“Big Brother is watching you,” from George Orwell’s epic novel “1984” is a fitting description of a futuristic world where government attempts to control every aspect of one’s existence. In this chilling tale of tyranny and persecution, Orwell tells of a day when “thought police” will arrest anyone straying from the politically correct and strictly enforced party line to include those who think “wrong thoughts.” Orwell’s predictions in “1984” may finally become reality in 2007 if Rep. Sheila Jackson-Lee, D-Texas, has her way in the new Democratic Congress.
Just this month, Rep. Jackson-Lee introduced a bill in Congress (H.R. 254) which if passed would extend an already egregious policy of federal “hate crime” law to include “sexual orientation, gender [and] disability.” Such legislation will allow judges to give stronger punishments for what one “feels” or “believes” when committing an offense as opposed to what he or she actually did.
Historically and legally, it is not within the authority or jurisdiction of a judge to inquire into one’s thoughts or beliefs. Law is concerned with a man’s actions and not with matters of his heart. As Sir William Blackstone explained in his “Commentaries on the Laws of England”:
[N]o temporal tribunal can search the heart, or fathom the intentions of the mind, otherwise than as they are demonstrated by outward actions, it therefore cannot punish for what it cannot know.
Criminal convictions have always required the combination of mens rea (a guilty mind or criminal intent) and a criminal act prohibited by law. For example, an individual may be preoccupied with a desire to steal, but until he or she commits some act toward that end, there is no crime. And if someone takes the property of another, but does so by mistake, there is no crime of theft because that person would lack a criminal intent or guilty mind.
The determination of one’s intent to commit a crime is not an intrusion into what one believes, but merely an appropriate and objective examination of outward conduct that indicate a consciousness of guilt. But that is as far as a mental examination may properly go.
Our forefathers would have utterly rejected the concept of “hate crimes.” As Thomas Jefferson succinctly explained in his Bill for Religious Freedom in 1779, “the rightful purposes of civil government” are to punish “overt acts against peace and good order.” Jefferson went on to say that no “civil magistrate (judge) can intrude his powers into the field of opinions” because he would then make “his own opinion the rule of judgment and approve or condemn the sentiments of others only as they square with or differ from his own.”
Jefferson’s words reflect the biblical principle found in I Samuel 16:7 where God told the prophet Samuel that “the Lord seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart.”
In his “Commentaries on the Constitution” in 1833, Supreme Court Justice Joseph Story stated that the First Amendment itself expressed a limitation of government power with regard to our personal beliefs:
The rights of conscience are, indeed, beyond the reach of any human power. They are given by God, and cannot be encroached upon by human authority, without a criminal disobedience of the precepts of natural, as well as of revealed religion.
Hate crime legislation today is being used in our own country and around the world to prohibit Christians from expressing their beliefs. Ake Green, a Swedish pastor, was convicted and sentenced to jail in 2004 for preaching a sermon condemning homosexual behavior. In Philadelphia, Michael Marcavage, a devout Christian, was arrested and charged for “ethnic intimidation” for preaching at a gay pride rally. In these cases, government has criminalized even the public expression of one’s beliefs.
Likewise, public expressions of one’s beliefs through religious displays have come under the watchful eye of our government. In 2005, the U.S. Supreme Court ordered the Ten Commandments removed from a courthouse in McCreary County, Ky., because the county officials who installed the display did so based upon a sincere belief in a sovereign God.
The day is rapidly approaching and perhaps is already here when speaking out in love against sin or contending for our faith by opposition to false religions like Islam will become criminal conduct for “hating” our fellow man. Policing our thoughts with hate crimes laws is no more appropriate today than it was in “1984.” What we believe is a matter between man and God.
Be careful, Big Brother; the Father is watching you.
Related special offer: