Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Why I Don't Support "Hate Crimes" Legislation: Individual Worth

We live in a system that has said we can't be punished for what we think and believe, only for what we do. Hate crime legislation punishes people differently based on what they think and believe - for WHY they do what they do. It is that simple to me, so I don't support hate crime legislation.

If my wife or daughter is raped or killed, I don't want a white perpetrator to get a lighter sentence than a black man who was shouting racial slurs because my wife or daughter is a white woman. I also don't want a Baptist perpetrator shouting religious bigotry to be punished more harshly just because my wife or daughter is Mormon.

There is a MUCH deeper reason, however, that I am appalled by hate crimes legislation - and I choose the word "appalled" carefully and consciously.  

I want a lesbian, drug-addicted prostitute of any race or ethnicity to be viewed under the law exactly in the same manner as my wife or daughter - and I want someone who murders that prostitute in order to steal her money punished exactly the same as someone who murders her because she is lesbian or a different race or drug-addicted. None of those things makes her life less valuable or important, and the absence of those things doesn't makes my wife's or daughter's life more valuable or important, either. 

I believe they are equal in the eyes of God and should be treated as equal under the law, as well - no matter WHY the perpetrator of a crime did what he did.

(I also should note explicitly that I chose the above characterizations strictly because of the way they are viewed by many people in society.  I am NOT equating being lesbian with being a drug addict or with being a prostitute.)


FelixAndAva said...

So well said. Creating categories of "crimethink" by punishing differently according to motive does wind up with the effect that one member of society is held to be more valuable than another, and that thoughts or words are punished along with deeds.

This is NOT justice.

SilverRain said...

But we already punish differently for motive in some ways.

For example, a man who kills another man because he was beating his wife with a lead pipe is totally different from a man who kills another man because he happened to want his money. The crime is the same—one man killed another—but the motive is vastly different.

I know that's not the same thing as hate crime legislation, but it does indicate some levels beyond a simply black and white distinction.

SilverRain said...

And I might add that one important distinction is repeatability. If a person throws a rock at a person because they are black, as opposed to throwing a rock at a person out of self-defense, there are two important factors that differ. The first crime involves a certain level of unsafe conditions for innocents. The second crime is to counteract illegal behavior.

One is against a criminal, the other is against an innocent party, and a person who attacks out of a hate motive is more likely to repeat the offense.

Papa D said...

I don't disagree with anything you said, SR - but that doesn't change anything about the post. *grin*

I am all for mitigating circumstances being considered. I just don't support "what someone believes" as proper mitigating circumstances.

Also, repeatability is interesting to discuss - but almost ANY crime is repeatable if the circumstances surrounding the crime are replicable. I just think it gets way too subjective and dicey when we start saying that actions taken in obvious manifestation of beliefs should be punished differently than when those beliefs are NOT expressed openly.

For example, should a Mormon who kills a homosexual but hasn't made overtly anti-gay statements be punished more severely than a liberal Protestant who does the exact same thing - based on a badly mistaken assumption that Mormon's hate homosexuals? I know plenty of people who would classify such an action as a hate crime, despite any direct evidence.

What about a conservative Republican who kills a liberal Democrat - or vice-versa?

My main point is that every person should be seen under the law as equal, so nobody should be punished more or less severely than anyone else simply for WHY they murder - with the obvious exceptions that already exist in the law, like self-defense or protection of others.