You may have noticed that some groups are opposed to hate crimes legislation, and you may be wondering why. There are several reasons why hate crimes legislation goes against our Constitution and our American values.
(1) Hate crimes laws are contrary to the spirit of our Constitution because that document says we are all equal under the law. If it is more wrong to beat up a member of a protected group, then we all aren’t equal. With hate crimes legislation, a protected group is superior to the rest of the population.
(2) There are already adequate laws on the books prohibiting discrimination, assault, murder, etc. What additional good will hate crimes laws do? Do you think some hate-filled person will hesitate to beat up a protected person because he might get an extra year or two in prison? I don’t think so. In sentencing, judges take into consideration various circumstances, so we should leave it up to the judge to determine sentencing appropriate to the crime.
(3) Hate crimes laws often involve limiting speech, something that is clearly unconstitutional. Free speech is a valued right under our Constitution, and it must not be taken away. While hate-filled speech is repugnant, it is still a right, just as flag-burning is a right even though we might not like it. There are ways to control behavior without taking away rights. For example, a bigot could be arrested for inciting violence if his hate speech is doing that. The media don’t have to give a public forum to such speech. The news broadcasts can report that such speech happened but not repeat it.
Americans should always be free to express their opinions. Limiting the free speech rights of those with whom we disagree leads us down a slippery slope of eroding our most basic rights. When one right is limited, more are sure to follow.
We should remember that people should never be abused because of who or what they are, or ridiculed or picked on because they are different in some way. We should teach our children to honor all people as created in the image of God and tell them all people are of sacred worth. We must also give a good example to our kids by our actions and our own speech. Let’s be careful how we treat and interact with people who are different from us by virtue of their race, ethnicity, religion, language, culture, physical appearance, or sexual orientation.