Hate Crimes?

Two issues have surfaced of late which put a spotlight on hate crimes.  Hate crimes legislation—like the concept of tolerance—is a politically coercive attempt to wrestle morality from its historic moorings to soothe the consciences of those who are viscerally (though typically not reasonably) opposed to the Judeo-Christian mores of America’s past.  Two recent incidents will tell this tale for us.


First, there is the gang rape of a 28 year-old woman in California.  The woman is reportedly an openly gay activist who sports a gay pride rainbow on her vehicle.  The AP has an article covering the event.  Rightly, the reporter is outraged at the crime.  It seems to me, however, that the real crime and the real injustice is downplayed for the supposedly more severe “hate crime” involved in this scenario. 


I wish to challenge the notion that the horror here is the motive.  If the motive of the four thugs was to rape a lesbian because of her sexual preference, then they are, certainly, hateful people.  They are hateful, though, not because they disapprove of lesbianism.  Many reasonable people disapprove of lesbianism.  They are hateful because they committed the awful, demeaning, and brutal act of rape against this woman.  Their crime was not opposition to lesbianism.  Their crime was rape, brutal and savage rape.


The news coverage, however, continues to make lesbianism—not rape—the issue.  This article comes complete with prior year statistics on hate crimes against LGBT people.  It also is rife with speculations and accusations of homophobia whether well-founded or not… (see the last sentence in the article).


On the other side is this news story concerning the burning of Sarah Palin’s former church: The Wasilla Bible Church.  This crime, though I do not think it is at all comparable to rape—unless the arsonist was also targeting the people who were inside the church at the time the fire was set (a possibility, to be sure)—this crime clearly was committed as a “hate crime,” too.  Just as in the one case the crime was presumably committed because of the perpetrators’ animus against lesbians, so, too, in this church-burning case, the crime was presumably committed because of the perpetrators’ animus against Christians. 


My point is not to make sure hate crimes targeting Christians are equal to hate crimes targeting homosexuals.  My point is to say that crimes are crimes.  Motive helps us to understand why a person committed a crime, but it is the crime itself that should outrage us, not the motive.  Arson is bad, especially in a case like this; it puts lives in danger.  Rape is bad, as it demeans the value and dignity of women.  Rape is brutal.  Arson is hateful.  They are crimes that ought to be punished.


To add the “hate crimes” part is to add a confusing element which, though it is intended to heighten awareness, actually ends up obscuring the obvious.  These 2 stories illustrate the point.  In the first story, the reader will think the issue is about gays and lesbians; it is not.  It is about the crime of rape against woman who was attacked by 4 men.  They ought to receive the most severe punishment possible.


In the second story, the reader doesn’t get even a hint of a possible hate crime having been committed.  There are no statistics related to crimes against Christians (though most school shootings and several high-profile church shootings are a matter of public record).  There are no statistics about the epidemic of church burnings which has scourged America over the past 2 decades.  The problem of church burnings, in fact, became so rampant that then-president Bill Clinton set up a commission to track the problem and advise toward its solution.


You see, all these new cultural buzzwords—tolerance, hate crimes, fairness, diversity—are obfuscations of the truer, more easily definable and more reasonably maintained words of the past: truth and  justice.  The new words are employed to redefine crimes away from the actual crimes and toward political, ideological “crimes” with which certain parties take offense.  The church burning example is so helpful here because it demonstrates just how easy it is to distort motives and thoughts and just how necessary it is to abide with—in Dragnet terms—just the facts, ma’am. 


Probably few of us are well aware of the epidemic of church burnings around the country.  However, many of us will remember the reports from 10 or 12 years ago on all the “black church burnings.”  The reality of the facts is that there were no “black church” burnings (in the sense of their being out of proportion to “white church” burnings).  No conspiracies against or singling out of African Americans was ever proved.  Though the news agencies were reporting rising “intolerance” against African-Americans, the truth ended up being less sensational than that; there were (and are) church burnings.  The crime is arson.  It happened in Wasilla.


In Wasilla, the crime was arson and, possibly, attempted murder.  In California, the crime was rape.  Those who perpetrated the crimes ought to be punished to the full extent of the law, regardless of their motives.  They are guilty criminals.  Obviously, their hearts are full of hate.  We can’t control their thoughts and emotions.  We can control and punish their behavior.  This we must do.  We must find out the truth and punish criminals with retributive justice in relation to their crimes. 


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