The Skeptic's Guide to The Universe

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Chapter Six; HATE CRIMES AND HYSTERIA part twenty two

President Obama recently sign an addition to the “Hate” crimes law called “The Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act.” Before I go into some of the hysteria that has resulted from the addition of this amendment to the “Hate” crimes law, I would like to give my point of view on hate crimes and the laws that are suppose to deal with them.

I find the idea that any crime is worse because of the motivation behind it to be somewhat bizarre. Certainly the motivation should be taken to account when a crime is committed as to the guilt or innocence and the resulting punishment. I would feel more compassion for a person that steals in order to feed themselves and their family versus the person that steals to be able to gain the shear enjoyment of use or possession of the item that they stole. It doesn't make the crime any greater or less as to the net result but the crime motivated by a person to preserve life is a basic necessity and needs to be addressed as such. There are several different levels of charges that result in death already. Everything from justifiable homicide to capitol murder, which with a conviction can result in the death penalty of the convicted.

I find all these measure in place to serve out society well. The range that society has put in place for dealing with certain degrees of crimes seems reasonable to me and should be held as a measure of the motivation that applies to each of these crimes. With that said, if someone is murdered with the motive because they are red headed, smile too much, do not have all their finger nails painted, likes to walk on the left side of the street and so on, really makes no difference to me since the crime is already an one done with malice intent.

If the motivation of the person was just to rob a person with a knife or gun and the result was the death of the person being robbed. Is that any less malice toward that person if they are killed because of some external variable? The motivation of a crime shouldn't serve as a reason to escalate the resulting actions of the crime. A person that is killed because of their race, religion, home country, sexual preference or disability as the law provides for doesn't really mean the crime was any less ore more horrific.

Were the crimes of Ted Bundy or Jeffery Dahlmer and less horrific because they were not motivated by hate? I don't see that at all. The motive to do another harm is sufficient enough to let a persons deed be judged upon their own merits. I find the positions of the people that would cause harm to others because of these factors to be abhorrent. But I do not see any reason to create additional laws for them since the current system of justice is already designed to deal with such societal deviants.

With my perspective on these laws explained I will not deal with some of the reactions to the fundamental religious conservatives that fear how the law may effect them.

Since the initial passing of the “Hate” Crimes law, there still legally exists groups that promote racial division from all races. These people that promote without resorting to violence are still protected in what they say as they have always been in The Constitution of The United States of America. They always will be also long as the First Amendment is not repealed concerning the right to free speech. The right perspective concerning free speech is simply this, If you do not like what someone is saying stop listening and protect their right to speak. Even if it is vicious and attacks you. Do not let the views of others destroy your sense of civility and honor and respect.

There are still groups that legally speak out against other persons religions, race and their sexual preferences and other aspects that are not the same as their group. To be quite honest I am not really sure what grace is since we are all Homo sapiens. All races can breed and that is really the only biological defining characteristic of a species. But some people will find anything to make one group seem different from another. But the point is all forms of hateful speech against these groups is now and will be forever protected speech.

The point is not to have everyone living in a land of flowers and rainbows but to be able to deal with the reality of a world that is brutal and wants to do you harm. The best we can do is to set up boundaries to let the people of the hateful talk have their rights as long as they respect your rights to hate them right back or better yet, just ignore them. To many people get too upset about words people say instead of the actions they take.

In the St. Louis Post-Dispatch of October 31, 2009xxxii there is an article about the reaction to the new additions to the hate law. It is a column from reporter Tim Townsend. In the column Townsend talks to a Rev. Bruce McCoy of the Canaan Baptist Church in St. Louis, who is concerned that the law will have a chilling effect for the children of God that care for the souls of these people but do not care very much for their actions they perform privately with person of the same sex. McCoy seems to think that speaking out against an action that he disagrees with is somehow equal to an hate crime. I find that to be very intellectually dishonest of him and others that think that way.

Townsend's article includes several additional comments from other church leaders and church attorney which plays up the fear and paranoia of what will not happen. In the article things are suggested as a chilling effect of what pastors may say, and an increase of lawsuits, complaints and investigations against preachers as the law takes effect. However Townsend failed to present a more reasonable point of view from say an attorney of person from a homosexual organization. This shows a lack of journalistic integrity for Townsend and the editor that permitted this story to run in this fashion.

This paranoid fest of the religious persons from Townsend's article is, of course impossible to conceive as the same right of speech is still in place as they were before the law was passed. As I said earlier, the ability and the right for people to say pretty much anything they want is not now nor will it ever be abridged, as long as that speech doesn't cause a person to be harmed or insight violence. By harmful speech I mean, let's say there is a fire and you know a person is still in a burning building and you assure the firefighters that you got everyone out. That would be speech that causes harm.

Speech that could incite violence is basically to lie about who or what caused an event and then inflame the angry crowd as to who did the violence to you or the people you are talking to. Such as, I saw who ran this little girl over, it was that guy over there. [pointing to a guy sipping a coffee.] This could really have a negative effect on that person life in the short term.

But the truth of the matter is the removal of the fear of such laws to law abiding person. While I do not agree with the premise or purpose of the law, I see it having only influence on those that are not able to judge a person by their actions and not superficial things. Many of the more reasonable denominations actually support the law and find it a useful tool to help fight hate. I wish them luck in that endeavor.


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