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Debate: Not supposed to call them 'hate crimes' any more. But go after them anyway...

Published January 19, 2017 1:20 pm
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2017, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Getting states to pass laws cracking down on hate crimes can be difficult because the term comes with so much baggage.

It can be seen as government action criminalizing unpopular thought. Or a way to get back at traditional thinkers for their long-standing opposition to such things as marriage equality.

The goal, at least among those doing the work in Utah, was never to punish thought. It was to take actions that have always been crimes — assault, arson, vandalism — and give prosecutors a chance to convince a court that particular acts deserve a higher level of punishment because the victim was singled out for his or her gender, sexual orientation, ethnic background, religion, etc., etc.

Such crimes are clearly intended to not only hurt the immediate victim but also to send a message to all others of that sort that they are unwelcome and may be next.

The proper word for that, I always thought, was terrorism. But that name hasn't caught on.

So Utah state Sen. Daniel Thatcher has had to come up with a suitably legalistic new handle for his new attempt at such legislation. Its "Victim Selection Penalty Enhancements"— aka Senate Bill 72 — that will be argued about in the session of the Utah Legislature that begins Monday.

The bill may draw some flak from some conservatives who mostly worry, with little evidence, that somebody's religious freedom may be under threat around here. They will argue that, for every good thing done to extend equal rights for all, Utah must throw come kind of bone to those who have basically lost this battle in the culture wars.

— Bill to crack down on targeted attacks needs no 'balance' — Salt Lake Tribune Editorial

"No person's liberty, religious or otherwise, is threatened by the latest attempt to repeal Utah's flawed hate-crimes law and replace it with a statute that could actually be enforced.

"Unless, of course, someone wants to argue that some concept of liberty, religious or otherwise, includes a 'right' to beat people bloody for the sin of being different.

"Not that anyone is arguing that. ..."

— Bill emerges to replace Utah's unenforceable hate-crimes law — Jennifer Dobner | The Salt Lake Tribune

"A West Valley City senator is trying to put a new spin on an old problem, proposing a bill to give Utah a workable hate-crimes law by placing a greater emphasis on criminal, not social, justice.

"But please, asks Republican Sen. Daniel Thatcher, don't call his bill hate-crimes legislation.

" 'This is not hate crimes,' Thatcher said. 'You can't prove hate. But you know what you can prove? That someone selected a victim. You can prove they chose them.' ..."

If you want to look it up, though, you still google the words "hate crime."


— Need for a hate crimes bill — Dee Rowland and Nancy Haanstad | For The Deseret News

" ... The Utah Citizens' Counsel believes the passage of such a bill would provide teeth to the legal guarantee of the essential right to personal security for the socially and politically powerless. It would also provide a powerful statement that Utah legislators oppose the more dangerous aspects of the recent surge in 'white nationalism.' Furthermore, its passage would reinforce the hope expressed by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. that the 'arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.'..."

— New hate-crimes bill does not reflect spirit of 'Utah Compromise' — Derek Monson | The Sutherland Institute | For The Salt Lake Tribune

" ... the legislation should include specific and substantive protections for religious liberty that actually reflect the problems faced in real life by religious believers..."

— This Week in Hate: Why We Need a Project to Document Hate Crimes — New York Times Editorial

"Reliable data on hate crimes is hard to come by. As reports of racist, anti-Semitic and Islamophobic harassment and attacks poured in after the election of Donald Trump, many Americans wondered whether they represented a nationwide increase in hate crime. While the Southern Poverty Law Center saw a dramatic increase in reports after the election, it's not yet clear whether this indicates a nationwide trend.

"That's one reason This Week in Hate is joining with ProPublica and a coalition of other organizations to work on Documenting Hate, a project that aims to gather data on hate crimes and incidents of bias around the country. ..."

— Here's How You Can Help BuzzFeed And Other Newsrooms Track Hate Crimes — Peter Aldhous | BuzzFeed

" ... By getting better information on hate crimes and bias incidents in the US, we aim to make it harder for the authorities to ignore the problem.

"That starts with the nation's law enforcement agencies. Almost 1 in 5 local agencies don't participate in the FBI's data collection program. Of the rest, the vast majority report that zero hate crimes happen on their watch. ..."

— Prepare for new surge in hate crimes against EU citizens, says EHRC — Rowena Mason | The Guardian

" ... David Isaac, chairman of the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC), told a hearing of MPs he was worried the start of formally leaving the bloc could cause a backlash against EU citizens, similar to the period of increased hate crime that followed the EU referendum, and was calling on police to be prepared for such an eventuality. ..."

— Why hate crimes are so difficult to convict — Laura Santhanam and Kenya Downs | PBS NewsHour

" 'You need to prove not just the incident, but the state of mind of the defendant — that what they intended was hate-motivated.'..."

— Concept of hate crimes is now unworkable — Victor Davis Hanson | via The Albuquerque Journal

" ... Sadly, we are learning that the labeling of hate crimes has become so politicized and ill-defined that the entire concept is unworkable. ..."






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