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Is Hate Crimes Bill Needed?

SENATE BILL 35, WHICH passed in the Senate before getting knocked down in the Houses Judiciary committee, would allow penalties to be increased up to 20 percent if it was proved that a crime was committed because of the victim's race, color, religion, ethnicity, ancestry, national origin, sexual orientation, gender or disability.

Arkansas is one of only seven states now that doesn't have some sort of hate crimes law. Sen. Bill Walker, D-Little Rock, sponsor of the so-called "hate crimes" bill, said he plans to bring it back before the House committee later this session. And Attorney General Mark Pryor said, "We. have clear language in the bill that says we're not punishing mere abstract thought. We need this law to put the tools in the hands of the criminal justice system."

But do we?

The stated purpose of hate crime laws is to protect certain minority groups from persecution. But we already have criminal laws that prohibit certain actions and protect individuals and groups against force or fraud. So the only logical explanation for a hate crimes law is to prosecute the criminal's ideas. Do we really want to start punishing those? That sounds wrong and un-American to us, just as wrong and un-American it is to hate people or groups simply because they differ from us. To increase the punishment for a criminal act depending upon the identity of the victim also seems un-American.

To remain a free society, we need to preserve our system of criminal law to punish criminal acts, not repugnant ideas. If we start punishing ideas, that which is criminal will depend (even more than it already does) on whether liberals or conservatives are in power in any given legislative year.
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Title Annotation:Government Activity
Comment:Is Hate Crimes Bill Needed?(Government Activity)
Publication:Arkansas Business
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Mar 5, 2001
Words:287
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