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Sunday, November 1, 2009

Hate Crimes and Unpopular Speech

Yesterday President Obama enacted the 2010 National Defense Authorization Act. The worrying hate crimes law was actually just one segment of a larger bill, so he in effect had to sneak it through, albeit sadly with the support of many federal politicians.

Many voices had been raised expressing disquiet over such a bill over the past months, and now that it is law, they continue to share their concerns about such a bad bit of legislation. Here is a sampling of their commentary.

Chelsea Schilling explains what has transpired: “The Senate approved the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act by a vote of 68-29 on Oct. 22 after Democrats strategically attached it to a ‘must-pass’ $680 billion defense appropriations plan. Most Republicans, although normally strong supporters of the U.S. military, opposed the bill because it hands out federal money to states and local governments in pursuit of ‘preventing’ hate crimes. The bill creates federal protections and privileges for homosexuals and other alternative lifestyles but denies those protections to other groups of citizens.”

Erik Stanley of the Alliance Defense Fund points out the foolishness and danger of “hate crimes” legislation: “These types of crimes are already punishable under existing federal, state, and local laws. Violent crimes should be punished regardless of the characteristics of the victim. Bills of this sort are designed to forward a political agenda and silence critics, not combat actual crime. The bottom line is that we do not need a law that creates second-class victims in America and that gives the government the opportunity to ignore the First Amendment.”

He continues, “All violent crimes are hate crimes, and all crime victims deserve equal justice. This law is a grave threat to the First Amendment because it provides special penalties based on what people think, feel, or believe. ADF has clearly seen the evidence of where ‘hate crimes’ legislation leads when it has been tried around the world: It paves the way for the criminalization of speech that is not deemed ‘politically correct’. ‘Hate crimes’ laws fly in the face of the underlying purpose of the First Amendment, which was designed specifically to protect unpopular speech.”

Read the complete article here.

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