Editorial Criticizes Hate Crimes Laws
Several comments in response to this recent post question the wisdom of hate crimes laws. An editorial in the Pittsburgh Tribune Review argues that basing punishment on motive results in a denial of equal justice:
Even more egregious is the consideration that some victims are more deserving than others based on their race, religion, national origin, color or sexual orientation. Therefore, all are not equal before the law.
Punishment is imposed to meet the needs of society, not of the victim. Victims have no entitlement to equal punishment.
A better argument: hate crimes laws come dangerously close to punishing thought, and freedom of thought is the foundation for all other freedoms.
Judges have always been allowed to consider motive when imposing a sentence, as they should. A violent offender motivated by racial hatred may be more prone to recidivism than a man who bore a grudge toward a specific victim. Judges should consider that factor among others when they exercise their discretion to impose a fair sentence. Society should draw the line, however, at laws that require an additional punishment on the basis of bad thoughts.
Still, let's hope that the Georgia Supreme Court's decision to nullify its hate crimes law wasn't the impetus for this sad event.
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