By: Brian Sikma
A few weeks ago the United States House of Representatives passed H.R. 1913, the Local Law Enforcement and Hate Crimes Prevention Act. It is expected that the United States Senate Judiciary Committee will consider this proposed hate crimes legislation later this week. This is not the first time that the House has passed a hate crimes bill, and this is not the first time the Senate has considered legislation designed to establish an unequal system of justice. What is happening for the first time is the consideration of this legislation with a liberal Democrat majority in the House and Senate and a liberal President in the White House.
Although the political circumstances surrounding this latest attempt to classify thoughts as a crime are not favorable to those who believe in freedom, this does not mean that we should fail to take action. If we establish a national hate crimes law it will be a direct assault not only on the principle of federalism and the traditional boundaries of criminal law, but it will also be an all-out charge against religious liberty.
Those who commit violent crimes should be punished regardless of their motive and regardless of the identity of their victim. Contrary to what many advocates of hate crimes legislation wish you to perceive, not a single criminal is escaping the consequences of his crime because of the lack of a hate crimes statute. Those who oppose hate crimes legislation do so on the grounds that everyone deserves to be equally protected from violent criminals. When government seeks to use the criminal justice system to right supposed social wrongs, the outcome is far from what real justice should be. You cannot have appropriate justice in the unequal application of justice.
In addition to the fact that this legislation is unnecessary from a criminal law perspective, it is also unnecessary because it constituents a very real threat against religious liberty. In states where hate crimes laws exist, they have been used to threaten, intimidate, and silence those who seek to speak out about their beliefs on sexual morality. Men and women of faith, and particularly Christians, have been silenced under the guise of preventing crime because voicing their deeply held beliefs would lead, so the reasoning goes, to violent crimes being committed against those who are living in a lifestyle that is contrary to those beliefs.
The first amendment of our Constitution partly declares in profound and yet simple terms “Congress shall make no law…preventing the free exercise [of religion].” This entire amendment is focused on protecting the free exchange of ideas and the pursuit of those ideas free from any government coercion or limitation. Expressing one’s view about moral issues has never, and should never, be limited because of the demands of political correctness.
Among the nations of the world our country stands as the greatest bastion of religious liberty. This is not an accident of chance, it is the product of an arduous and vigorous debate that took place during our founding. It was realized then that religion is not something that government can force men and women to adhere to or abstain from. Religion and all that goes with it is a product of man’s personal belief in God. Requiring some to recant their beliefs or keep silent as to their views because others consider them unpopular is not the legitimate role of the government.
If we fail to act today to respectfully and persuasively make the case to our elected officials that hate crimes legislation is not only unnecessary but also runs counter to the freedoms that we have embraced, we can expect to see a more intense assault take place on our values in the future. Regardless of how your Senators may have voted on this issue in the past, they need to hear from you again. Please take time to contact them and urge them to Oppose H.R. 1913. Hate crimes legislation represents an unacceptable shift in the focus of criminal law and it poses a direct threat to religious liberty.
To learn more about the threat posed by hate crimes legislation, watch the below video of Congressman Mike Pence (R-IN) speaking about this type of legislation on the floor of the U.S. House: