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Conservatives &First things . . . Richard Falknor on 04 May 2009 04:13 pm

“Hate-Crimes-Prevention” Bill Signals Worse Coming

UPDATE! RedState reports here “Sessions to Lead Judiciary.”

“Hate-Crimes-Prevention” Bill Signals Worse Coming

It is not only the economies of Europe that the incumbent American Left strives to imitate, but also the control Europe’s governments exert over of what, in America, we have always regarded as basic rights.

Here is Mark Steyn last month on the protection of our liberties from Europe-and- Canada-admiring Supreme Court justices —

“By comparison, the United States is far more constitutionally contained. By ‘listening to others,’ Justice Ginsburg means, in effect, Europe, Canada and one or two other places: There’s no suggestion she’s interested in Saudi jurists’ views on capital punishment for sodomy or Yemeni precedents on women’s rights. Yet America differs sharply even from those countries in the Common Law and broader western traditions in the protection it affords, say, free speech and the right to bear arms. If Justice Ginsburg is correct in her view that there is a global consensus on the great questions, then America is badly out of whack. And long may that continue: After my experience up north, I value the First Amendment all the more because it is at odds with the way the rest of the world is going.” (Underscoring Forum’s.)

The Next Moves Against Free Speech?

Just last week the U.S. House of Representatives passed the “Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2009” (LLEHCPA) with the help of eighteen Republicans. (Here is the Republican Study Committee’s analysis of the measure.)

Maryland freshman Democrat Frank Kratovil once again showed his “independent” posture and how he reflected “our values” by not joining the seventeen Democrats who did vote against this dangerous measure. 

Well, aren’t we all against hate and crime and all that?  Of course, but we also know that the labeling of bills is like any other kind of marketing — except there is even less truth-in-advertising when the Left masks anti-freedom measures with what they believe are appealing titles.

Here (p. 40) is just some of what the Republican minority of the House Judiciary Committee said about the LLEHCPA —

“Moreover, under existing criminal law principles, the bill raises the possibility that religious leaders or members of religious groups could be prosecuted criminally based on their speech or protected activities. Using conspiracy law or section 2 of title 18 which allows for the prosecution of anyone who aids, abets, counsels, commands, induces or procures the commission of a crime, or anyone who ‘‘willfully causes an act to be done’’ by another, it is easy to imagine a situation in which a prosecutor may seek to link hateful speech by one person to causing hateful violent acts by another.

Ultimately, a pastor’s sermon concerning religious beliefs and teachings could be considered to cause violence and will be punished or at least investigated. Once the legal framework is in place,
political pressure will be placed on prosecutors to investigate pastors or other religious leaders who quote the Bible or express their long-held beliefs on the morality and appropriateness of certain behaviors. Religious teachings and common beliefs will fall under government scrutiny, chilling every American’s right to worship in the manner they choose and to express their religious beliefs.

Hate crimes laws could be used to target social conservatives and traditional morality. Hate crimes laws have already been used to suppress speech disfavored by cultural elites—indeed this may be
their principal effect. Of the 4300 hate crimes against persons reported by the FBI in 2007, over 2,000 incidents involved ‘‘intimidation,’’usually defined as threatening words. The ‘‘intimidation’’ category does not even exist for ordinary crimes. This vague concept is already being abused by some local governments, which target speech in favor of traditional morality as hate speech. In New York, a pastor who had rented billboards and posted biblical quotations on sexual morality had them taken down by city officials, who cited hate-crimes principles as justification.”(Underscoring Forum’s.)

Four members of the U. S. Civil Rights Commission warned the House leadership last week —

“We believe that LLEHCPA will do little good and a great deal of harm.”
. . . . .

 “. .  .  [T]he framers of the Bill of Rights . . . never dreamed that federal criminal jurisdiction would be expanded to the point where an astonishing proportion of crimes are now both state and federal offenses.  We regard the broad federalization of crime as a menace to civil liberties.  There is no  better place to draw the line on that process than with a bill that purports  to protect civil  rights.”

The Competitive Enterprise Institute’s Hans Bader also cautioned  – –

“Supporters of the hate crimes bill also see it as a way to prosecute people even in cases where the evidence is so weak that state prosecutors have decided not to prosecute. Attorney General Eric Holder has pushed for the hate crimes bill as a way to prosecute people whom state prosecutors refuse to prosecute because of a lack of evidence. To justify broadening federal hate-crimes law, he cited three examples where state prosecutors refused to prosecute, citing a lack of evidence.  In each case, a federal jury acquitted the accused, finding them not guilty.

Advocates of a broad federal hate-crimes law have pointed to the Duke Lacrosse case as an example of where federal prosecutors should have stepped in and prosecuted the accused players — even though the state prosecution in that case was dropped because the defendants were actually innocent, as North Carolina’s attorney general conceded, and were falsely accused of rape by a woman with a history of violence (including trying to run over someone with her car) and making false accusations.”

Still believe the threat to free speech is overblown? 

Consider the ‘‘Megan Meier Cyberbullying Prevention Act’’ here introduced last month by Linda Sanchez of California and co-sponsored by John Sarbanes of Maryland and 16 other members including Republican Mark Kirk of Illinois.

Explains Eugene Volokh here

“1. I try to coerce a politician into voting a particular way, by repeatedly blogging (using a hostile tone) about what a hypocrite / campaign promise breaker / fool / etc. he would be if he voted the other way. I am transmitting in interstate commerce a communication with the intent to coerce using electronic means (a blog) ‘to support severe, repeated, and hostile behavior’ — unless, of course, my statements aren’t seen as “severe,” a term that is entirely undefined and unclear. Result: I am a felon, unless somehow my ‘behavior’ isn’t ‘severe.’

2. A newspaper reporter or editorialist tries to do the same, in columns that are posted on the newspaper’s Web site. Result: Felony, unless somehow my ‘behavior’ isn’t severe.

3. The politician votes the wrong way. I think that’s an evil, tyrannical vote, so I repeatedly and harshly condemn the politician on my blog, hoping that he’ll get very upset (and rightly so, since I think he deserves to feel ashamed of himself, and loathed by others). I am transmitting a communication with the the intent to cause substantial emotional distress, using electronic means (a blog) ‘to support severe, repeated, and hostile behavior.’ (I might also be said to be intending to “harass” — who knows, given how vague the term is? — but the result is the same even if we set that aside.) Result: I am a felon, subject to the usual utter uncertainty about what ‘severe’ means.”

Or, as Jonah Goldberg wrote today – – “There Goes My Hate Mail.”

The final barrier to stop such menacing legislation is, of course, the U. S. Senate

A RedState columnist urges conservatives to push for senator Jeff Sessions to be Republican Ranking Member (taking senator Arlen Specter’s place) on the Judiciary Committee in view of coming nomination of a successor to retiring justice David Souter – –

“A Roll Call story by John Stanton just posted that references our conversation here regarding the importance of Jeff Sessions being Judiciary Committee Republican Ranking Member instead of Chuck Grassley or Orrin Hatch. The most significant paragraphs are below:

‘The conservative blog redstate.com and other activists and media outlets already have started pushing back against Grassley. They are organizing call-ins to Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s (R-Ky.) office, urging him to block his ascension on the panel. Redstate.com urges readers to register their opposition to the Grassley plan, arguing that ‘to have Orrin Hatch or Chuck Grassley at the helm would be an unmitigated disaster. Each are cut from the same cloth — that of the old guard Republicans in the Senate who have given us the train wreck that the Party has become.’

A GOP leadership aide, however, said there is little that McConnell can do at this point, and the Minority Leader is almost certain to avoid choosing sides in the brewing dispute. But the source said that if Grassley can persuade enough Members to back him, the Conference rules allow for it.

That may be technically true under the rules – but this is precisely the problem. Leaders – real leaders – recognize the goal and do what they need to do to attain it. That is what Mitch McConnell needs to do. Lead, dang it. Jeff Sessions is a capable, smart, conservative lawyer – and is the right man to lead the Committee right now. Chuck Grassley is not the guy to do it – and the old Senate guard ‘seniority’ structure shouldn’t be the deciding factor on how to proceed.”(Underscoring Forum’s.)

Senator Jeff Sessions would be equally valuable in stopping anti-free-speech legislation.

As RedState counsels —

“Mitch McConnell’s phone number is 202-224-3121 (call your Senator, too, if he’s Republican).”

Setting up an effective Senate barrier to anti-free-speech legislation is the important shorter-term solution.  A longer-term challenge is coming to grips with the fact that many colleges and universities accustom their students — many of whom are bound for managerial and professional positions — to so-called speech codes at the formative period of their education.  Don’t think this is going on at schools you know about?  Click here to find out for yourself from the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education whose work is essential to our way of life. American higher learning should nurture our traditional freedoms which make critical thinking possible, not suppress them in the name of some ideology discredited in the last century.

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