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S.909 The Hate Crimes Prevention Act and H.R.1966 The Cyberbullying Prevention Act

8 Reasons “Hate” Crimes Legislation is Illegitimate, or,
Reasons to Reject S.909 and H.R.1966

By James Beller

1. “Hate” is not a crime, it is only a sin of the conscience. And the conscience cannot be legislated in America. Even though “hate” is not the object of prosecution in S.909, the bill will be used to bring greater punishment on the perpetrator, making “hate,” which is an opinion of the conscience, measurable.

The hate-crime/opinion-crime controversy has already been settled in American history. The Puritans of New England set up a theocratic state, and bound the consciences of its citizens to obey the first and second tables of the law (the 10 commandments divided into 2 parts). That meant that the church court determined civil government. The church made laws forcing compliance to the first table, which guides man’s inner conscience. In this scenario, opinions were examined, condemned and punished. The Baptists and other dissenters argued from the time of Roger Williams (1635) to Isaac Backus (1800) that American jurisprudence should be founded only upon the second table, meaning that civil government should only make laws dealing with outward behavior. This meant making laws punishing someone for taking the life, liberty and property of another. This simple truth was so ensconced in the American people that it needed no further explanation for many, many years. Apparently, now it needs new review.

2. “Hate” cannot be a crime, because it does not take away life, liberty or property and cannot be prosecuted as loss. We may pity a man because he hates, but he cannot be prosecuted.

3. “Hate” can only be determined by speech. The hate-crimes bill S.909 admits this in sec.10 (1): “RELEVANT EVIDENCE- Courts may consider relevant evidence of speech, beliefs, or expressive conduct to the extent that such evidence is offered to prove an element of a charged offense or is otherwise admissible under the Federal Rules of Evidence.” This is terrible legislative language, for speech (excepting in very difficult cases of libel or slander) cannot be a cause for loss. And do we not already have laws to guard against those abuses of libel and slander?

4. “Hate” and cyberbullying are nothing but opinions of the conscience. Opinion cannot be legislated. Have we forgotten that criticism, ranting, severe disagreement and even inflamed rhetoric has ALWAYS been a part of American culture? Europe has forgotten this important fabric of a free society. “Feelings” are not protected under law and never have been. When we look at H.R. 1966 we find this remarkable language:


(a) In General- Chapter 41 of title 18, United States Code, is amended by adding at the end the following:
Sec. 881. Cyberbullying

(a) Whoever transmits in interstate or foreign commerce any communication, with the intent to coerce, intimidate, harass, or cause substantial emotional distress to a person, using electronic means to support severe, repeated, and hostile behavior, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than two years, or both.

With H.R.1966, we are criminalizing inflammatory speech, that is, speech that is highly critical of a person, a religion or an ideology. Does speech harm the people to whom it is directed? Does the speech alone deprive them of their life, liberty or property? From a historical perspective the effect is exactly the opposite. The person or religion or ideology criticized would perform self-examination to see if those things were so. They may argue and dialog with their opponents, causing a very positive effect.

Concerning religion and ideology, this very thing happened during the rise of “Americanism” in the late 19th century. Many Americans, including the famous Samuel F. B. Morse, inventor of the Morse code, protested the mass immigration of foreign Roman Catholics into major American cities. There were two fears. First, the Catholics, new to America, would not understand the principles of liberty. Second, there was a fear of losing jobs to the Catholics. Together, these fears created a very volatile situation.

To their credit, because of the criticism, ranting, severe disagreement and even inflamed rhetoric, Catholics in this country modified their ideas of civil government. They became Americans. After 70 years of discussion, in 1960, one of their own was elected President of the United States.

The Baptists, Quakers and other dissenters of Massachusetts were banished, beaten, disfranchised and disarmed for opinion. As a matter of fact, John Clarke, the Hutchinsons, the Wheelwrights and others were banished to Rhode Island in 1637. They were disdainfully referred to as OPINIONISTS. Do we really want to return to that kind of tyranny, where we are afraid to think critical thoughts, or express contrary or even “hateful” opinions? I think all of us understand the concept of premeditation. However, no person can be prosecuted because he thought about murder. And in the case of premeditation, are there not already laws that address that issue?

6. This kind of legislation actually invites a new kind of persecution. This is a new Salem witch hunt with the tables turned. It was wrong for the Puritans to prosecute opinion and it wrong for us today. I see that this kind of legislation raises the old question of mixing crimes and sins together. This was a problem that was debated and solved by statesmen early in American history. Please consider the words of colonial clergyman John Leland, who many believe to be responsible for the Bill of Rights. Leland addressed the issue of hate crimes as early as 1820:

“ Let a man’s motive be what it may, let him have what object soever in view; if his practice is opposed to good law, he is to be punished. Magistrates are not to consult his motive or object, but his actions.

Without advertising to Bohemia, Munster, or any part of Europe or Asia, for instances we shall pay attention to a few recent transactions of our own. A Shaking-Quaker, in a violent manner, cast his wife into a mill-pond in cold weather; his plea was, that God ordered him so to do. Now the question is, “Ought he not to be punished as much as if he had done the deed in anger?” Was not the abuse to the woman as great? Could the magistrate perfectly know whether it was God, Satan, or ill-will, that prompted him to do the deed? The answers to these questions are easy.

In the year of 1784, Matthew Womble, of Virginia, killed his wife and four sons, in obedience to a Shining One, who, he said, was the son of God, to merit heaven by the action; but if the court had been fearful of offending that Shining One, and pitied Womble’s soul, they would never have inflicted that punishment upon him which they did the October following. Neither his motive, which was obedience, nor his object, which was the salvation of his soul had any weight on the jury.

Should magistrates or jurors be biased by such protestations, the most atrocious villains would always pass with impunity.” The Yankee Spy, from The Writings of the Elder John Leland, 1845, reprint 1986, Christian Research Institute, Dayton, OH, p. 228.

7. Consider the bill S.909. This bill inadvertently places the value of one person above another, based on the standards of an evil-doer. This amazing un-American part of S.909 is found in:

“ SEC. 7. PROHIBITION OF CERTAIN HATE CRIME ACTS, an amendment to Chapter 13 of title 18, United States Code, which states: Sec. 249. Hate crime acts ‘(a) In General- ‘(1) OFFENSES INVOLVING ACTUAL OR PERCEIVED RACE, COLOR, RELIGION, OR NATIONAL ORIGIN- OFFENSES INVOLVING ACTUAL OR PERCEIVED RELIGION, NATIONAL ORIGIN, GENDER, SEXUAL ORIENTATION, GENDER IDENTITY, OR DISABILITY ‘(A) IN GENERAL- Whoever, whether or not acting under color of law, in any circumstance described in subparagraph (B) or paragraph (3), willfully causes bodily injury to any person or, through the use of fire, a firearm, a dangerous weapon, or an explosive or incendiary device, attempts to cause bodily injury to any person, because of the actual or perceived religion, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity or disability of any person‘(i) shall be imprisoned not more than 10 years, fined in accordance with this title, or both; and‘(ii) shall be imprisoned for any term of years or for life, fined in accordance with this title, or both, if–‘(I) death results from the offense; or‘(II) the offense includes kidnapping or an attempt to kidnap, aggravated sexual abuse etc…”

So the bill attaches extra punishment to the perpetrator, if a motive of hate can be found. In other words, from the above section of S.909 our Congress will affirm an unconstitutional claim that one person’s life is more valuable than another. And that affirmation is based upon the OPINION of the perpetrator! How shocking is this?

8. Perhaps the most obvious reason to leave off “hate” crime legislation is that it is simply not needed. We have laws against violence, plenty of them. How big do we want this government to become? Do we really want this beast we are feeding so big that a man is afraid to talk? Yes, that is where we are right now, and this will make it worse.

We are now at the final step in our march to be just like Europe. H.R.1966 will criminalize “hate” speech alone. Yes, there will be prison sentences for opinion. “We the people” can not roll over for this one.

James Beller chainthebeast.org


1 J.S. Davenport { 07.27.09 at 3:47 am }

Yes, the beast is getting so big and powerful that we will soon not be able to control it and it will control us, including what we think and choose to believe. Thanks for all your research and keep up the good work.

2 Joshua Rivers { 08.05.09 at 1:12 pm }

It could also be mentioned that, in reality, all criminal activity has "hate" behind it anyway. Why should we let government decide which "hate" is less acceptable than others? Man (and government) can only look on the outside, while God is the One to look on the heart, discerning the thoughts and intents of the heart. (1 Sam. 16:7; Heb. 4:12)