Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Meditations on equal protection

"All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws."

-- Section One, 14th Amendment, United States Constitution.

No one shall be denied equal protection of the law.

What could be more American? Indeed, did not the Founding Fathers consider it a self-evident truth that all men are created equal?

All men are created equal, and all are deserving of equal protection under the law.

As I consider the recent -- most recent, I guess -- hate crime legislation in the Federal Government, I am reminded of another quote concerning equality.

This quote isn't found in the Declaration of Independence, not is it in the Constitution of the United States.

Instead, this quote is found in a much-later work --1945 -- to be exact.

"All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others."

It is, of course, from the novel Animal Farm by George Orwell -- a work which probably needs to be read more often, especially in schools.

So. Why do some animals get to be more equal than the rest of us; and why in the name of sweet bugger all does the Federal Government think it has the right to decide which animals get to be more equal?

Equal Protection Under the Law can not -- I say again my last -- Can Not be "equal" if one group is getting more protection than others.

Once you have singled out one group, or two groups, or ten groups, and decided that they get more protection than the rest, there is no way that you can claim that All are receiving Equal Protection Under the Law.

At least, not with a straight face.

If all -- ALL, everybody, each and every animal -- are not receiving Equal Protection Under the Law, then someone is violating the Constitution of the United States, and should be tried for treason before being hung by the neck from the rafters of the Capitol Building.

And let us not be coy here: "Hate Crime" is a misnomer. It is not "Hate" crime, that is being legislated, it is "Thought" crime.

Yes, it bloody well is.

If Joe Schmoe walks out of his house and punches a 22 year-old-man in the mouth, it is assault. And Joe is punished for the act.

If Joe Schmoe walks out of his house, punches a 22-year-old-man in the mouth, whiling yelling, "Queer!" what is the difference?

Both acts are assaults. Both acts involve a fist and a mouth, and both acts involve the same level of physical damage.

The difference is that in one, Joe thinks -- thinks -- that his victim is somehow deserving of an assault because of sexual orientation. Or he thinks the sexual orientation is evil. Maybe he thinks his God has a case of the red-arse towards that particular sexual orientation.

Whatever the excuse, it still boils down to the fact that the Federal Government wants to add extra punishment, more charges because of What. Joe. Thinks.

Are you not proud?

Where does it stop?

Government power does not, has not and will bloody never decrease. The government camel never pulls his nose out of the tent.

So. Once we start hacking people for thought crimes, which thoughts should be next?

LawDog

42 comments:

Hammer said...

This mirrors my thoughts on the subject exactly. Who will get a special law next? Lawyers? Shriners? Muslims?

Mark said...

Law Dog, Thank you for this. It actually helps me adjust my opinion. I'll talk about it tonight.

Mark

Bonnie said...

That reminds me of the South Park episode where the words "nigger" and "guy" were decreed never to be spoken within 8 words of each other.

Anonymous said...

*whack*... "I LOVE YOU!"
*stab*... "I LOVE YOU!"
*blam*... "I LOVE YOU!"

Criminal genius!

Anonymous said...

When ever I've been in a violent physical altercation in which myself and my opponent(s) are exchanging vicious hits and kicks and some of the most nefarious are even resorting to biting, spitting and when things really get wild objects get used as weapons, I'm using all sorts of invectives. I'm hurling insults about their mothers, their race, their parentage their parent's marital status at the time of their birth anything and everything. So what. Does that make it some sort of special kind of evil or is just your run of the mill scrap with cursing?

Perhaps the problem is that the people writing these laws have never been in so much as a slap fight in their lives.

Hey I remember calling a white guy a "nigger" when I was dragging him out of a bar ( I was bouncing)and he clocked me up side the head with a coat rack. Could that be considered a hate crime even though we were both white and I called him a "nigger"? If I remember right he called me a "fag" but I'm very heterosexual. Do they cancel each other out? Is there some sort of chart?

Pete said...

Bravo! Like always, you've expressed my very thoughts on the issue, only far more eloquently.

Jason said...

I understand where you are coming from, but I tend to disagree slightly. The government isn't actually offering any more protection to the victim under the law. They are, however, affording harsher punishment if the crime is proven to be discriminitory. Your point that the violence and physical end result are the same, but there is an added emotional scarring that goes along with being assaulted not for something you did or said, but because someone decided to label you, and that you were less deserving of being able to live your life than your assailant is.

I personally believe that you're mixing the crime, the punishment, and the victim in to one convoluted bucket, without examining each separately.

Just my opinion though. I enjoy lurking the blog. Keep it up.

RobC said...

The same goes for Afirmative Action here in my country. It immediately makes part of the population Supermen.

RobC said...

Jason... read LD's missive again please. By making "bad thought" a crime you are discriminating against unthinking crime...
Crime is crime and beating somone half to death has nothing to do with what you think or do not think of him. The fact is you beat a guy!

dracphelan said...

1. I see all forms of assault as "hate" crimes. You are not exactly loving someone when you kick them in the testicles.
2. If a minority punches a white person and yells a racial epithet (cracker, honky, gabacho), will the minority be charged with a hate crime?
3. If a criminal punches a police officer and calls him a pig, will they charge him with a hate crime?

Tam said...

I've said it before and I'll say it again:

If it can be proven that a murderer killed his victim because of their race, religion, sexual orientation, gender, or shoe size, then we should pull the switch twice instead of just onces.

Jason said...

I actually read it several times. And at no point was the penalty for the assault itself reduced when it isn't a hate crime. There are actually penalties added when it is. And in my opinion, theres nothing wrong with taking the opportunity to make a punishment harsher when possible.

Personally, I believe that most punishments should be so henious that it makes people really think before committing a crime. Its why we have varying degrees of murder/manslaughter, assault, robbery, etc.

I have no problem levying harder time on a criminal that targeted someone because of something like skin color, accent, or sexual orientation.

Anonymous said...

There are similar proposals in various places to make "gun crimes" more deserving of longer sentences than crimes with , say, pointy and blunt objects.

The "logic" being that somehow guns imply that the user is somehow more threatening (i.e. pulling a gun is death threat, pulling a knife is a polite request? Or an angry 250lb of me saying "please" ISN't a threat in some cases? ) if "nothing" happens (weapon not fired), and simply deserving of more punishment if actually used.

The mind boggles.

As to hate crimes. Who cares why you punched, stabbed, shot, mangled and mutilated someone? What makes it more heinous that you raped someone because they were (insert colour here) than the fact that you raped them? Only if it was premeditated: If they find your diary and and it says " I'm going to rape a XXX woman tomorrow"

Why should person A Go to jail for 15 years more because he said X while angry while he beat your skull in. Than person B. who coldly said nothing, but is actually racist/religionist.

And why is that saying (something crude with skin colour, or religion) IS a hate crime, but a bunch of socialists torching the bourgeous oppressors Hummer isn't?

Hate Crimes are a morass of double standards and fashion.

Jay G said...

"And in my opinion, theres nothing wrong with taking the opportunity to make a punishment harsher when possible."

So they serve 23 days for assault rather than 22? BFD.

Problem is, we don't have the stomach to put these mo-fos in jail and keep them there. Start making these goblins serve something resembling a full sentence and you'll see this become a thing of the past most rikki-tik...

C. S. P. Schofield said...

I will enter only one dissent;

In certain places (San Francisco, for example) punching someone in the mouth while shouting "queer" would be assault and inciting a riot.

The real problem is that the Liberal Left do not believe in rules. They want - as Rulers of All They Survey - the leeway to punish anyone for anything at any time. They want the State above the Law, answerable to the State alone, and it has never penetrated their thick heads that

a) This is a proven recipe for Hell on Earth

and

b) In every place it has been tried Trendy Progressive Intellectual Twits have been among the very first to be liquidated.

Foo

SK said...

This is the most perfect piece I've ever read on such laws.

Jason said...

1mph-14mph over = $97 fine
15mph-24mph over = $147 fine
25mph + over = $250 fine
And what about the unwritten rule of "9 you fine, 10 you're mine"?

All are speeding. All are illegal. But they have varying degreed of punishment.

Now what I DO have a problem with is that all too often, we see various ethnicitied perpetrating crimes on caucasians, but we almost never consider (and by we I mean society, not "me") that a hate crime, even though they were targeted because they were white.

LawDog said...

1mph-14mph over = $97 fine
15mph-24mph over = $147 fine
25mph + over = $250 fine
And what about the unwritten rule of "9 you fine, 10 you're mine"?

All are speeding. All are illegal. But they have varying degreed of punishment.


Incorrect, on two counts.

1) 1mph-14mph = $97. If you yell, "Queer!", the fine doesn't go to $107, does it? If you're speeding because another drivier is black, the fine doesn't become a Federal offense, does it?

2) The fine may rise, but the charge is still a class 'C' misdemeanor. $1 to $500 - it's still a State class 'C' misdemeanor in the eyes of the law. "Hate" crime legislation wants to yank the charge from State class 'C' to a higher State charge (class 'B', 'A' or felony) AND/OR Federal charges.

Anonymous said...

Recent case:

Football coach assaults white woman reporter who took his picture.

He basically tries to rip camera strap through her neck. She's bleeding and wearing a collar for a while.

Her husband sees this and punches Mr. Coach in the mouth.

As it should be -- no?

Here's the rub: Mr. Coach happens to be black. Mr. & Mrs. Reporter happen to be white.

Better yet, in the heat of the moment MR. reporter dropped the N-bomb.

Now his justified defense of his wife is a "hate crime" and he's probably on his way to prison.

These laws SUCK.

The only reason the Libs are pushing them is they are pandering for votes from the "aggrieved" groups.

Add up all the minorities and what you get is a majority.

DD

Jason said...

Ok, but aren't different levels of charge added if something like "reckless endangerment" gets tagged on because of speed, or school zone, etc? Possibly not, and probably varies from state to state.

Officer discrescion isn't part of written law, if, when recieving a citation, I yell "Thanks a lot you queer ass cop!", I'm bound to probably get examined more closely, possibly searched, have additional equipment violations noted, and should I appear in court, I can almost guarantee that theres going to be a big "A" in a circle on the citation that reminds the officer that I was a dick, and to recommend that the proverbial book be thrown at me.

So in that, the "hate crime" will be a self fulfilling prophecy of litigious process and punishment.

I really feel that its *wrong* to hate someone because of their ethnic background. Should it be illegal? Easily debatable, but as with any subjective matter, theres probably not a right or wrong answer. No one has the right to be un-offended. Someone says something rude, then cowboy the fuck up and get on with life. Someone comes at you with a knife and perforates you because you're gay or black or happen to have a wallet, it doesn't change the end result of the crime, but when the object of the game is to lock bad people away from society for as long as possible, then I'm all for whatever keep the perps in the pokey for as long as possible.

Just my 2 cents. And thanks for letting me discuss this. I've enjoyed it, and will continue to until told to shut the hell up and get off the intraweb.

Anonymous said...

I see what lawdog is trying to say, he says it quite well. I agree that you should be able to yell whatever you want, think whatever you want, feel whatever you want...but when you use these things to spur you into a violent act against someone else, then I think you should have extra penalties added onto your sentence. I would also like to see some more creative punishments. And I love the idea of tent cities and chain gangs for prisoners. Someone recently told me that in the state of Texas you serve more time for agrivated assault than for murder.

Anonymous said...

I'm rather surprised lawyers would have a problem with the concept.

It's called "intent". Now, I'm not a lawyer nor do I play one on TV, but intent can, as I understand it, alter the seriousness of a crime already. After all, intent matters if you're being tried for killing someone, from getting off scott free (justifiable homicide) to getting sent to be killed yourself for first-degree murder.

Zundfolge said...

"Hate Crimes" are a bad enough misuse of government power (punishing one more for what they think is hardly "equality under the law).

The problem is that once you swallow the pill of "Hate Crimes" you then must take the next step.

If saying "nigger" or "queer" while assaulting someone makes the assault worse, then saying "nigger" or "queer" is obviously in and of itself an evil act.

Therefore, the simple use of these words will become a criminal act. Wow ... bye bye first amendment.

Then the next step is to outlaw any form of speech that could be remotely interpreted to be insults to blacks or gays (or [insert group here]).

So now when Bill Cosby says black kids need to stop using the N word and shooting each other over sneakers he goes to jail. When a preacher reads the verse in Leviticus condemning "lying with a man as one does a woman" he goes to jail.

You can see where this ends.

We should punish criminal ACTS, not potential criminal acts, nor criminal "thoughts".

MorningGlory said...

This one has me thinking, and that's not always a good thing.

Here in NC, we have several "levels" of assault including Simple Assault, Assault on a Female, Assault on a Peace Officer, etc. Each carries a different penalty, as it is considered somehow worse to assault a woman or a cop than a man or a doctor or a janitor.

A female or a juvenile can't be (can NOT be) charged with Assault on a Female - that is a privilege reserved for adult men only. So bonnie or I can beat the crap out of a woman and be charged with Simple Assault, but if hammer, or mark, or pete, or Jason touches a woman in anger he will be charged with "Assault on a Female", with a much steeper penalty. How is that "equal protection"?

I disagree with Jason. Assault is assault no matter what the reason behind it. To incur additional penalty because the reason for the assault is that you're a bigot, or a homophobe, or whatever, is nothing more than making your thoughts illegal. Right or wrong, everyone has their opinion and even if I disagree with it, you have a right to have it.

Anonymous said...

I completely agree with Lawdog's assesment of the subject of Hate/Thought Crime. I do believe, however, he must take this argument to the next logical step and also condemn the differentiation between first and second degree murder. In most states, premeditated murder is considered first degree while other types of killings receive lesser indictments. This means that my thoughts are criminalized if I think that I want to kill someone. These thoughts are actually worth jail time, possibly even the death penalty! You could lose your life for what you think.
I would love to see the racists and biggots spend longer in jail for racially or sexually motivated offenses, but I just don't think you can justify that under the Constitution. I may deplore what you say, but I'll defend your right to say it.
As always a fantastic post and great feedback.
Thanks,
Sarah

Flintlock Tom said...

I can see the inevitable case in which someone beats up a homosexual, while screaming "fag", then it turns out the guy is not gay. Or the KKK gets the address wrong and burns a cross in some white families yard. Are these still "hate crimes"?
The intent and motivation is the same.

Jason said...

I think that what I am comming around to is not that we need hate crime laws, but that the current crime:punishment ratio isn't sufficient to deter the commission of the crime. What you're saying is that it shouldn't matter *why* someone got beat/shot/stabbed, only that whoever did it should be punished. I agree, it shouldn't matter *why* someone committed a violent act, only that they did. In that, if people are still committing said acts, they believe that either a) they won't get caught or b) if they do get caught, the risk of getting caught is worth the reward of the commission of the crime.

That said, what we're saying is "don't punish certain people for *thinking* a certain way", which I can understand. So would we agree that the punishments we currently have for violent crimes aren't enough of a deterrent to prevent people from committing them?

Anonymous said...

"If Joe Schmoe walks out of his house, punches a 22-year-old-man in the mouth, whiling yelling, "Queer!" what is the difference?
...
The difference is that in one, Joe thinks -- thinks -- that his victim is somehow deserving of an assault because of sexual orientation. Or he thinks the sexual orientation is evil. Maybe he thinks his God has a case of the red-arse towards that particular sexual orientation."

Or most likely he's screaming insults at random with no thought about whether or not they actually apply to the victim - like the straight poster who called a white man a "nigger" in the middle of a fight and was called a "fag" in return. But if one of them had happened to be black or gay, it would be a "hate crime".

And then you get into the piling on of charges that DA's often indulge in to try to get a plea bargain. I suspect that even if no such words were uttered, if one of the fighters happened to be in a protected group and the DA wanted to prosecute (say, to get black votes in the next election, ala Nifong), they'd be looking hard for "proof" that it was a "hate crime". It does indeed make some people more equal than others.

There was a time and place when something was needed, because attacks upon particular groups weren't being prosecuted or the juries would nullify - but that time is long past. Nor would a "hate crime" enhancement have helped in those cases, because if they wouldn't prosecute or convict on the basic charge, the enhancement was worthless. So what we're left with is a law that makes some minorities more equal than others, which will help to perpetuate actual racism.

Arfin Greebly said...

'Dog, excellent, as usual.

Actually more excellent.

Hate crime legislation in fact creates institutionalized bigotry.

All the while providing the platform planks for "tolerance of everything," or, said differently, the complete absence of morality -- since "nothing is really wrong any more" -- while making it a crime to attempt any teaching of right and wrong.

Socialism at its finest.

Oh, and for the poster who feels that yelling "jerk!" expresses "intent" I beg to differ: it more expresses opinion.

What's being punished is an opinion, not an intent.


[editorial red pen]

Oh, and by your leave, may I indicate a couple of minor typos?
"This quote isn't found in the Declaration of Independence, not is it in the Constitution of the United States."

I'm thinking you meant "nor" there.

"If Joe Schmoe walks out of his house, punches a 22-year-old-man in the mouth, whiling yelling, "Queer!" what is the difference?"

Which should be "while" yelling?

[/editorial red pen]

Thanks for an excellent article, Mr. 'Dog.

~~ ArfinGreebly (THR)

threadbndr said...

I can honestly see both Dog and Jason's points here.

Intellectually, I agree with LD, that we do NOT want to slide down the slippery slope of the thought police and criminalizing attitude.

BUT, I am *just* old enough to remember the civil rights movement in the 1960s where claiming one's rights (or supporting someone else doing so) COULD get one lynched - literally. And I remember the torture and killing of Matthew Shepherd, too.

And those crimes hit me in the gut as somehow WORSE because the victim(s) were singled out - not just because the goblin was looking for 'prey', but because he was looking for a specific KIND of prey.

Unix-Jedi said...

To those who defend the hate crimes:

Please tell me what they are.
Specifically.

Because in my experience watching "Hate Crime" legislation, it seems to follow a similar pattern: Only White Males can be guilty of it.

So, for example, when the black teenagers go looking for "white bitches to rape" (as happened in VA) is that a hate crime? (And if you say yes, why are they not being charged under those statutes?)

So please tell me - let's get this out, clear, and plain, what is going to be illegal, and who's going to be charged.

Anonymous said...

The government does not have the right to determine the value of someone’s life. Society does that by the value they contribute to said society. A doctor, teacher, or biochemist may contributive to the society they live in by developing a new technique for heart surgery, or encouraging a pupil to excel in academia, or creating a substance to eradicate a deadly disease. But for the government (state or federal) DO NOT have the right to tell me that my wife, my child or grandchild’s life has less value than some one else’s.

A jury of my peers has the charge sometimes to evaluate the loss of a spouse in monetary value in determining how much should be awarded in a civil case and that’s as it should be. But is the murder of my wife or child less abhorrent than the murder of someone that may happen to be born with a skin different color, or engage in a sexual lifestyle different than my wife or child, or declare allegiance to a different god that they did? Why not just allow the government to declare that all (enter race, gender, sexual persuasion) lives are more valuable to society than anyone else’s. See the slippery slope that these “hate crimes” could put us on?

Adding to LW’s his assessment of why a “hate crime” is ridiculous, as long as I kept the reason of why I assaulted or murdered someone to myself and/or the prosecution could not find evidence of my reasoning, I could not be indicted with that additional charge. So what’s the point?

dracphelan said...

On Matthew Shepherd. The perpetrators are guilty of premeditated murder. If they are not on death row (or dead), they need to be.

Anonymous said...

It's a statistical fact that white men rarely commit rape on black women. In fact statistically it is 0%. It is even less when you consider that hispanics are counted as white in the statistics.

from FBI Crime stats in 2005 37,460 white females were raped by black men while between 0-10 black females were raped by white men.

Should these be counted as hate crimes? I mean, when a systematic wholesale raping of the female population of another race occurs it is usually considered a hate, or a war crime and/or genocide is it not? Lord knows if whitey was doing the unrequested orifice stuffing we'd never hear the end of it.

Anonymous said...

As to speeding tickets getting progressively larger with higher speeds.

That's not "different fines for the same crime" it's rare and intelligent real world concession to the fact that being 5% over the limit is a much lessor crime (and less of a danger) than going 100% over the limit.

And to which comment I would like to publicly thank the NY State Cop who didn't bother to chase me the other day when I was doing 80 in a 55mph zone. (The reason being I was trying to pass the solid wall of about 17 semi trailers grinding up that hill and get to the traffic hole that would allow me to exit. sheesh)

Speaking of dumb laws, apprently the brits are planning to ban samaurai swords. Apparently were were a couple or three high profile attacks by someone with them, so something must be done. And I've heard rumblings fromthe same quarter about long pointy kitchen knives, after all "who needs a long pointy knife inthe kitchen?"

Anonymous said...

I wonder why it matters what race a woman is who has been raped, and why it matters what race the pig was who raped her? It is rape and he should be castrated and made to eat the parts they cut off.

Justin said...

mph-14mph over = $97 fine
15mph-24mph over = $147 fine
25mph + over = $250 fine
And what about the unwritten rule of "9 you fine, 10 you're mine"?

All are speeding. All are illegal. But they have varying degreed of punishment.


Suppose you could quantify the damage someone inflicts into a scale or a point system, so that you could match the punishment appropriately. If Bob inflicts 100 units of damage to John, he get X years in jail. What hate crime legislation would do is give Bob Y years for the same amount of damage. Speeding tickets don't change because of intent, they change because of a real increase in "wrongness." You make accidents more likely, and cause more damage, the faster you go. You don't break more bones if you scream "wop!"

One can make the argument that being targetted for your race may increase the emotional damage. But suppose we know the bad man was motivated by racism but the victim doesn't? What if the victim doesn't care? Punishments for emotional damage is better left to Rothbardian Anarcho-Capitalist courts and tort cases.

Mulliga said...

While I agree "hate crime" legislation is probably unsound, I understand why it is passed so easily. Politically, it must be suicide to oppose it.

Government has traditionally punished crimes based on the intent that goes with the actual conduct. Mens rea becomes sort of a stand-in for moral culpability in this instance - provoked manslaughter is less hideous to us than premeditated murder.

Anonymous said...

Most people today wouldn't even know the first sentence of the Bill of rights, or the Declaration of Indipendance if you asked them. There in lies the largest part of this problem.

Terry said...

Mens Rea is used all the time.

This isn't a case of wanting to hit someone being a crime.

It's that one chooses to commit a crime because of who/what someone is.

We take state of mind into account all the time.

It's the difference between ADW, and Attempted murder, the difference between Manslaughter and Muder; between second and first degree murder.

This is a sentence enhancement, not a new crime.

It's most obvious parallel is killing a cop, because he's a cop. We have similar enhancements for threatening a witness, or a juror. People who do that get more punishment than people who simply intimidate run of the mill Joe Schmoes.

In some places that even turns what isn't assault (in Calif. words alone aren't assault) into actual crimes.

Seth said...

The idea behind enhanced penalties for hate crimes is that the crime is not only against the physical victim, but also is an attempt to terrorize all other members of the victim's group.

In law, there are many things that are not in themselves illegal but cause penalties to be increased when they are done in conjunction with a crime.

Jeff Deutsch said...

Hello LawDog,

With all due respect, you are wrong.

Hate crimes legislation does not punish anyone for thinking anything, or even expressing racist thoughts.

Rather, it punishes people more for having certain expressed intentions when they commit a crime. It's called aggravating circumstances, and multiple posters here have already made that clear; for example, as Sarah has pointed out the difference between first and second degree murder rests on intention. (Especially if that intention is, say, the furtherance of a felony, or earning one's agreed-upon pay to fulfill a murder contract.)

Increased penalties on the same charge vs. additional charges (that only come into play when another offense is committed) is a distinction without a difference, and we all know it.

For example, during the US Supreme Court oral argument on flag-burning laws, a justice pointed out that even if flag desecration is free speech, that doesn't mean that something that's already a crime anyway can't be punished more harshly if it causes public outrage.

Otherwise, you would get the same sentence for spray-painting a back alley as you would for the Washington Monument.

Hate crime laws, whatever their merits and demerits, aren't so much themselves an expression of differing valuations of different people's lives, as they are a response to a long history of other people's differing valuations of differing people's lives.

It's not exactly news to anyone here that, for example, some white people who would never consider laying a finger on other white people would as soon spit at, throw things at, beat or even kill blacks as look at them. It was much worse 40-50+ years ago, but it still happens now and then these days, and probably always will. It's simple racism.

Nor is it a revelation that some people love and respect all heterosexual humans only, but beat and even kill homosexuals. It must have been much worse decades ago but it hasn't disappeared and the smart money says it's not going to. That's simple homophobia.

In other words, some people aren't deterred by the laws already on the books from committing evil against certain segments of the population. So we jack up the penalties in such cases to provide that deterrence, and to send a strong message throughout society that we as a community do value the lives of blacks, homosexuals, etc., enough to punish those who hurt them enough to make them reconsider such actions.

That's the case for hate crimes laws. When all is said and done, they may or may not ultimately be a good idea, but that's why many people favor them.

With regard to expressing your thoughts: we have always had laws against disorderly conduct, public swearing and cursing/abusing someone to his/her face. Those time-honored laws have never been considered unconstitutional, and of course they apply to ethnic, racial and sexual slurs.

Yes, that means if you are, say, anti-Semitic, you have to say (in public) something like "The Jews are our misfortune" instead of "Kill the k***s!". Your opponents, in turn, have to say (in public) something like "You're wrong" instead of "F*** you!"

It's called civility, and like everything else in society it has some relationship to the law. It's not a threat to free speech - quite the opposite. Slurs and curse words cause fights. They are the rhetorical version of candy before dinner - they don't contribute anything of value to the marketplace of ideas and they crowd out other things that do. Last but not least, beyond a certain point unrestrained incivility forces the authorities to clamp down and issue harsh restrictions, which do suppress free speech, so as to regain some kind of order.

Cheers,

Jeff Deutsch

PS: I get the impression from LawDog's posts here and here that his motivation for opposing hate crimes laws is not pure, disinterested free speech but rather that he likes to deliberately offend other ethnic groups.