In their article “Getting Tough on Hate Crimes”, Steven Irwin and Joel Ratner have inadvertently done a great favor to those who, like myself, oppose so-called “hate crimes” laws. While these authors press for the expansion of such legislation, they effectively give away the paucity of their argument. When one cuts through all of the rhetoric employed, only one argument emerges “in favor” of such laws: if such are passed, we can have more involvement from the feds! Just what we need: more big government! In many quarters, this is a tremendous argument against such proposals.
I’m certain that they mean well, but there is a raft of questions that Irwin and Ratner choose to leave unaddressed. For starters, they make statements to the effect that the existence of current hate crimes legislation “protects” some Americans, but “does not protect others from similar crimes in their homes or on the streets.” What they fail to explain is how such laws “protect” people from madmen like Ronald Taylor or Richard Baumhammers, or why current laws against murder fail to offer such “protection”. Assumedly, prospective mass murderers will take deep breaths, count to ten, and decide against homicidal rampages–if only we can pass these laws!
They leave unaddressed the Pandora’s Box of asking the government to get inside the minds and motives of people, thereby punishing certain unpopular thought. They fail to mention what is more heinous about a murder committed across racial lines as opposed to “black-on-black” or “white-on-white” murder. Are these types of crimes only semi-serious in comparison to racially-motivated crimes? Can the authors explain what rational difference it makes what the motives of mass-murderers be? Aren’t murdered people equally dead regardless of the motive of the murderer? Hasn’t the very same crime been committed? Shouldn’t the punishment for murderers be harsh, swift and certain…period? Does not hate crimes legislation only make sense in a psychobabble society?
In addition, in a society in which otherwise-sane people are making silly statements like “we will not be tolerant of intolerance”, hate crimes legislation threatens to lead us down the slippery slope toward the Orwellian “thought police”. For instance, the authors wish to include “sexual orientation” as one classification in hate crimes legislation. Now, there is no excuse for violence for any reason, including one’s sexual preferences. But I have the perfect right as an American and the responsibility as a Christian to proclaim–from the highest hilltop, if I choose–that any and all sex outside of heterosexual marriage is prohibited by the Bible and thus morally wrong. This will earn me, from some, the badge of “intolerant”; I will wear it as a badge of honor. My concern would be that, in a society which chooses to punish certain thought–as hate crimes legislation does–it would not be that huge a step to exact some form of retribution against those who merely think and say things which cut against the contemporary current of secular society. I will wait for reassurance from proponents of hate crimes legislation that such a thing could never happen–but you’ll excuse me if I don’t hold my breath waiting for this case to be convincingly made!
Racism is an egregious evil. Hatred exercised against people with whom we differ is an outrage. True tolerance–and not the bogus brand currently being bandied about–is a genuine asset to society, one which must be cherished and fostered. But the sad truth is that much of what is being proposed to remedy issues of racial and ethnic disharmony–such as hate crimes legislation, affirmative action, and the like–has the unintended consequence of driving wedges deeper. How much better it would be for our state and our nation if we could finally–and simply–have equal “liberty and justice for all.”

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