'Hate Crimes' Bill Would Open a Prosecutorial Pandora's Box

On April 2, Rep. John Conyers (D.-Mich.) and 42 cosponsors introduced H.R. 1913, the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2009 in the House and the legislation was referred to the House Committee on the Judiciary. As we write, the bill has 120 cosponsors and the House has scheduled action on it for April 29, when it will be considered and considered and debated on the House floor. An April 29 vote is likely.

While the stated objective of H.R. 1913 is “to provide Federal assistance to States, local jurisdictions, and Indian tribes to prosecute hate crimes, and for other purposes,” this legislation, if passed, would open the door to a wide variety of abuses. Among the “trouble spots” with this proposed legislation:

• “State and local authorities are now and will continue to be responsible for prosecuting the overwhelming majority of violent crimes in the United States, including violent crimes motivated by bias. These authorities can carry out their responsibilities more effectively with greater Federal assistance.”

The legislation attempts to categorize crime according to the “motivations” of the perpetrator. As a writer in The New American magazine once noted:

Hate crimes legislation creates a new body of laws based on the underlying motivations behind criminal acts. When penalties are enhanced, then the thoughts themselves are criminalized. This approach is essentially totalitarian, no matter how repugnant the motivating beliefs, since it requires the state to prove what is in the mind of a defendant and (in the case of enhanced penalties) to punish his beliefs.

Furthermore, when the bill proposes that local law enforcement authorities be given federal assistance, the end result will be federal control over all law enforcement.

• “Existing Federal law is inadequate to address this problem.”

The reason federal law is supposedly inadequate is because crimes that would most likely be committed out of hate, such as assault, battery, and murder, are already being prosecuted by state and local government. Federalizing such crimes (even by definition) creates a redundant layer of law enforcement that can only lead to the aforementioned federal control of all law enforcement.

• “Federal jurisdiction over certain violent crimes motivated by bias enables Federal, State, and local authorities to work together as partners in the investigation and prosecution of such crimes.”

Again, the legislation attempts to ascertain and criminalize motivations, coming dangerously close to creating a category of “thought crimes” as depicted by George Orwell in 1984.  And the establishment of federal jurisdiction over crimes traditionally prosecuted at the state level is an infringement upon states’ rights.

• “The term `local' means a county, city, town, township, parish, village, or other general purpose political subdivision of a State.”

Such language raises the potential for federal interference of law enforcement matters into the tiniest hamlets of America. Even a fight between neighbors of different ethnic or philosophical persuasions might be labeled as “a hate crime.”

• “The Attorney General may provide technical, forensic, prosecutorial, or any other form of assistance in the criminal investigation or prosecution of any crime that — (A) constitutes a crime of violence; (B) constitutes a felony under the State, local, or Tribal laws; and (C) is motivated by prejudice based on the actual or perceived race, color, religion, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability of the victim….”

Not content to cite “sexual orientation,” the legislation includes “gender identity,” meaning that, theoretically, a bouncer who exerted an indiscreet amount of physical force in ejecting a disorderly cross dresser from a nightclub might be charged with “a hate crime.”

While H.R. 1913’s original sponsor, John Conyers, attempted to reassure the reluctant that “The bill only applies to bias-motivated violent crimes and does not impinge public speech or writing in any way,” another cosponsor, Rep. Sheila Jackson-Lee (D-Texas) signaled her intention that the legislation would apply not only to attacks with sticks and stones, but also with words: “We also need to protect those potential victims who may be the recipients of hateful words or hateful acts, or even violent acts.”

Attempting to ascertain an assailment’s motivations is a difficult assignment, and sure to create more problems than it solves. Our state and local authorities have protected their citizens against violent crime since our nation’s founding. All violent crime is hateful. Motivations are irrelevant. There is no need to complicate the prosecution of crime any further, or to invite federal agents to interfere in local matters.

Urge your representative and senators in Congress to oppose passage of H.R. 1913, the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2009.

Follow this link to an alert that allows you to email your representative and senators now, urging them to oppose  this dangerous legislation.

To read more about this threat to states' rights and traditional values, read this message posted by the Traditional Values Coalition:

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