Perish the thought, but imagine for a moment that you find your family victimized by a brutal murderer, a deranged lunatic from around the corner who breaks into your home, screams obscenities, and savagely murders your young child. Meanwhile, across town, another lunatic enters a gay bar brandishing a .357 Magnum, shouts a derogatory remark regarding homosexuals, and blows away a bar patron. These are horrible circumstances, to be sure; we can be grateful that they both are relatively rare occurrences in American life.

Fast-forward to the trials. Each psychopath has committed a heinous crime, one deserving of severe punishment. The only differences between the crimes are the ones described above. You are horrified to learn, however, that the murderer of your dear child receives a sentence measurably less-severe than the murderer of the homosexual. Can this be? Isn’t justice supposed to be blind? Aren’t our children taught that, in America, there is “justice for all”?

Welcome to the brave new world of federal hate crimes legislation. Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle has introduced S.19, the “Protecting Civil Rights for All Americans” Act, and on the surface, the idea of protecting Americans against so-called “hate crimes” seems like a good one. But like so much legislation championed by liberals, the “Law of Unintended Consequences” makes this seemingly positive legal step a potentially disastrous one. Well, at least it is a potential disaster if one cares about such trivialities as free speech , freedom of religion, and equal justice before the law.

The devil, you see, is in the details of such legislation. But let’s begin by stating the obvious: it is a gutless and reprehensible thing to commit crimes against an individual simply because that person is “different” in some way, whether that difference be racial, religious, economic, or regarding some particular lifestyle decision. Come to think of it, it is reprehensible to commit a crime against someone else for any reason whatsoever, at least in the America that I know and love. For instance, I am pro-life to the max (although the liberal media will never use that title to describe anyone; they would call me “anti-abortion”, while calling the other side “pro-choice”. This is the term of their choosing; it connotes a positive attitude. “Anti-abortion” connotes a psychologically negative position; it is not the term that I use for myself, nor the term that those of us in the pro-life movement choose. Try getting the media to go along with us on this one!). My pro-life position flows from my understanding that God is the Creator Who has given us life as a gift to protect and nurture. That being the case, those few gutless individuals who have committed acts of violence against abortion providers ought to be brought to swift and sure justice. In the strongest terms, pro-lifers condemn this brutality; it has no justification in the least. We don’t resort to lawlessness in order to accomplish our aims.

As I was saying, the devil is in the details. And the details are scary. “Sexual orientation” is given a specially-protected status under such proposed legislation. This means that, as in the scenario above, greater punishment will be meted out to those who kill homosexuals than to those who kill heterosexuals. The weight of federal law enforcement will be thrown to a proportionally-greater degree behind efforts to bring killers of homosexuals to justice. Why? Isn’t murder equally horrible no matter the motivation? Aren’t all people supposed to be equal before the law? What difference does it make what motivates a madman to kill or commit other horrendous crimes?

Further, the bill will prohibit workplace criticism of another individual because of his/her “sexual orientation”. Again, this might sound good on the outside–I don’t believe that it is our place to go around slamming co-workers as a general rule. But what of the employer who objects to one of his male employees coming to work in a gown and pumps? This bill would prohibit the employer from acting against this. What of the Christian who, in a discussion of the subject, indicates that the Bible teaches that homosexual practice is a sin against God? In the hands of some of our courts, this could easily be seen as hate-speech, and the worker ordered to undergo sensitivity training until “cured” of his “hatred” of homosexuals.

The irony is that, in the name of protecting certain groups of individuals, we threaten to diminish the rights of all. Hate crimes legislation goes beyond the legitimate function of our justice system–the punishment of unlawful actions–and seeks to get inside people’s minds and motives; hate crimes legislation punishes thought. The only difference between the two gruesome murder scenarios given at the beginning involved the motives–the thoughts–of the murderers.

George Orwell, in his epic 1984, envisioned the “thought police” whose function it was to censure and punish incorrect thinking. Perhaps the only thing wrong with Orwell’s book was the title–should it have been called 2001?

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