Kennedy 'Hate Crimes' Bill To Be Considered Soon

July 7, 2008 - 8:03 PM

Capitol Hill ( - A coalition of Christian, Jewish, Islamic, and Sikh clergy joined Sens. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) and Gordon Smith (R-Ore.) on Capitol Hill Wednesday to announce their support for the Local Law Enforcement Enhancement Act. The Senate is expected to consider the bill as early as next week.

The bill would allow federal law enforcement authorities to intervene in local criminal investigations of crimes alleged to have been committed because of bias against the victim's gender, disability, religion, national origin, or "sexual orientation."

Federal intervention would be authorized only if the Justice Department certifies that there is a reasonable cause to believe that the crime was motivated by such bias and, then, only if the state in which the crime was committed:

- Has requested that the Justice Department investigate the crime; or
- Does not object to the Justice Department assuming jurisdiction; or
- Has completed its prosecution and the Justice Department wishes to initiate a subsequent prosecution; or
- Does not have, or chooses not to exercise jurisdiction over the crime.

"Although America experienced a significant drop in crime during the 1990s, the number of hate crimes has continued to grow," Kennedy said. "Now is the time for Congress to speak with one voice, insisting that all Americans will be guaranteed the equal protection of the laws."

Dr. Welton Gaddy, executive director of the Interfaith Alliance, says he "welcomes an opportunity for religion and government to work together" on the issue.

"To be sure, legislation alone cannot remove hatred from our midst," he said, "but passage of this legislation can help create a society in which people are influenced by the government's unbending intolerance of prejudice-based, hate-motivated violence."

Glenn Stanton, director of social research and cultural affairs for Focus on the Family, says the problem with the legislation is not its intent, but its unintended consequences.

"When people act on their hate and do things that are harmful to another person, then that's a crime and you prosecute people based on that crime," he said. "You don't prosecute people based on their motivation, because that's such a nebulous thing. How can you determine that?"

Stanton says the issue becomes even more obscured when talking about divisive issues such as homosexuality.

"Inserting 'hate' here, and especially 'hate' relative to 'sexual orientation' [makes the law subjective] and puts us on a very problematic keel that keeps us from judging actions on their face," he added.

Smith acknowledges that most major religions teach that homosexual behavior is a sin. He says his Mormon faith teaches him to address the behavior the way Jesus addressed other sexual sins.

"When a woman was being stoned to death in a public square [for adultery], he didn't endorse her lifestyle, but he saved her life," Smith recalled. "I think Christians should do no less [now]."

Smith did not include in his response, however, the admonition Jesus gave the woman, recorded in John 8:11, "Go now, and leave your life of sin."

Stanton says regardless of an individual's beliefs about homosexuality, this law will not change the human heart.

"Hate itself is not a crime. We cannot legislate that people not hate, or love [other] people. But we can legislate behavior," he said. "Rather than creating these various classes of this crime [being] worse than another because of who this person is or because of what this person represents.

"No, they represent humanity," Stanton concluded.

E-mail a news tip to Jeff Johnson.

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