Saturday, May 02, 2009

Totalitarian Tolerance

The House has approved H.R. 1913, the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act, whose chief sponsor is Congressman Barney Frank, whom, by the way, I saw holding forth with a few admirers at the Boston airport this afternoon.) The bill will now go to the Senate, where it will probably pass on a party-line vote. The bill treats violence against some people as more heinous and worthy of more punishment than violence against other people.

Robert Gagnon, Associate Professor of New Testament at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary puts it this way:
Support for a “hate” bill that enshrines “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” into federal law (note that it is not yet so enshrined) does not mean merely that you oppose hateful, violent acts against persons who self-identify as homosexuals, transsexuals, and cross-dressers. Laws are already in place protecting persons who identify as homosexual or transgendered. They are the same laws that protect all of us from violent physical or verbal attacks.

Support for such a bill means, in effect, that you are in favor of the federal government taking an official, legal stance that opposition to homosexual practice and transgenderism of any sort is hatred and bigotry akin to virulent racism and liable to state prosecution. Any statement against such homosexual practice or transgenderism could be prosecuted as an “incitement” or “inducement” of others to violence, no matter how loving and rational that expression of opposition may be.
H. R. 1913 is not the end but the beginning, and the process that it inaugurates is one that will -- in due course -- intimidate, censure, and criminalize those who fail to capitulate to the post-Christian moral make-over that illiberal liberalism is now in the process of making mandatory.

As the "hate-crime" legislation to the Senate for a vote, it might be worthwhile to look a little farther down the road to where it will lead. It's really about singling out certain people or a certain class of people for special consideration in the enforcement of laws written for everyone.

This from an article in Australia entitled, appropriately, "Thought Police Muscle Up in Britain."
Countryside Restoration Trust chairman and columnist Robin Page said at a rally against the Government's anti-hunting laws in Gloucestershire in 2002: "If you are a black vegetarian Muslim asylum-seeking one-legged lesbian lorry driver, I want the same rights as you." Page was arrested, and after four months he received a letter saying no charges would be pressed, but that: "If further evidence comes to our attention whereby your involvement is implicated, we will seek to initiate proceedings." It took him five years to clear his name.

Page was at least an adult. In September 2006, a 14-year-old schoolgirl, Codie Stott, asked a teacher if she could sit with another group to do a science project as all the girls with her spoke only Urdu. The teacher's first response, according to Stott, was to scream at her: "It's racist, you're going to get done by the police!" Upset and terrified, the schoolgirl went outside to calm down. The teacher called the police and a few days later, presumably after officialdom had thought the matter over, she was arrested and taken to a police station, where she was fingerprinted and photographed. According to her mother, she was placed in a bare cell for 3 1/2 hours. She was questioned on suspicion of committing a racial public order offense and then released without charge. The school was said to be investigating what further action to take, not against the teacher, but against Stott. Headmaster Anthony Edkins reportedly said: "An allegation of a serious nature was made concerning a racially motivated remark. We aim to ensure a caring and tolerant attitude towards pupils of all ethnic backgrounds and will not stand for racism in any form."
The Orwellian mind is at work, filled with puritanical zeal.

16 comments:

Athos said...

Am I wrong to understand this development as a way to acquire new victims - Christians or any who hold traditional faith and morality - by the "progressive" neo-pagan secularists?

In other words, those who swept their houses clean of "superstitious" Christian faith and morals have been occupied by the spirit of the primitive Sacred and now require victim fodder?

It is the familiar and predictable gradient we see in the great Enlightenment projects elsewhere in the old bloody 20th century - Stalinism, Naziism, etc. - the attempt to follow the 2nd Great Commandment while jettisoning the 1st Great Commandment.

Isn't mimetic theory a useful tool for understanding this development?

Doughlas said...

Barney Frank sponsored HR 1913? I thought it was John Conyers.

In response to Athos, I hardly see that this bill victimizes Christians. It is about violent acts, not speech. And presumably, Christians do not beat up gays and lesbians.

The bill is also called the “Matthew Shepard Act.” Matthew Shepard, as you may remember, was crucified on a barbed-wire fence in Wyoming because he was gay. Do you have any idea what the religious affiliation of the two murderers was? What about the religious affiliation of the Kansas pastor who picketed his funeral with slogans like, “Matt Shepherd rots in Hell?”

It’s hard to imagine how people supporting the Matthew Shepard Act are victimizing Christians. It appears that they may be trying to protect gays and lesbians from Christians.

Doughlas Remy

Kevin said...

Gil,
Did you read the full legislation? Note in section 8 it reads:
SEC. 8. RULE OF CONSTRUCTION.

Nothing in this Act, or the amendments made by this Act, shall be construed to prohibit any expressive conduct protected from legal prohibition by, or any activities protected by, the Constitution.

I also recommend listening to State of Belief with the Rev. Welton Gatty. http://www.stateofbelief.com/
His first guest talks about this bill and specifically about prosecutions, or lack thereof, of preachers. I don't know if anything I or anyone else will say will convince anyone that this legislation is a good an necessary measure.
However, I would be remiss in my own conscience if I didn't at least mention it.
Take care.
Ad Astra Per Aspera,
Kevin

normabruns said...

H.R. 1913 (the LLEHCPA) was introduced in the House in March 2007 by Rep. John Conyers (D-MI) and Rep. Mark Kirk (R-IL) with 171 bi-partisan co-sponsors. (I haven’t found Barney Frank’s name associated with it. Maybe you can clarify?)

For anyone interested in this subject, I would recommend the U.S. Department of Justice Web site. A study that they funded in 2000 through their Bureau of Justice Statistics found that 85 percent of law enforcement officials believe bias-motivated crimes to be more serious than similar crimes that are not bias-motivated. Although a random act of violence is a tragic event that impacts the victim and his family and community, the deliberate singling-out of an individual on the basis of religion, race, sexual orientation, or other identity terrorizes an entire community and sometimes the entire nation. When a synagogue is burned or a cross is set afire on a black family’s lawn, the effects are felt far beyond the immediate area. Entire congregations, faith communities or races are severely impacted. Perpetrators of hate crimes commit violent acts as a way of sending a message to others in the same category.

The LLEHCPA doesn’t give anyone special protection. All victims of bias crimes are protected under the statute, whether they’re straight or gay, Christian or atheist. These protections already exist for crimes committed because of the victim’s race, color, religion, and national origin; the LLEHCPA just adds sexual orientation.

The LLEHCPA does not punish hate speech in any way. See the “Rule of Evidence” in the statute: “In a prosecution for an offense under this section, evidence of expression or associations of the defendant may not be introduced as substantive evidence at trial, unless the evidence specifically relates to that offense.” In other words, verbal abuse, name-calling, and other expressions of hatred toward the group are not in themselves actionable. The Act only punishes violent actions, not thoughts, beliefs, or words. Speech may be evidence of a bias motivation, but it does not become evidence until the crime has been committed by the person who used it (not someone else).

Nothing in the Act prohibits the lawful expression of one’s religious beliefs. What is prohibited is violent action that results in death or bodily injury. The assertions made by Robert Gagnon in the second paragraph of your quotation of him are simply wrong.

The two horror stories that you reprinted are not relevant to the LLEHCPA. These incidents, which occurred in the UK, not in the USA, are indeed Orwellian, but it is unfair to project them onto a bill that has been so abundantly clear about the speech issue.

Speculating about where something “will lead” is also fraught. There were so many dire predictions about the effects of gay marriage in states like Massachusetts, but that state still has one of the lowest divorce rates in the country and no ill-effects have been observed. Is there evidence that existing hate-crimes statutes—where properly applied—have resulted in suppression of free speech?

What could dampen free speech is widespread misinformation about LLEHCPA. If you and other bloggers like you are successful in convincing your visitors that they will be prosecuted for hateful speech, then, undoubtedly, free speech will have been a casualty—but not a casualty of the LLEHCPA.

Norma Bruns

Mark Gordon said...

According the FBI, in 2007 there were a total of 1,521 hate crimes committed on account of sexual orientation. Of those, 335 took the form of intimidation (shouting or name-calling); 448 took the form of simple assault (defined as pushing or shoving without physical injury); 242 were crimes of aggravated assault (defined as bodily harm).

In a nation of 300 million people, 1,521 hate crimes committed on the basis of sexual orientation. Of those, the overwhelming majority took the form of name-calling or shoving, with only a relatively few rising to the level of aggravated assault. And those 242 aggravated assaults represented 0.028% of all the aggravated assaults in the United States in 2007, laws against which are already on the books in every state.

The fact is that there is no epidemic of assault based on sexual orientation in the United States. H. R. 1913 is a measure intended only to grant federal protected-class status to homosexuals, transexxuals and transvestites. It won't stop assaults any more than do existing laws. It won't even punish criminals more than do existing laws. Clearly, this bill is intended solely to create the rationale for the eventual prosecution of speech and associations.

Norma Bruns has done us a favor here by citing the relevant passage from the bill's "Rules of Evidence" section, which reads: “In a prosecution for an offense under this section, evidence of expression or associations of the defendant may not be introduced as substantive evidence at trial, unless the evidence specifically relates to that offense.”

But of course, in any prosecution of assault against a homosexual, associations or expressions disapproving of homosexuality per se will be deemed to have specific relevance to the charges at hand. So, for instance, in the case of a teenager hauled into court on a charge of verbally insulting his gay classmate, prosecutors might want to know what church he belongs to, and whether the pastor there has preached on homosexuality. The prosecutor might want to know if the teenager has spent time with the pastor, or youth pastor, and what they might have spoken about. In the end, the pastor himself may be indicted for incitement based on a sermon or a piece of literature he made available after a service.

The real target of H. R. 1913 isn't the teenager accused of verbally abusing his classmate, as in the hypothetical above. There are laws everywhere against intimidation and assault and those laws should be vigorously enforced to protect everyone, including gays,. The real targets of H.R. 1913 are the pastors, the parents, the churches, the private schools ... any institution or person who might voice disapproval of homosexuality, especially on religious grounds.

It would be refreshing for the bill's sponsors and supporters to simply acknowledge what we all know to be true. Barney Frank knows this bill isn't necessary to protect anyone. So do the bill's co-sponsors. So do the gay and other organizations promoting it. So do Doughlas, Kevin and Norma. Everyone knows the bill has nothing to do with protecting anyone from assault. Everyone also knows it is all about using the law to intimidate into silence anyone who rejects homosexuality as morally illicit.

Gil Bailie said...

Two articles in elaboration of the original post:

http://www.latimes.com/news/opinion/commentary/la-oe-wilson3-2009may03,0,248550.story

http://www.lifesitenews.com/ldn/printerfriendly.html?articleid=09042407

normabruns said...

Mr. Gordon’s statistics about hate crimes on account of sexual orientation remind me of the holocaust deniers who say, “Well, anyway, it wasn’t six million Jews that died, it was only two million!”

1521 hate crimes committed on the basis of sexual orientation in a single year is 1521 too many.

3000 deaths in the destruction of the World Trade Center is 3000 deaths too many.

The point that I made so clearly in my second paragraph and that Mr. Gordon seems not to grasp is that each hate crime has a disproportionate effect on an entire community. A hate crime is a terrorist act.

Anticipating that someone might get tripped up on the final clause in the “Rules of Evidence” section, I carefully elaborated, as follows: “Speech may be evidence of a bias motivation, but it does not become evidence until the crime has been committed by the person who used it (not someone else).” Does this need further clarification? Fred Phelps will not be hauled into court for advocating stoning of homosexuals, but if he actually stones one, then his speech will be used as evidence of his motivations.

Mr. Gordon has absolutely no basis for asserting that “the bill is intended solely to create the rationale for the eventual prosecution of speech and associations.” This is clearly an alarmist opinion. If he has solid information about a conspiracy, then I think he should come forward with it.

Mr. Gordon’s example about the teenager is totally misleading. First of all, the teenager would not be hauled into court for verbally abusing his classmate under this law. Second, the claim that the boy’s pastor ”may be” indicted for incitement is simply wrong. As I suggested, such irresponsible and inflammatory claims have a chilling effect on free speech insofar as they spread misinformation about the Act—specifically, misinformation about its implications for speech. The Act itself should not have a chilling effect on speech if it is properly understood and applied.

If it is not by now clear that Mr. Gordon makes wild and unsubstantiated claims, then let us re-read his final paragraph, where he repeatedly claims omniscience about everyone’s knowledge. So I “know that the bill has nothing to do with protecting anyone from assault?” Well, excuse me, but I know nothing of the sort.

And why are we still bringing Barney Frank into this? John Conyers is the Bill’s sponsor. However, please note that I will not claim omniscience about the bloggers’ motivations in associating the Bill with Barney Frank.

Norma Bruns

Doughlas said...

I would like to object to Mr. Gordon’s false and presumptuous claim about the state of my knowledge. (See the final paragraph of his comment.) I do not “know” that HR 1913 is “all about using the law to intimidate into silence anyone who rejects homosexuality as morally illicit.” Not only do I not know that, but I don’t even believe it. Furthermore, I do believe that free speech is essential to democracy, although I believe that hate speech should be discouraged through social opprobrium. As a homosexual, I naturally find “Pastor” Fred Phelps’s speech to be horribly offensive, and yet I have never advocated for any law that would deprive him of his right to express his opinions. I would not support the Matthew Shepard Act (H.R. 1913) if I thought it would abridge anyone’s freedom of speech, and there is no reason to believe that it will, although, as Ms. Bruns points out, disseminating false information about it could have that very effect.

Doughlas Remy

Mark Gordon said...

Norma Bruns writes: "Mr. Gordon’s statistics about hate crimes on account of sexual orientation remind me of the holocaust deniers who say, 'Well,

anyway, it wasn’t six million Jews that died, it was only two million!'"

Two points here: First, for anyone to cynically draw a moral equivalence between the condition of homosexuals in the United States and Jews in Hitler's

Germany is obscene. By pulling such a stunt you trivialize the Holocaust and reveal the calculated moral intimidation that undergirds your entire

argument.

Second, I'm very sorry that the statistics don't support the hysterical claims being made about the prevalence of violence directed at homosexuals. What

would you have me do, make something up? Yes, 1521 crimes are 1521 too many, but the fact is that each of these crimes was prosecuted under

existing law,
as was proper. H.R. 1913 won't stop even one more crime from being committed, and protestations to the contrary notwithstanding,

everyone knows it.

So, what does HR 1913 do?

1. It establishes homosexuals as a federally protected class, which is a violation of the 14th Amendment's guarantee of equal protection under the law.

The effect of this is that it will be "more illegal" to assault a gay man than it is to assault a straight man.

2. It penalizes thought by requiring federally-mandated fines and imprisonment for those who commit crimes against those they "perceive" to be gay. In

other words, the perception itself, the thought, is enough to trigger additional penalties.

3. It penalizes speech by requiring mandatory fines and and imprisonment for those who utter epithets against protected classes during the commission

of crimes. In other words, the speech itself is enough to trigger additional penalties.

4. Because H.R. 1913 rests on the definition of "Principals" in United States Code, Title 18, Section 2a ("Whoever commits an offense against the

United States or aids, abets, counsels, commands, induces or procures its commission, is punishable as a principal), the bill will enable prosecutors to

charge pastors, parents, or anyone else who can reasonably (by the logic of the bill, that is) be said to have provided counsel or inducement which led to

the commission of the crime. This is precisely the same legal logic that has been widely employed in Canada, Sweden and elsewhere to silence

Christian pastors who speak out against homosexuality as a sin.

5. H.R. 1913 opens the federal purse for enforcement, prosecution, and - ominously - "programs designed to combat hate crimes committed by juveniles." "Community groups and schools, colleges and universities" are all cited as "affected parties" eligible for federal largesse. The effect of all this money flowing into communities will be two-fold. First, because subsequent funding will depend on "results," police and prosecutors will focus on crimes against homosexuals, to the exclusion of crimes committed against other, non-protected classes. Second, gay advocacy groups will discover new streams of revenue for developing "programs" designed to propagandize public school students in the norming of homosexuality.

The one thing H.R. 1913 does not do is stop assaults against homosexuals. But that's beside the point. As with "gay marriage," it's not the reality, but the symbolism that's important.

Doughlas said...

Mr. Gordon appears to be reading a lot into Ms. Bruns’ comments. Was she in fact “drawing a moral equivalence between the condition of homosexuals in the U.S. and Jews in Hitler’s Germany?” This term “moral equivalence” is very vague. It could mean almost anything.

If Mr. Gordon is suggesting that Ms. Bruns believes the condition of homosexuals in the U.S. to be like that of Jews in Germany, then I think he is setting up a straw man. I did not understand that to be her meaning. She can clarify this herself, of course.

I did not detect cynicism in Ms. Bruns’ comment. I understood her to say that every victim’s suffering matters. What seems truly cynical to me is to oppose the hate crimes legislation because it is “only” in response to offenses at the level of 1521 per year or because there is not yet an epidemic of violence.

Point Number 1 is incorrect. H. R. 1913 doesn’t establish homosexuals as a federally protected class. It establishes sexual orientation as a federally protected class. This means that federal funds will go toward prosecuting a homosexual who attacks a heterosexual because of his or her orientation. Or vice versa. Everyone is protected.

Point Number 2 is also incorrect. It is not the offender’s “perception” that is punished. It is the offender’s action. A simple perception is useless to a jury unless it is expressed in words or other behavior. Words may be offered as evidence of the offender’s motivations. This is normal, established juridical procedure.

Point Number 3 is incorrect. Again, the speech itself is not the issue. The penalty is for the action. Speech may establish motivation, but that is all. Speech is not penalized.

Point Number 4 is incorrect. Look closely at the words, “aids, abets, counsels, commands, induces, or procures.” Of course anyone, even a pastor, who aids and abets (etc.) in the commission of a crime can be punished as a principal. This, too, is accepted as normal in our system of law. Why make an exception for this statute? A pastor who speaks out about homosexuality as a sin is not a principal unless he aids, abets, counsels (etc.) in the commission of the crime.

Point Number 5 is correct only in the first sentence (a description of how the Bill would work) and only if we omit the word “ominously.” What is so ominous about a program designed to combat hate crimes committed by juveniles? I can enthusiastically support any program that has such an aim. The two “effects” that Mr. Gordon mentions are pure speculation about future events. Unless he has acquired a crystal ball, I think these speculations—which frankly sound a little paranoid—can be ignored.

Mr. Gordon’s last comment, that H.R. 1913 does not stop assaults against homosexuals, is the only one that I would agree with. Probably nothing within our lifetimes will stop assaults against homosexuals. But any law that reduces the number of such incidents has my full support.

Doughlas Remy

normabruns said...

I’m not sure what Mr. Gordon means by “moral equivalence,” and I would encourage him to clarify his comment in the context of the homosexuals, communists, gypsies, and Jews and other “undesirables” who suffered in the Nazi death camps.

Norma Bruns

Cheryl Maslow said...

This is a very engaging discussion, but I think everyone may be missing something very important in it. Hate crimes legislation has been on the books for many years, and it is only recently that sexual orientation has been added to the list of protected categories. Are Messrs Bailie and Gordon objecting only to this addition, or do they object to the very concept of hate crimes laws?

If they are objecting only to the addition of sexual orientation, then I think the discussion should focus on that issue. Why shouldn’t sexual orientation be a protected class, like race, religion, gender, and the other protected categories?

If they are objecting to hate crimes laws in general, then I would think the best approach would be to examine the track record of hate crimes laws that have been on the books over a number of years. This would require a bit of research, but I believe the burden of proof is on those who oppose these laws. The reason I believe this is that these laws are currently in place, and those who oppose them need to make a good case for reversing them.

My sense is that the addition of sexual orientation to these protected categories is the real issue for Messrs Bailie and Gordon. So, maybe it would be more productive and enlightening to examine the issue from this angle. Gay men do not usually beat up on straight men because they are straight, but straight men often do victimize gay men because they are gay. (We can leave females out of this for now, as the violence is usually male-on-male.) So, we can safely say that the opponents of H.R. 1913 have nothing to fear, as they will probably never be assaulted.

Can we ask the opponents to put themselves in the place of the victims? I realize this requires stepping outside one’s usual frame of reference, but is that what the Gospel message is all about? And isn’t this Webspot about Girard’s theories regarding scapegoating, among other things? If we do not understand these most fundamental insights about victimization, then what can we claim to have understood about the Passion?

Cheryl Maslow

Mark Gordon said...

Doughlas Remy writes: "H. R. 1913 doesn’t establish homosexuals as a federally protected class. It establishes sexual orientation as a federally protected class. This means that federal funds will go toward prosecuting a homosexual who attacks a heterosexual because of his or her orientation. Or vice versa. Everyone is protected."

Everyone is already protected, sir. There are laws against assault on the books in every single state in this country. That's the whole point. So, H.R. 1913 is either redundant, and therefore frivolous, or it has as its aim some other end.

Norma Bruns: Twice now you've played the Holocaust card in a discussion of proposed special legal status for homosexuals in the United States. You may be used to getting away with that, but I'm not letting you off the hook because it is cynical and cheap.

normabruns said...

Mr. Gordon, I merely asked you to clarify what you meant by the term “moral equivalence” in the context that we are discussing. I cannot address your accusation until you explain it more fully, and you seem unable to explain it until you step out of your rage.

There, I have now “played the Holocaust card” three times, as you put it. Would you like to escalate from “cynical and cheap” to anything else? Go on, use your imagination.

Your other point (about laws already being on the books, etc.) is simply absurd on its face. Nothing like H.R. 1913 is already on the books in every single state in the country. How could it be? H.R. 1913 is partly about allocation of federal funds. But I won’t argue with you further on that point or about every absurd claim that you make.

Norma Bruns

Doughlas said...

At the risk of provoking Mr. Gordon even further, I, too, hope to hear him elaborate on the meaning “moral equivalence” in his earlier comment. Having visited Mr. Gordon’s blogspot, “Suicide of the West,” I expect he might welcome an invitation to unpack his comment a little for us.

As for Mr. Gordon’s remaining objection to H.R. 1913, I honestly cannot understand getting so worked up about a new law if it is only “redundant.” Ordinary people don’t usually invest this much time and energy opposing redundant laws.

Continuing to claim, in spite of all evidence to the contrary, that H.R. 1913 has sinister aims that everyone--everyone!--really knows about but won’t name is simply unanswerable and has more to do with emotional states than reality.

Doughlas Remy

Trunty Spooke said...

I read Doughlas's (The Bent Angle)comments here in the process of doing some online research on him. This is an older commentary, but my question is highly relevant: What, pray tell, do you make of the fact that the M.Shepherd story has been (since your jamming activities here) shown to be untrue, Mr Bent?