National Hate Crimes

What most refer to as a “hate crime” is not a separate offense itself, like burglary or murder. The term “hate crime” refers to a criminal act committed at least partially due to the victim’s inclusion in some protected group, such as race, religion, disability, ethnic origin, gender or sexual orientation. While many states have similar and often more severe hate crime laws, current federal law makes it a crime to injure, intimidate or interfere with a person due to his race, religion and national origin because of his participation in various federally protected activities, and mandates more severe punishment for crimes found to be hate crimes.

Currently, there is no punishment enhancement allowed in federal court for hate crimes found to be motivated by gender, disability or sexual orientation. President Obama wants to change that and more. He intends not only to strengthen current federal hate crimes legislation but also expand hate crimes protection by passing the Matthew Shepard Act.

The Mathew Shepard Act, also known as the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act, would expand the groups protected by federal hate crimes law to include not only sexual orientation but gender identity, ambiguously defined by the act as “actual or perceived gender-related characteristics [of the victim].” It would remove the requirement that the victim be engaged in a federally protected activity. It would also give the federal government increased authority to prosecute state level hate crimes not pursued by local authorities.

Every “group” protected by supposed hate crimes laws already receives the same protection as every other American citizen. Hate crimes laws literally create specially protected classes, enshrining in law the proposition that a crime committed against one group is worse than a crime committed against another and upsetting the doctrine of equal protection under the law. Many see the expansion of hate crimes laws as a tool to silence opposition to homosexuality and eventually silence pastors from speaking Biblically on the subject.

Hate crimes laws and eventually hate speech laws have been passed in other countries and the results have been dire. A Swedish pastor was sentenced to one month in jail for preaching about homosexuality from his pulpit. At least one Canadian bishop and a Canadian priest have been investigated by the Canadian government for alledged human rights violations for speaking a Biblical view of homosexuality. There is every reason to expect that expansion of current hate crimes laws would pave the way to similar results in the United States.

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