Why should the same crime get different punishments depending on the race and religion of the victims and perpetrators?
WASHINGTON — Twelve years of activism by Jewish groups is nearing an end as Congress prepares to approve legislation that would expand the definition of hate crimes to include actions based on a victim’s sexual orientation, gender or disability.
Jewish groups have been front and center in lobbying for the inclusion of these categories in the existing law, which already defines as hate crimes those that are committed on the basis of race, color, religion and national origin…
Michael Lieberman, Washington counsel for the Anti-Defamation League, who worked on the expanded hate crimes bill for more than a decade, said pushing it forward was in the interests of the Jewish community because of the leading role Jews play in fighting against hate crimes and for civil liberties.
“We must be cognizant of the fact that the third most common victims of hate crimes are gays and lesbians,” Lieberman said. The most common factor in hate crimes is race, according to FBI statistics. The second most common is religion. Crimes against Jews make up 70% of the religion category, according to the FBI data.
At times, the prolonged standoff over expanding the definition of a hate crime pitted Jewish activists against conservative Christian leaders, who argued the new legislation would criminalize opposition to homosexuality voiced from the pulpit.
In June 23 testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee debating the bill, Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, argued the legislation would infringe on the rights of religious groups that are protected by the First Amendment.
“While the bill before us is ostensibly limited to acts which cause bodily harm, it would put us on a slippery slope toward the punishment of so-called ‘hate speech’ as well,” Perkins said. The Family Research Council issued an alert to pastors warning them that “what you say from the pulpit could literally become illegal.”
Before the vote, another group, Focus on the Family, urged its supporters to sign an online petition arguing that the proposed legislation would be the “first step toward ultimately gagging our pastors and other ministry leaders who are faithfully preaching the Scripture about God’s plan for human sexuality.”
The ADL’s Lieberman believes that the differing viewpoints over the bill will not damage interfaith dialogue between Jews and Christians. “The opposition is mainly conservative, not Christian,” he said, adding that many Christian groups joined forces with the Jewish community in promoting the bill.
Conservative Christian opposition stalled passage of the legislation throughout the Bush administration.
Youtube description: “Atty General Eric Holder admits that Bill is not about punishing crimes motivated by hate, but rather about making crimes against ‘certain groups’ worth-more than comparable crimes against others… and would also give the federal government the right to step into states and re-try if they don’t like the way a trial/prosecution turned out.”
Wikipedia: “On October 28, 2009 President Obama signed the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, attached to the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2010, which expanded existing United States federal hate crime law to apply to crimes motivated by a victim’s actual or perceived gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability, and dropped the prerequisite that the victim be engaging in a federally protected activity.”