I hate it when this happens

Generally speaking, I don’t agree with libertarians. But occasionally, I see things that way in spite of myself.

An example is “hate crimes.” It’s just unAmerican — downright Orwellian, in fact — to punish a person for his opinions rather than for what he did.

The majority in the Congress disagrees, as we saw today.

This puts me in another awkward position — agreeing with a partisan position. I haven’t seen a breakdown of the vote yet, but so far it seems to be Republicans who are putting out releases that denounce the outcome.

As much as I detest the rhetorical excesses to which parties resort to make their points, on this one I think the dissenters had a point. A release from Rep. Joe Wilson echoed the party line when it was headlined, “Wilson Opposes Thought Crimes Legislation.”

Like I said, Orwellian.

But this is a really funky issue. Here I am agreeing for once with the libertarian, don’t-tell-me-how-to-think position, but some avowed libertarians are taking the opposite tack:

Washington, DC — The American Civil Liberties Union today cheered the House of Representatives for passing H.R. 1592, the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act, with strong bipartisan support. This legislation would allow federal law enforcement agencies to investigate and prosecute hate crimes offenses in cases where local law enforcement lacks the resources, or in some cases the willingness to do so.

That makes me feel a little better.

Now, let me see if I can help you feel better, in case you’re one of the many very nice people who think “Hate Crime” legislation is a good idea, and that I must be a really mean person to disagree…

If a person commits a murder, it should not matter — in a society guided by the rule of law — whether that person holds opinions that we regard as utterly abhorrent. The criminal justice system should be blind to such things, concentrating on actions rather than attitudes.

If people hold offensive opinions, let’s try to change their hearts and minds. But let’s save the punitive power of the criminal justice system for when they DO something bad, rather than THINK something bad.

And yes, the legislation goes out of its way to reaffirm our rights to free speech. But why do they need reaffirming, unless the overall bill implies otherwise? Which it does.

And the fact is, something like this does have a chilling effect on speech. I hesitated to write this because it can be so easily misunderstood. (You’re sticking up for those people? Well, no I’m not; I’m sticking up for impartial law.) And in the end, what the hell? If we have yet another reason to throw the book at a murderous monster, it’s not a thing to lose sleep over, right? Except that that’s not how our system of justice is supposed to work, or so I grok.

That’s what I think, anyway. But I could easily be wrong, since I am taking the libertarian position here…

28 thoughts on “I hate it when this happens

  1. LexWolf

    What in the world makes you think that the ACLU is in any way, shape or form libertarian? They are a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Far Left. Nothing libertarian about them whatsoever. They are for “civil liberties” only when it advances the Far Left’s agenda.
    The term hate crime is actually a misnomer. It really should be called thoughtcrime, straight out of 1984. Right now they are concentrating on major things but just as with the evolution of smoking prohibition I predict that hate crimes will evolve over the next 2 or 3 decades to reach into all aspects of our lives unless we stop this travesty. At some point thoughtcrime will apply even when there is no actual crime committed. You will be liable for even “thinking wrong” about something.
    That may be something our leftist brethren would like but any thinking person would shudder at the prospect.

  2. Moderate Guy

    THOUGHT CRIME is exactly what this is about. The physical action is graded according to the imputed and unprovable attitude of the perpetrator. His attitude may elevate an ordinary misdemeanor to a felony.
    As Mr. Wolf notes, the ACLU was founded as a subversive group by the communists, under the specific orders of Lenin, after the expected worldwide revolt of the 1920s failed to materialize. So the Soviets went to a plan of attacking the legal, educational, religious and other moral pillars of capitalist societies.
    Today, there are all sorts of people in the ACLU, including a few libertarians who have tried to wrest control from the mostly socialist national leadership.

  3. Michael Hess

    Do you believe and advocate then removing the statute altogether? The current law as spelled out by the president in a statement yesterday protects “race, color, religion, or national origin”, and the Matthew Shepard inspired addition to the existing law would add, “gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability” to the existing law giving women, the disabled and the folks the right-wing most loves to hate some protection from the types of crimes that Shepard and Brandon Teena suffered.
    There is only a three-percent difference between religious bias crimes, with 17% reported for religion and 14% reported for gender bias since 1991.
    Should the whole statute be thrown out or do you think if religion was to be removed from the statute those who are making all the noise might have a different attitude?
    We reported on this issue heavily at BBSNews and from my research, the religious right simply wants to protect their right to advocate against gays and transgender people while retaining the protections they enjoy under the very same statute.
    I’m pretty sure that’s the very definition of hypocrisy given that no one wakes up one day and says “I think I’ll be gay today.” If anything is a choice, selecting ones religion is a choice, not gender identity or sexual orientation.
    Michael Hess
    Editor, BBSNews

  4. bud

    This puts me in another awkward position — agreeing with a partisan position.
    Why is a principled support for this issue partisan? You’ve become obsessed with that term, even though you are quite partisan in your own right. It would serve you well to quite using that term until you fully understand what it means.

  5. LexWolf

    Thoughtcrime laws clearly should be abolished. In fact they never should have been passed in the first place.
    Laws against the underlying crimes are enough. Any aggravating circumstances can easily be taken into account when the criminal is sentenced.
    The whole idea of thoughtcrimes is absurd. Is a murder victim less dead or more dead depending on whether the murderer falls into one of the categories or not?
    Hard to believe, but I totally agree with Brad on this one. We don’t need any hate crime laws.

  6. LexWolf

    You are highly partisan, Brad, in favor of the Big Government Party. This party doesn’t officially exist but it consists, at varying times, of Reps, Dems and Indies, in varying proportions, depending on the issues. It is a loosely organized group that continually argues in favor of, and works on behalf of, pushing the aggrandizement of government.
    On the other side, of course, it continually chips away at, and denigrates the ability of the people to decide things on their own. Be it taxes, regulations, laws, freedoms – we can rest assured that you will almost invariably come down on the side of big government, and against the best interests of the people. To do so, you will ally yourself with whatever part of the Reps or Dems best serves your big-government agenda.
    (Yesterday was the first time I’ve ever seen you not do that, with the proposed thoughtcrime legislation. I was so shocked I almost fell out of my chair!)

  7. LexWolf

    “from my research, the religious right simply wants to protect their right to advocate against gays and transgender people while retaining the protections they enjoy under the very same statute.”
    Now this is a stunning statement and I’m so glad that Michael Hess has shown his true colors. Of course people want to protect their right to advocate, aka as freedom of speech! I guess if Mr. Hess and his ilk had their way only they would have the “right to advocate” while the rest of us would just have to shut up. Before we know it, we would be in the same position as the following:
    In Canada,
    * A Christian was fined $6,000 for printing 3 Bible verses against homosexuality. A newspaper was fined $6,000 for accepting his ad.
    * A Christian printer was fined $5,000 for refusing to print stationery for homosexual activists. He was bankrupted after spending $175,000 contesting the charge.
    * A Christian was fined $35,000 for distributing “hate literature”–tracts critical of homosexuality.
    * Church school administrators were forced to hire a known homosexual, under threat of prison.
    * A pastor was told it’s a “hate crime” to hand out gospel tracts, punishable by prison.
    In Australia,
    * Two Christians were indicted for criticizing Islam, another for criticizing Zionism.
    In Britain,
    * Two political activists were indicted, facing 7 years in prison, for describing Islam as a “wicked faith.” A filmmaker was threatened with arrest for using the term “homosexual” rather than “gay.”
    In Sweden,
    * A pastor faced prison for reading from the pulpit Scriptures critical of homosexuality.

    This is not the sort of thing I would want to see in a free country.
    It’s also rather revealing that Mr. Hess had to go back 8 and 13 years to find cases to support his demands. Clearly this can’t be such a serious problem if there hasn’t been another major case in the last 8 years.
    Far from just trying to “protect” people, this is a very transparent attempt to stifle the free speech of anyone who doesn’t subscribe to the gay agenda lock, stock and barrel.
    (BTW, I’m not a Christian or a member of the socalled Religious Right)

  8. John Gabriel

    It seems to me that there is very little difference in passing this bill or not. All crimes are crimes of hate. It makes no sense to me talking about hate crimes, in fact the phrase “hate crimes” is redundant. Murderers should all be treated the same way. We should deal with the perpetrators of the crime on a harsh level whilst their victims are still alive. Once a victim is dead, the perpetrator should pay with his or her life. As far as the comment regarding an Orwellian age, it’s too late because we are already talking about hate crimes. The underlying meaning of this phrase is Orwellian.

  9. Matt D

    Yeah, the ACLU is not libertarian… at all. Maybe that’s why you (Brad) generally disagree with libertarians? Because you’re actually disagreeing with the far left? 🙂
    But you’re right, hate crime legislation is thought crime legislation. Someone hating me for who I am in no way violates my rights, bigoted as it may be. And I could personally care less if someone shoots me dead for my [insert federally protected class here] or for my wallet or for lack of anything better to do. I’m still shot, and the last thing I care about is which *particular* criminal intent the bastard had when he did it.
    And who’s to say that bigoted people aren’t born that way anyway? Hate crime legislation is discriminatory against people who are born hateful! Maybe we need new hate crimes legislation to protect bigots and hateful people from crimes by people who hate them… after all, just because someone else is a bigot is no excuse to murder them out of hate.
    And with all due respect to the BBS news editor, hate crime legislation has little (if anything) to do with the religious right protecting its right to advocate against gays (etc), unless you’re saying that their advocacy involves murder. It has everything to do with politicians passing legislation to score political points at the expense of the very foundation of our society – the right to freedom of speech and thought. And that’s the real crime here: not bigots holding stupid (yet constitutionally protected opinions), but rather our leaders mortgaging our principles for some fleeting positive press.

  10. Rickyrab

    First of all, let’s make a few things clear. I support gay rights, including same-sex marriage. I also support equality for various underpriveliged groups, or at least respect for them – Spanish-speakers, blacks, the poor, people with disabilities (by the way, this essentially includes all of the elderly, due to the nature of old age), transgendered people, and other such groups. I don’t have a problem with that and I don’t consider homosexual behavior to be sinful (although I don’t practice it or feel the urge to myself).
    That being said, I wonder if there is a point to hate-crimes legislation. It seems to me to be, generally speaking, an excuse to increase jail time, in a land where jail times are already a bit ridiculous. (Come on, some folks are getting 200 years in jail for non-murder crimes, which is life-plus.) I feel, personally, that three decades in the slammer should take care of most crimes at the most; some crimes, such as repeated rape or child abuse, deserve more, and murder is of course worthy of a life sentence (and people who kill, and are likely to kill again, should be executed). I am not sure if it is a “THOUGHT crime bill”, though. If it is a thought crime bill, then one might include the sensible prohibition against threatening the President or other people as thought-crime bills, along with other incitations to commit violent crimes. But it IS an excuse to increase punishment, when we’ve been increasing punishment enough already. What we need to do is ensure that folks like Matthew Shephard’s killers are brought to justice, not going about increasing possible jail time willy-nilly.

  11. LexWolf

    “I am not sure if it is a “THOUGHT crime bill”, though. If it is a thought crime bill, then one might include the sensible prohibition against threatening the President or other people as thought-crime bills, along with other incitations to commit violent crimes.”
    I pretty much agree with your entire post except this part. Threatening is not just thought, but overt action. You can think whatever you want about the president and others but until you communicate a threat nobody will, or should, bother you. The thought crime bill doesn’t apply here. It only kicks in when the perp acts by word or deed.

  12. bud

    Brad, you come across as a populist.
    Populism –
    ….. any of various, often antiestablishment or anti-intellectual political movements or philosophies that offer unorthodox solutions or policies and appeal to the common person rather than according with traditional party or partisan ideologies.

  13. Rickyrab

    Threatening is not just thought, but overt action. You can think whatever you want about the president and others but until you communicate a threat nobody will, or should, bother you.
    There is a very fine line between thought and action in an utterance – this is the problem that has the fundies worried. However, an opinion that a certain bunch of people are “wrong” is a thought. The urging of murder of those same people is a threat. In between is the idea of “bringing people to justice”, ironically, because it involves the usage of the police power to punish people. Is this a threat or is it just an opinion that people “should” be punished for their crimes? Where does thought end and action begin?

  14. Herb Brasher

    I don’t find myself agreeing with LexWolf very often, but this time he nailed it. There has been a lot of concern among Canadian Christians with control over what is said in church. When I have time to look some of them up, I’ll try and provide a link or two.

  15. zzazzefrazzee

    LexWolf and Herb,
    This notion that Christians will be subjected to lawsuits is nothing more than fear-mongering.
    In America, you’ll have to repeal Amendment 1 of the bill of rights before those threats can become true.
    One of the beauties of our Charters of Freedom that other nations don’t have.

  16. LexWolf

    Sorry but you have far more confidence here than I do. After all, McCain-Feingold would also seem to be clearly against the First Amendment in abridging our rights to political speech yet somehow it squeaked through the Supreme Court.
    Note also that I cited 5 cases just in Canada and you just pooh-pooh the danger. Yet Mr. Hess used 2 cases from 8 and 13 years ago to advance his claim that we urgently need thoughtcrime legislation. Surely we can ignore his claims as well.
    One of the problems with the Canadian cases is that somehow their laws are enforced only against Christians. Muslims literally get away with murder up there even though their positions about gay issues almost invariably involve some form of stoning or other severe bodily harm, stances far worse than anything Christians were accused of.

  17. Brad Warthen

    bud just keeps calling me names, doesn’t he? First “partisan,” now “populist.”
    It’s far more fair — although I still think it’s wrong — to call me “authoritarian” or “elitist” or “paternalistic.” In other words, pretty much the opposite of populist.
    If I ever have a populist tone, I must be trying too hard not to sound like those other things.
    And actually, in the way of confession, it’s not all that unfair to call me “paternalistic.” I have five children and a grandchild; I’ve been a father most of my life. Many of my opinions regarding public policy — approving of curfews and the like — are those of a father. When I argue with libertarians, they sound so much like adolescents to me (the same arguments) that it naturally shifts me into a paternal mode. This is enormously offensive to the libertarians, just as it is to adolescents.

  18. Doug Ross

    > When I argue with libertarians, they sound
    >so much like adolescents to me (the same
    >arguments) that it naturally shifts me into a
    >paternal mode. This is enormously offensive
    >to the libertarians, just as it is to
    Your “paternalistic” view of libertarians is like the “because I said so” defense parents use when they can’t win an argument on logic or facts.
    You’re the type of individual responsible for things like Sunday blue laws, complex tax codes, and PACT tests. The fact that you admit to being a military brat pretty much explains that approach to life — i.e. “I need someone to tell me what to do”.

  19. bud

    Brad, I’m a proud liberal. I’m not ashamed of it. That’s because liberal parts of the country and the world seem to perform so much better than areas that adopt other political philosophies. Places like Sweden and Holland are so much healthier and live so much longer. Why not adopt what works.
    So why not accept what is clearly your interventionist philosophy, which in a nation that values far more individual freedom, hence making that view unorthodox. And unorthodox is a key word in the definition of populism.

  20. bill

    At first glance, hate-crime laws may seem unnecessary. Section 1 of the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution reads:
    “All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”
    “Equal protection” should mean equal protection afforded to equal citizens. Hate-crime laws seem to make crimes against some citizens worse than the same crimes committed against other citizens. After the House passed H.R. 1952, Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council argued that “the actions of a majority of the House today undermine the promise of equal protection under the law guaranteed by the 14th Amendment.”
    But all citizens are not equal. Gay Americans cannot legally marry (except in Massachusetts), nor can they serve openly in the military. And in more than a few jurisdictions they can still be denied housing or employment because of their sexual orientation. Moreover, as Eric Zorn pointed out in a Chicago Tribune piece, a case can be made for a hate-crime being two crimes:
    “The simplest answer to this is that when hatred for a particular group or class or race is the obvious motive for an attack, that attack becomes, in effect, two crimes. The first is the offense itself. The second is the implicit threat that offense makes to other members of that group, class or race.”
    “That second crime has new victims.”
    “Consider an incident in which someone uses spray paint to deface the garage of a house into which a gay family has just moved.”
    “The crime is vandalism, no matter what. But to argue against the idea of hate crimes is to argue that it shouldn’t matter at all to the law whether the graffiti is a smiley face or some hostile, anti-gay slur.”
    “The smiley face is a petty annoyance. The hateful slogan is, in effect, a threat to other gay people in the area – they might be next.
    “Is it fair to limit hate-crime protection to certain classes of people? My argument is yes, that historical and cultural contexts cause certain classes of people to feel legitimately threatened by hate-inspired crimes that do not really threaten other classes of people.”
    From Atlantic Free Press

  21. zzazzeefrazzee

    Lexwolf- I disagree, if it’s not in the US, it’s not a slippery slope breaking through the laws of the country next door. It’s not that I endorse what happens all the time in Canada, but there are other sides to some stories you’ve posted. One problem is that you’ve posted no sources. It’s better to do that if you’re going to make claims.
    One case I think you’re referring to involved a Fundamentalist Church placing newspaper ads vilifying gays and getting sued for libel. What was printed was a lot more than just quotes from Leviticus.
    Another case in Edmonton involved an activist who distributed fliers which not only vilified gays, but also used profane language to describe a Canadian minister who supported marriage equality- which is justifiably leblous. Notice the second charge listed doesn’t mention why the man went bankrupt or what he was charged with; it is not cited, and is meant to incite.
    Yet all of these events, no doubt, are spun a certain way by Focus on the Family et al to incite more fanaticism.
    Your notion that “Muslims are getting away with murder” also seems similarly skewed. After all, they have the likes of Irshad Manji to contend with up there, Muslims women suing to have greater access to mosques, and even Progressive Muslim organizations.

  22. jemiljan

    FYI- the american civil liberties union defends civil liberties for all Americans. They’ve defended Fred Phelps right to protest at funerals, neo-nazi and Klan marches, and anti-abortion activists.
    Of course that doesn’t stop some slick politicos from spinning it the way described by some on here. Apparently, some are all too gullible or willing to believe the lie.

  23. jemiljan

    I forgot to add that the ACLU defends confederate flag displays, but I’m not sure if that includes displays on government property.
    They defend free speech, and freedom to practice your religious beliefs, but draw a line at teh separation between church and state- hence they’ll prosecute displays of religious endorsement on government property.

  24. Daniel K.

    It seems like there is room for nuance here. Why doesn’t the distinction between public/private or thought/expression help the hate SPEECH case?
    For instance, couldn’t a bill spell out:
    First, the crime is an act (that is what speaking is). Therefore it does not refer to thought. Some people may not be satisfied with this but at least let the distinction stand. We are not talking about thought. I can’t speak pro-rape speech in public can I? Isn’t that legitimate? No one thinks we are going to get off the seesaw here do they? We already limit speech and justifiably so. The legitimate question is what should be included not whether to have it.
    Second, the crime could appliy to certain public places (either all open venues, government property, etc.). This might preserve a limited range of freedom to speak within private settings.
    I understand the slippery slope argument and I think it has force. But, I think I am far more concerned about the rise of hate groups who our government gives freedom to recruit be they neo-nazi, extremist-Islam, extremist-Christian, or whatever. Why do we want the possibility of living in a society full of gangs and radicals (whoops I think I did the slippery slope move).

  25. Herb Brasher

    An interesting case where Mark W. is right that corporate America is all over individual rights is in the health care industry. I’m a member in Christian Care Medishare, which is simply about 35,000 Christians wanting to practice biblical Christianity and share medical bills with each other. (It’s not a scam either, though there are some out there—they’ve never failed to cover a medical need.) There have been numerous law suits over the years from the insurance industry to try and put it out of business, and every time one gets settled in court, they try it again on appeal. After fighting it and winning in most all states, now the insurance industry is trying again in Oklahoma, Illinois, and Kentucky. It isn’t so easy to be a practicing Christian when the powers that be don’t want it, which is when it hits them in the pocket book. CCM has dumped everything that even makes it look remotely like insurance, even the stop-gap measure that kicked in after $50,000. Corporations don’t mind trampling on any individual rights that they don’t like.


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