WASHINGTON (BP)–A coalition of Christian, Jewish, Islamic and Sikh clergy joined Sens. Edward Kennedy, D.-Mass., and Gordon Smith, R.-Ore., on Capitol Hill May 15 to announce their support for a hate crimes bill titled as the “Local Law Enforcement Enhancement Act.” The Senate is expected to consider the bill as early as the week of May 20, CNSNews.com reported May 16.
The bill would allow federal law enforcement authorities to intervene in local criminal investigations of crimes alleged to have been committed because of bias against the victim’s gender, disability, religion, national origin or “sexual orientation.”
Federal intervention would be authorized only if the Justice Department certifies that there is a reasonable cause to believe the crime was motivated by such bias and, then, only if the state in which the crime was committed:
— has requested that the Justice Department investigate the crime; or
— does not object to the Justice Department assuming jurisdiction; or
— has completed its prosecution and the Justice Department wishes to initiate a subsequent prosecution; or
— does not have or chooses not to exercise jurisdiction over the crime.
The bill, S. 625, has 50 cosponsors.
“Although America experienced a significant drop in crime during the 1990s, the number of hate crimes has continued to grow,” Kennedy said. “Now is the time for Congress to speak with one voice, insisting that all Americans will be guaranteed the equal protection of the laws.”
Welton Gaddy, executive director of The Interfaith Alliance, said he “welcomes an opportunity for religion and government to work together” on the issue.
“To be sure, legislation alone cannot remove hatred from our midst,” Gaddy said, “but passage of this legislation can help create a society in which people are influenced by the government’s unbending intolerance of prejudice-based, hate-motivated violence.”
However, Glenn Stanton, director of social research and cultural affairs for Focus on the Family, noted to CNSNews.com that the problem with the legislation is not its intent, but its unintended consequences.
“When people act on their hate and do things that are harmful to another person, then that’s a crime and you prosecute people based on that crime,” Stanton said. “You don’t prosecute people based on their motivation, because that’s such a nebulous thing. How can you determine that?”
Stanton said the issue becomes even more obscured when talking about divisive issues such as homosexuality.
“Inserting ‘hate’ here, and especially ‘hate’ relative to ‘sexual orientation’ [makes the law subjective] and puts us on a very problematic keel that keeps us from judging actions on their face,” he added.
Smith acknowledged that most major religions teach that homosexual behavior is a sin. He said his Mormon faith teaches him to address the behavior the way Jesus addressed other sexual sins.
“When a woman was being stoned to death in a public square [for adultery], he didn’t endorse her lifestyle, but he saved her life,” Smith recounted. “I think Christians should do no less [now].”
Stanton said regardless of an individual’s beliefs about homosexuality, this law will not change the human heart.
“Hate itself is not a crime. We cannot legislate that people not hate, or love [other] people. But we can legislate behavior,” he said. “Rather than creating these various classes of this crime [being] worse than another because of who this person is or because of what this person represents.
“No, they represent humanity,” Stanton said.
Johnson is the congressional bureau chief with www.CNSNews.com. Used by permission.