There are many problems associated with “hate crime” laws, but a primary concern is that such legislation often allows prosecutors and judges to cite a person’s religious or moral views to increase sentencing, after an objective crime has already been committed.
Rather than simply punish a criminal in accordance with established sentencing guidelines, the “hate” factor invites the long arm of the law to make particular judgements about personal belief systems that may have “contributed” to the motivation in carrying out the crime.
Did the offender disagree with LGBTQ sexual acts? Did they hold a belief that marriage is the union of one man and one woman? Maybe they thought unborn life should be protected. If so, a judge could use these factors to surmise that perhaps the criminal not only committed a crime, but they also “hated” their victim due to their belief system.
Just to be perfectly clear the argument, here, is not to justify or minimize an objective crime. The issue is whether a person’s religious or moral views should be factored in when it comes to sentencing.
When these beliefs are wielded as aggravating factors, it maligns the entire belief system, along with the vast majority of law-abiding citizens who adheres to them. It also suggests that anyone who holds or teaches these ideas is a potential danger to society.
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This approach to meeting out justice opens the door for the legal apparatus to denigrate and attack beliefs that conflict with the government’s preferred agenda.
In a June 24 speech before LGBTQ activists in Anchorage, U.S. Attorney for the District of Alaska S. Lane Tucker revealed just how far this approach can go. She not only emphasized her commitment to prosecuting “hate crimes,” but also expressed a desire to root out “noncriminal acts” of “bias.”
While Tucker did not go into detail about what she considers “bias,” she clearly aims to use her powerful office to highlight and combat perfectly legal actions which may have been motivated by thoughts that the U.S. Department of Law finds problematic.
In other words, it is not enough to simply act within the rightful limits of the law, but one’s thought life must also comport with contemporary government standards.
This should be deeply concerning to anyone who still cares about religious liberty or freedom of speech.
The views expressed here are those of the author.