit willfully causing bodily injury to any person because of the actual or perceived race, color, religion, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability of such person.

Amends the Hate Crimes Statistics Act to expand data collection and reporting requirements under such Act to include: (1) crimes manifesting prejudice based on gender and gender identity; and (2) hate crimes committed by and against juveniles.


Do you see anything in there about preventing hate crimes? Yeah, neither do I. But that's only the start of the problem with the bill's name. The bigger problem (and, yes, I recognize both political parties pull this stunt) is that if you are against the bill, it implies you are "against preventing hate crimes."

In fact, some left-wing blogs make this exact smear: "Religious Right Fights For The Right To Hate".

Give me a break.

The two foundational issues with this bill are these though:

1. It enters a defendant's thoughts and beliefs into the legal system. The legal system has no business deciding if your motive for some crime was some sort of bigotry (and then punishing you more for it!). Americans must continue to have a right to believe as they choose. If their belief leads them to commit a crime, punish them for the crime, not the bad belief. To do otherwise is quite literally "thought policing."

What Thomas Jefferson penned in 1802 is equally true and important in 2007:

Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between man & his god, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legitimate powers of government reach actions only, and not opinions.


2. It's an intrusion into the state's rights and responsibilities. If the bill's name got one thing right, it's that the bill focuses on "Local Law Enforcement." Unless a crime spans state borders or is a matter of (literally) national importance, like terrorism, the responsibility should lie with the state or local police and the federal government has no business getting involved.

On those two grounds alone, with no slippery slopes to even consider, the bill infringes on personal liberty of belief and state liberty to govern themselves. Base on these infringements on liberty alone, I hope the Senate has the good sense to not allow the senate version of this bill to pass.

5 comments:

Marti said...

"Do you see anything in there about preventing hate crimes? Yeah, neither do I. But that's only the start of the problem with the bill's name. The bigger problem (and, yes, I recognize both political parties pull this stunt) is that if you are against the bill, it implies you are 'against preventing hate crimes.'

In fact, some left-wing blogs make this exact smear: 'Religious Right Fights For The Right To Hate'"

Of course you take me out of context... in the post I said:

"The title of this post sounds pretty inflammatory, doesn’t it? But it’s closer to the truth than the fiery rhetoric, half truths, and outright lies that the Christian religious extremists are using to obscure the truth about H.R. 1592 (The Matthew Shepard Act)."


"If their belief leads them to commit a crime, punish them for the crime, not the bad belief."

Really? So someone that kills a child and eats their brains should get the same sentence as someone that murders a 92 year old woman for 10 bucks? Both are murder, right? It shouldn't have anything to do with motivation, just punish the crime! Obviously you're no lawyer.

"Unless a crime spans state borders or is a matter of (literally) national importance, like terrorism, the responsibility should lie with the state or local police and the federal government has no business getting involved."

Um, did you get your law degree at the University of Phoenix? Try checking out the DOJ's constitutional defense of the hate crimes bill at http://frwebgate.access.gpo.gov/cgi-bin/getdoc.cgi?dbname=107_cong_reports&docid=f:sr147.107.pdf
(pages 16-23). But I'm sure your internet law degree gives you a higher level of understanding.

Finally, this isn't a bill to prevent hate crimes, but insure that they are punished evenly and justly. Of course you'd know that if you read the bill, or my posts. But I'm listening to Sean Hannity or Rush Limbaugh cuts into your learnin' time!

Oh, and it's HIGH.....LARRY E US that you moderate your comments. Free speech anyone?

kazoolist said...

marti,

First, I wasn't responding directly to your post. I'm not sure why you thought that. I linked to your post because you inflammatory titled it "Religious Right Fights For The Right To Hate." That title is a smear. Neither I, nor anyone I know on "the right," is advocating hate, which is the direct implication of that title.

Second, I was in no way trying to give lawyer-esque clarification of the law. I'm not a lawyer. My statement that "Unless a crime spans state borders or is a matter of (literally) national importance, like terrorism, the responsibility should lie with the state or local police and the federal government has no business getting involved" is my opinion based on a libertarian, federalist, strong-state rights political philosophy. That's why I said should. Should indicates how I think things should be, now how things are.

Finally, you missed the entire point of my post. It's about liberty. I don't want to government judging my beliefs; I don't want the government judging your beliefs. Not on a day to day basis. Not at a murder trial. Not ever. And, frankly, neither did Thomas Jefferson.

kazoolist said...

marti,

Item #2. My comment moderation.

The reason I moderate comments is for spam prevention and to make sure I'm able to see, and choose if I want to respond to, each comment I get. The moderation is not to "regulate speech."

I haven't had a ton of comments, but I've never actually blocked a single non-spam comment that has come through.

My choosing to let them through has nothing to do with "free speech" though. You already have a blog. If you have an opinion, you are welcome to air it there. You're not entitled to have me publish your opinions in my comment space. I did publish yours and I have always published them because I'm in favor of public discourse, but even if I hadn't published yours, it would have had nothing to do with "free speech".

kazoolist said...

@marti #3...

I notice you've taken down your post "Religious Right Fights For The Right To Hate." ... Interesting.

FreedomAdvocate said...

Watch Teletubby and Moses get arrested at the Capitol while angry bystanders demand the release of the purple teletubby, the "moral fiber of America." See Public Advocate activists hit the streets with this street theater demonstrating against Ted Kennedy's Thought Control Bill to give homosexuals special privileges: http://publicadvocateusa.org/