For What I Am Thinking

Two recent events have given the Left an excuse to launch a new broadside of “hate” charges against Conservatives.  One is the order from the White House to the Department of Justice to no longer defend the Defense of Marriage Act.  Another is the repeal by the recently-replaced lame-duck 111th Congress of the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy for homosexuals.  A number of Conservative organizations already are working to reverse both.


If Conservatives had to face nothing more than name-calling, it would not be so troubling.  But the Left has a powerful ally, an ally which has all but turned standing up for traditional Judeo-Christian beliefs into a criminal activity:  hate crime laws.


The concept first appeared as federal law in the U.S. in the Civil Rights Act of 1964.  Congress has passed several more specific pieces of legislation in the years since and the legal definition of what is considered a hate crime has been broadened each time.  Efforts to expand the definition further also currently are under way in several states.


The stated purpose of such laws is to punish those who commit crimes against others because those others are different.  Their actual effect is to criminalize thought and speech.  In doing so, they undermine the rule of law and violate the most basic spirit of the U.S. Constitution.


It is the rule of law which separates this nation from those which persecute, prosecute and often execute any who challenge the whims or beliefs of the person or group in power.  It is the rule of law which prevents the whims or beliefs of those in power in the U.S. from being imposed as “law.”  It is the rule of law which focuses punishment on the actions of the accused, not on what they think or say, however vile those thoughts or words might be.  And it is the Constitution upon which the rule of law is based.


In reality, hate crime laws punish only those whose thoughts and speech do not conform to the predominant culture, even if they deem that culture immoral or illegal.  The true intent of those who propose and support such laws is to force their opponents to conform to a particular view of the world.  No doubt you have heard of a number of closely-related political systems which use thought and speech control as basic tenets:  Marxism, Nazism, fascism, socialism and communism.


It is ironic, of course, that states in which hate crime laws get the strongest public support, in which the population generally is the most liberal, are among those which record the highest numbers of such crimes.  According to the latest FBI report – released in late November – California, New York and New Jersey lead that list and have for some years.


To be fair, the number of such incidents in each state must be compared to its population.  Even so, it should be noted that Texas, which has nearly 6,000,000 more people than New York, reported only about a fourth the number of hate crimes.  And Mississippi, Alabama and Georgia – the Deep South – were among the states which recorded the fewest such crimes.  Please note those are states which the Left insists are populated with hate-filled Conservatives, those who revere the Constitution.


Supporters of hate crime laws cloak themselves in the self-righteous claim of protecting those who have been wronged unjustly.  All victims of crime have been wronged unjustly.  And it could be argued that in some sense, all violent crimes are hate crimes.


Of course attacking someone simply because they are of a different race or religion or are homosexual is a heinous act.  But is anyone who has been robbed, maimed, raped or murdered during an assault any less a victim?  Do they deserve less protection under the law?  Do they deserve less justice?


It is very easy to accuse those who oppose hate crime laws of being bigoted, racist or homophobic.  But that is the tactic used, rather than take on the impossible task of explaining why those crimes cannot be prosecuted under the same laws which protect everyone else.


By giving special protections to specific groups of people, hate crime laws effectively penalize all others, violate the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment – not to mention 1st Amendment rights of free speech and religion – and weaken the rule of law and the Constitution.


Some years ago I met a young Pakistani.  Anwar had been a pharmacist at home – and well-to-do – but immigrated to the U.S. because he wanted more political and economic freedom.  In summer, he loved to watch young women in skimpy running clothes training for a well-known road race.  When I teased him, he said, “Oh!  In my country you can be executed for what I am thinking!”


In the U.S., you cannot be executed for what you think.  Yet.  But hate crime laws have taken us far down that road.



Harry Beadle is a former news anchor for the CNN Radio Network.  His essays are posted at http://harrybeadle.com