Indiana Hate Crime Bill: the legislative equivalent of “All Lives Matter”

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The State of Indiana is currently one of five states that does not have a specified hate crime bill on the books. And, if some lawmakers have their way, that will continue.

Let’s pause for just a minute to let that sink in.

Forty-five states have seen fit to include specific hate crime laws because they recognize that hate crimes are a thing. These states recognize the fact that there are minority groups that are targeted because they are minorities and for no other reason. Indiana’s Governor Holcomb (R) has called on lawmakers to get this bill passed, and yet, it seems as though it is his party that doesn’t want to do it.

Believe it or not, there are those who believe a hate crime bill is not important. They figure that what is illegal is illegal, and there shouldn’t be a need to specify particular groups of people who have been singled out.

However, hate crime legislation is important because we still have too many people that can’t seem to get it through their heads that it is NOT okay to attack somebody, and it is especially NOT okay to attack somebody simply because they are different.

According to 2017 statistics released by the FBI, there was an increase in hate crimes reported in nearly every single category — race, sexual orientation, religion, disability and gender. Gender identity is the only category that saw a decrease from 2016 to 2017 (119 in 2017 compared to 124 in 2016); it may not seem like a large number, however, 119 is still way too many.

Nearly 60% of hate crimes are racially motivated, and nearly 60% of hate crimes that were reported were specifically against people (as opposed to property — i.e. vandalism at a mosque/church/synagogue — or society — narcotic, prostitution, weapon violations).

So, why is hate crime legislation important? Because it is important for lawmakers and for society to recognize that there are those in our midst who are in the minority that are targeted because they are in the minority.

It is important for us to stand together for those who may not feel empowered to stand for themselves because society has still not evolved to a place where people can look past differences and see the humanity in others.

Yes, vandalism is a crime already, and people who commit crimes should and (under ideal circumstances) will be punished for their crimes. However, spray painting swastikas on a synagogue is a different level of crime. This is not a harmless prank that kids do without thinking. It is an attack on a particular way of life. A way of life that is despised by the perpetrator.

Yes, assault is a crime already, and people who assault other people should and (under ideal circumstances) will be punished for their crimes. However, getting into a fight with somebody over a disagreement in a bar is significantly different than following an African American into the parking lot at 2:00 A.M. with the intention of assaulting him/her because of the color of his/her skin.

But, why the differentiation? Why is a crime committed against an African American worst than a crime committed against a white person? Because a hate crime is not a crime against a person; it is a crime against a people.

When the Nazis were rounding up people of Jewish descent and putting them in concentration camps, they weren’t rounding up persons; they were rounding up a people. We call that genocide. It’s worse.

Indiana’s most recent attempt to pass a hate crime law has hit a significant bump in the road. Actually, considering it’s February in Indiana, it’s probably more accurate to say that it has hit a giant pothole.

In a move that supposedly would garner more support for the hate crime bill, the senate version has been amended to eliminate mention of groups that would be protected by the bill.

In other words, the legislation was initially written to say that we, as a society and as a legislature, will not stand for people committing crimes against others because they are of a different color, creed, disability, national origin, race, religion or sexual orientation because their lives matter. And the Indiana Senate said, “All lives matter! Let’s not give any group preference!”

But here’s the problem: while African Americans comprise just 13% of the population, African Americans are targeted in 28% of hate crimes. This is a problem, folks!

In a “letter to the editor” recently published in the Evansville Courier & Press, the author suggests that Indiana’s attempt at passing hate crime legislation is

another attempt by the militant homosexual and transgender radicals to attain “super rights” while the rest of us are delegated mere “rights”. It puts them one step closer to their ultimate goal — “hate speech” legislation. They will not stop until any Christian who voices opposition to their way of life can be prosecuted for committing a crime. Christians have already been prosecuted under “hate crime laws” for peacefully disapproving of homosexual behavior in Sweden, England and Canada.”

Now, because I don’t tend to take things at face value, particularly things that sound as paranoid as this letter, I did a quick search on Christians who have been prosecuted under “‘hate crime laws’ for peacefully disapproving of homosexual behavior.”

I found this article. In it, a pastor who was sentenced to one month in prison for “inciting hatred against homosexuals,” is also quoted as referring to homosexuality as “abnormal, a horrible cancerous tumor in the body of society.” And then the comment is made that “in Sweden, biblical preaching is now a crime.” Except… it’s not.

Are there Scriptures that speak out against homosexuality? Yes. We can talk about interpretation all we want, but the bottom line is that they exist.

Does referring to homosexuality as “a horrible cancerous tumor in the body of society” sound like biblical preaching? No. I cannot think of any sermon during which those words would be appropriate and could be said in a way that glorified the gospel, lifted up the name of Jesus, and encouraged people in their life of faith.

For some reason, people have come to believe that hate crime legislation is a sneaky way for the so-called “Gay Agenda” cabal to “have its way with society”. The last half of the sentence is probably one of the most idiotic things that you will read this week, and I apologize. But this is the kind of paranoia that we are seeing in today’s society, in which there is no shortage of conspiracy theories that can capture our attention. Frankly, it’s ridiculous and embarrassing.

Here’s the thing, Indiana. Do the right thing. Stop feeding into the paranoia. Stop fanning the conspiracy flames. Do the right thing, and let people know that it’s not okay to target somebody because of their race, religion, sexual orientation, etc.

We already ascribe differing levels of motive to crimes. There’s a difference between involuntary manslaughter and first degree murder. In both cases, a person is dead, but the motive is significantly different. Allowing judges to take into consideration a motivation of hatred is not going to trample on the rights of anybody. And what it may do is actually force people to reconsider the humanity of the minorities in our midst.

Just some guy who is looking to make my pocket of the world a better place. Life is a journey; let’s walk together and help each other along the way.

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