Friday, February 25, 2005

and our friends are all aboard, many more of them live next door

From Slate magazine...more signs our country is on the downward spiral (clockwise, if you're in the northern hemisphere).

This week, the Montana legislature killed a bill that would have added crimes motivated by the victim's sexual orientation to the state's existing hate-crimes law. Opponents worried that such a provision would be used to target religious leaders preaching against homosexuality from their pulpits. Last week, a state lawmaker in Pennsylvania introduced legislation to remove language about sexual orientation from the state's hate-crime law—language first inserted only in 2002. His bill was inspired by the arrests of 11 evangelical protesters at a gay-pride festival last fall. All charges were dismissed last week, but some of the defendants are now suing the prosecutors for bringing charges under Pennsylvania's hate-crimes or "ethnic intimidation" statute.
In the new push-me-pull-you of hate-crime legislation, gay-rights groups are winning victories by having crimes motivated by sexual orientation added to state laws, and conservative groups are just as quickly stripping it out based on constitutional claims of free speech and religion. There is a strange counterintuitive argument heating up across the land, based on the strange theory that it's not OK to hate based on race or religion, but that hating gays is somehow materially different. [emphasis added - Ed.]
These new arguments for stripping sexual orientation from hate-crimes laws are conflations of all that is most wrong in the two classes of arguments above: They assume that non-criminal religious free speech would suddenly be swept up into the hate-crime net and that no religious person preaching that homosexuality is wrong would be safe. But unless there is an underlying criminal offense of "preaching" in this country, both claims are simply inaccurate. The free-speech laws regarding hateful speech are quite clear: Unless you are inciting your listeners to do imminent violence, your speech is protected. The Orwellian notion that you can be jailed for your moral statements alone does not reflect the truth of the hate-crimes laws.

If we are going to debate whether gender, disability, or sexual preference should be added to state and federal hate-crimes legislation, let's have the rational, well-informed version of it. There are valid arguments on both sides. Slippery-slope arguments about wholesale jailings of the nation's clergy is mere fear-mongering, and debates over who's the biggest victim rarely result in fruitful policy.[emphasis added - Ed.]