A great furor on behalf of "hate crimes legislation" is being stirred up
by the usual suspects in response to the heinous crime in Wyoming this week -- two thugs beating a young man to death. Defenders of free speech
and private conscience should take this liberal offensive very seriously. And we need to begin by thinking through the call for hate crimes legislation in the wake of the Wyoming murder. In fact, we are seeing the ruthless exploitation of this terrible tragedy by those who wish to push the agenda that will give them the power to coerce conscience on issues of moral concern.
Because what do we find if we examine the details of the situation in
Wyoming? It was, indeed, a terrible crime of physical violence. But if we examine the legal facts of the situation, it turns out that if the murderers are convicted of this crime they stand in danger of the death penalty, because the death penalty exists in Wyoming for this kind of a heinous murder. So people are clamoring that we need to pass hate crime laws, and yet based on the nature of the act of terrible violence itself, the men who did it are already subject to the death penalty. Is it proposed that murders that are also hate crimes should be punished more severely than by the death penalty?
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The whole concept of hate crimes is faulty. There are indeed crimes motivated by hatred, but it is not entirely clear to me what that does to the crime itself. Take an example. Let's say that I am a ruthless drug dealer, and one of my drug deals goes wrong because somebody double-crosses me. And I don't hate this individual; I don't feel anything in particular. I'm a crook myself, and expect that people are going to be crooked. But in a very cold-blooded and calculated way I realize that my whole business will fall apart if I let people cross me up this way. So I plot, and systematically carry out, the extermination of this person who crossed me up. But there is no hatred involved.
Put that side by side with a crime that is motivated by racial, or religious, or other kinds of bigotry, but with the end result being, in each case, the deliberate murder of an individual. Should we have two separate standards for these two murders? Or should we judge by the nature of the act, not the nature of the attitude that accompanied the act? Does the fact that I kill you in cold blood, without the fires of racial or other hatred in me, mean that my killing of you is somehow less terrible than the other killing?
The proper approach to take toward crimes is to judge the act, not the
attitude. We must insist that our government restrict itself to punishing the action, because the government has no right to punish attitudes. The real purpose behind the hate crime legislation movement, however, is to accord to the government the right to punish attitudes.
But not all attitudes, mind you. Just those attitudes that disagree with the liberal ideologues and their state religion. These would-be thought police are trying to take advantage of a terrible and real crime
in order to criminalize the offense of dissent from the religion of sexual indulgence. They want to force us to treat it as a terrible crime if someone considers homosexuality to be immoral. And so they are using this episode and other episodes, where the crimes in and of themselves would justify harsh punishment, in order to convince us that harsher punishment is needed because of the attitude that accompanied the crime.
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The fact that Wyoming law already envisions death as the appropriate penalty for such cases just makes it clearer that the goal of the liberals is not to strengthen punishment of crime. What is really going on here is an effort to convert our laws in such a way that the liberal ideologues of the permissive left will be able to enforce their ideology
with fire and the sword, particularly against people of faith, who, based on their scriptural beliefs, refuse to accept their culture of sexual licentiousness and self-indulgence.
Katie Couric gave us a little preview of this assault on "The Today Show"
this week, when she blithely asked the governor of Wyoming to comment on
the accusation by unnamed homosexual activists that it was the attitudes
encouraged by Christian leaders such as Focus on the Family's Dr. James Dobson that led to the killing of Matthew Shepard. Apparently finding the
accusation intelligible on its face, Couric offered no evidence or argument that might lead one to accept such a bizarre charge. If we weren't used to the fact that hate crimes against Christians are, apparently, impossible, we might find it interesting to speculate on the
attitudes that would permit someone to ask the governor such a question.
The hate crimes legislation movement is bogus, but the existence of hateful attitudes toward the Christian conscience is undeniable. This is a very dangerous world that we are moving into. And sadly speaking, it is clear that opponents of the Christian conscience will use every opportunity, and will even make use of terrible and tragic events, in order to promote their political agenda. And that is what is happening in the Wyoming case. We face the promotion of a political ideology that aims at arming the liberal left with coercive force of law as its advocates come after those who disagree with their immorality.
This ideology needs to be strenuously opposed if we are to retain the
real First Amendment rights. The real First Amendment rights are not the right to parade licentious sexual behavior in public, or to put filth in the newspapers and television shows and movies -- this is not the real purpose of the First Amendment. The First Amendment was intended to protect the freedom of religious conscience from coercive dictation by the government. But this is precisely what the liberal left is now attempting to do -- using the false rubric of hate crimes in
order to arm themselves with the coercive power of the state and then to
dictate the conscience of those people of faith who disagree with them on homosexuality, among other things.
There is real ambition in the country's liberal secular elites to reduce
believers to the condition of government vassals. The job has not been finished, but it is what they would like to see done. And the mechanism that they are using and encouraging right now is the one that our Founders understood to be the key: they will seek to enslave people by encouraging them to be slaves to their baser passions, and to have no discipline, to have no self-control, and to acknowledge no truth in the authority of God. When people try to free themselves from the authority of God, they become slaves of their passions. Then it is relatively easy for enemies of liberty to enslave them by manipulating those passions. And that is what is happening to us right now.
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The whole push with respect to hate crimes legislation is an effort to
create a body of law that allows the government to coerce opinions, and to punish people because of their opinions. In this particular case, the opinion that is going to be punished is the opinion that homosexuality is immoral and against the laws of God. That opinion is now going to become a crime. And this whole push with respect to hate crimes is an effort to establish that agenda.
We have unalienable rights until we violate someone else's unalienable
rights, and only then does the state have the right to take our liberty away. But not according to these folks. They want to push us into a situation where the government can use its coercive power to punish our opinions, and to punish in particular the opinion that homosexuality is immoral.
Jefferson said that the opinions of men were not under the jurisdiction
of civil government. At the end of the day, government can govern men's actions, it cannot govern their hearts. And when it attempts to govern their hearts, that is simply an excuse for the worst kind of tyranny. And make no mistake, tyranny is what these liberals seek to impose on us.