Hate Crimes

September 22, 2000

Another hate crime bill has been making its way through Congress. And the possibility of passing a hate crime bill has once again rekindled the debate over the merits of the legislation. If you want to think through the issue, I commend to you a recent column by William Raspberry that appeared in the Washington Post.

He points out the liberals like Jesse Jackson and the ACLU support it, and even conservatives like Bill McCollum (a Florida Republican) support it. But Bill Raspberry says he can't make up his mind. He then goes on for the next nine paragraphs to try to make a case for such legislation, citing the murders of James Byrd and Matthew Shepard. Yet when he is finished making the case, he is still ambivalent. Why? Let me quote him.

"I have two problems with that line of thinking. First is the division of American citizens into various categories more or less worthy of whatever protection the law can give them. If we want to provide special status for blacks and Jews, for instance, what about homeless bums who may find themselves subject to attack for who they are? What about special protection for abortionists, or drug dealers, or prostitutes or those right-wing clerics whose unctuous smiles some people find so annoying?"

"And the other problem: Hate-crime legislation finally turns out to be an attempt at thought control. It says we'll punish you for what you did, yes, but also for what you were thinking when you did it. It says we'll punish you not merely for your racists or anti-gay behavior but also for your bigoted beliefs."

Those are two significant problems with hate crime bills. So William Raspberry ends with this question: "How can so many thoughtful people believe that punishing thought is a good idea?" I guess I have the same question.

I'm Kerby Anderson of Probe Ministries, and that's my opinion.