Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Hate Crime Bill Hatas

I’ve never been a big fan of the phrase “Don’t get your panties in a wad” (or its more assonant cousin “Don’t get your undies in a bunch”), but every once in a while I run across something that makes it obvious why the phrase was coined in the first place. Today it happens to be the people who oppose the Hate Crimes Bill.

These folks definitely need to unclench a little bit.

I refer you to a letter I found in the online version of the St Louis Post-Dispatch, a letter from a Mr Jim Hassinger of St Charles, Missouri, who says the Hate Crimes Bill is unfair and possibly unconstitutional. According to Jim, the bill “allows our federal government to punish perpetrators of crimes against some selected citizens more severely than perpetrators of crimes against unselected citizens.”

Technically, he’s not far off. The bill essentially adds “sexual orientation, gender identity, gender, and disability” to a list of categories that are already covered by federal hate crimes legislation—race, religion, color, and national origin. So if you commit a crime against a black person, a Muslim, or an Irishman because you hate black people, Muslims, or the Irish, then yes, the punishment will be more severe.

That doesn’t mean you won’t be punished otherwise. If the crime is assault and battery, you’re going to pay the price for assault and battery. If Jim Hassinger isn’t planning on committing any hate crimes, why is he so worried about a perpetrator getting a little extra punishment?

Jim goes on to completely miss the mark (and to misuse the word “explicitly”):

Citizens explicitly less protected under this law include: senior citizens, pregnant women, unborn children, military personnel and the homeless.

That just isn’t true. The existing laws are still in effect. It’s still illegal to hit a senior citizen in the head, to run over military personnel, and to embezzle from pregnant women. The Hate Crimes Bill doesn’t make anyone “explicitly” less protected, and in fact doesn’t make anyone less protected at all. Sure, the bill doesn’t mention senior citizens and pregnant women, but neither does it mention dentists, left-handers, first basemen, and people with googly eyes.

By and large, people don’t hate dentists for being dentists. But there sure are a lot who hate black people and gay people for being black and gay—and they’re willing to express it with chains and iron pipes.

But maybe Jim isn’t aware of such things. Maybe he’s never done a Google search for James Byrd Jr or Matthew Shepherd.

Of course, it’s too early to let Jim off the hook entirely. Because what really has his BVDs in a bundle is the concern that his church isn’t going to be allowed to preach against the gays anymore. In fact, says Jim:

…the greatest jeopardy is that under this law it is entirely conceivable that persons who read the Bible, you know, the parts pertaining to homosexuality…especially to another person, could be convicted of a hate crime. It has already happened in other countries.

Yeah, you read that correctly. Jim’s under the impression that reading the Bible is going to be classified as a hate crime—especially if one reads it to another person.

Of course, I suppose we could just cut those parts out of the Bible.

Gee, Jim, what you do in your spare time is no concern of ours. In any event, he’s not alone. According to a story on the CBN website, the director of a group called Repent America is urging Christians to contact their legislators and express their opposition to the bill. “Together,” he said, “as one loud voice, we must urge our lawmakers to vote against the legislation that seeks to silence us.” And the always quotable media whore James Dobson said “Pastors preaching from Scripture on homosexuality could be threatened with persecution and prosecution.”

Easy, fellas. Readjust your briefs. Stop pretending you’re being persecuted. There has to be a crime committed before it can be a hate crime, so try not to get all hysterical. Follow the example of Jason Rantz, a contributing editor at Family Security Matters, who takes a calmer, more reasoned approach:

But where I disagree is with the urgency of many on the Right when it comes to this bill. It is indeed possible that this bill may lead to restrictions on speech. If and when that happens, I will join the fight against the restrictions, as the First Amendment is easily the most important amendment of the Constitution. But is it
probable that this bill will lead to restrictions on protected speech? Not at this juncture.

I guess I’m suspicious of any pastor who’s so worried about losing his right to condemn alleged sinners that he values it more than the right of another human being to live without the fear of being beaten up.

Ah well. Let’s go back to Jim Hassinger of St Charles and see what bit of wisdom he’s going to leave us with:

I wish I felt bold enough to ask God’s blessing upon our country. But now, with great fear and trepidation, I humbly beg that God simply have mercy upon our nation.

Great fear and trepidation. Man, how can you pull yourself out of bed every morning?

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