Should we outlaw "hate crimes?" It might seem like a good idea at first. Who's in favor of bigotry and of people committing crimes because of that hatred? On the other hand, is legislation really the solution to people believing and saying things we don't happen to like or agree with?
In their defense, some point out that hate crime legislation just adds additional penalties to existing crimes - true so far in the United States. Perhaps this won't always be true, but more on that in a moment. For now, the question is if it is right to legislate additional punishment because of a person's belief. Theft has a penalty under the law, for example, but should the thief get extra punishment because he felt some animosity towards whatever group the person was a part of?
We already have a law that makes his crime punishable. Isn't adding extra punishment because of his beliefs just trying to make thought a crime too? Even if you like the idea, do you trust any government to properly police people's thoughts and beliefs? It's obviously contrary to our tradition of free speech.
If our justice system is going to base sentences on the likelihood of the criminal re-offending, the judge can take racist remarks and beliefs into account. I don't see a problem with that approach. After all, if a criminal says, "I hate (insert group here), so I want to kill them all," why wouldn't we consider this at the time of sentencing?
However, suppose a violent criminal repeatedly assaults woman. Why should he get less punishment under the law than a criminal who happens to hate the race or religion of the women he assaults? Both may be very likely to re-offend - or the former may be even more likely too - but let a judge consider that at sentencing. Laws against hate crimes are too indiscriminate, and too intolerant.
Hate crime laws intolerant? Certainly the idea is that we - society or the majority - don't like your beliefs, so when you commit a crime, we'll use it as an excuse to punish you for what you're thinking and saying. Prior to the crime we can't know whether it is worse than any other similar crime, or the criminal is any more dangerous, so the point is to punish beliefs. here come the thought police.
Hate Literature Laws
Think hate crime laws are only affecting real criminals, and so they won't affect you? Isn't it possible that the idea of controlling "bad" thought and belief will spread once the precedent is there? Is this paranoid? Already the law in Canada says "every one who, by communicating statements, other than in a private conversation, willfully promotes hatred against any identifiable group is guilty" of a felony and liable to imprisonment for two years. An "identifiable group" is defined as "any section of the public distinguished by color, race, religion or ethnic origin."
These definitions expand of course, and more groups have been recently added to the protected list. A judge also found that passages in the Bible are hate literature under this law. His decision was overturned before the Bible was banned, but I agree with him - parts are very hateful against certain groups. I just think that we're better letting the marketplace of ideas take care of these issues, rather than having "thought czars" determine them for us.
This is a classic "slippery slope." A company I once worked for brought in a "harassment specialist" to train us all to be "sensitive." Soon we were hearing that it was offensive for one of the old ladies who worked there to call people "honey" - and that she could be fired for it (true story). How did it come to that? Offensive is in the eye of the offended, so those who are most easily offended make the standards for the rest.
This could happen with laws addressing offensive beliefs, couldn't it? Perhaps it will someday be against the law to say I think most Republican politicians are hypocrites. I wouldn't have thought so until I heard that you can't say what you want or publish a book in Canada if it is "hateful." Why not avoid this mess, and punish people for their crimes - not for what they think or believe? I hate hate crime laws because they may lead to the loss of one of our primary freedoms.
About the AuthorCopyright Steve Gillman. For inventions, new product ideas, business ideas, story ideas, political and economic theories, deep thoughts, and a free course on How To Have New Ideas, visit : http://www.999ideas.com
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