Monday, September 10, 2007

Hate-Crimes Bill Would Limit Basic Freedoms

Hate-Crimes Bill Would Limit Basic Freedoms

Thomas J. Shaheen, Vice President for Policy at Pennsylvania Family Institute

Dangerous "hate crimes" legislation passed by the U.S. House of Representatives represents one of the most serious threats yet to at least two of our most fundamental freedoms. The Senate could prove to be the last line of protection against its passage.

Under the proposed law, acts of crime committed against members of certain protected classes -- including those who identify themselves by their "actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity" -- would warrant harsher penalties than the very same acts committed against other persons. This is likely a violation of our 14th Amendment right of equal protection under the law, a clause that asserts that all people will be treated the same by our legal system.

But hate-crime laws would strip us of a second, even more fundamental set of freedoms -- our First Amendment guarantees of freedom of speech, freedom of the press and freedom of religion. Similar laws in other countries and in cities within the United States have been used to criminalize expression of religious views against homosexual behavior. 

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