Monday, July 6, 2009

UPDATED: Does the relevant section of the upcoming "Hate Crime" statute provide adequate protection for freedom of speech, religion and assembly?

My instinct is to reject "hate crime" legislation because existing laws protect all citizens equally from crimes against person or property, and because such laws are used in some places to stifle citizen's speech, religion and assembly rights. UPDATE: Bob Ellis at DakotaVoice lists some of the absurd applications of such laws, and these examples should not be taken lightly.

But to be fair, Rep. Stephanie Herseth-Sandlin, who supported the House version, and others who favor the statute make the points that this is simply an extra prosecutorial tool that might help deter a particular type of crime, and that the legislation provides safeguards so that it can't be used to prosecute people for expressing opinions.

Here's the relevant section of S.909, which emphasizes that the law covers only violent acts and is not applicable to various types of speech. See what you think. Are these safeguards enough to prevent erosion of the First Amendment?

3 comments:

Peter said...

Just look in Canada and the UK what they did and do with "hate crimes" legislation.

Now coming to a country near you....

cp said...

"This Act applies to violent acts" -- specifically NOT to speech.

To imply that this is an attack on freedom of speech is really stretching the truth.

TLF+ said...

cp - I am impressed with Section 10 as it seems like the sponsors really listened to the civil rights concerns.

But when you look at examples from other places, for instance Canada where Peter (first comment) lives, you can see why there is a knee jerk resistance to the very idea of this kind of legislation.

That's why I felt it important to post the actual text of the act - it seems pretty specific about this applying only to violence and not to Constitutionally protected speech and action.

If that's so - (you're a South Dakota blogger, so you know we're all cynical about politicians)- but if Section 10 is as well written as it seems, then it looks like folks really got their act together to make the law as sensible as possible.

But we'll see. It just takes one loopy court or "agency" someplace to read into it what doesn't seem to be there.