New Hate Crime Laws

H.3404 would create new felonies and accompanying sentences for offenses against a person (think murder, assault, etc.), or destroying or defacing property, if the offense was committed with the intent to assault, intimidate, or threaten a person because of his race, religion, color, sex, age, national origin, or sexual orientation. Naturally, assault and destruction of private property are already illegal but the current penalties for the crimes doesn’t vary based on who they were committed against.

The problem with hate crime laws such as those proposed by H.3404 is that they punish individuals not for actions but for thoughts. This kind of punishment goes directly against first amendment rights. One needn’t endorse acts of violence or vandalism to be opposed to the criminalization of certain beliefs. We need to be extremely cautious about using the state to enforce the boundaries of acceptable opinion. The founders recognized that even punishing speech considered to be repugnant to a majority of people can be the first step on a road to ever more pervasive censorship.

The state should not be creating and policing thought crime.

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