This is being carried over from a discussion that began in the Atheist Nexus chat room.
So Obama signed a defense bill yesterday that included hate crime legislation regarding sexual orientation.
I'm generally opposed to hate crime legislation, but I'm open to having my mind changed.
I have several objections:
1. Nothing that is a federal hate crime isn't already a state violent crime. It is the creation of a special category of crime that seems unnecessary. I'm open to having my mind changed on this point, possibly on the grounds of societal good, but such grounds would actually have to be demonstrated, not just asserted.
2. One of the common justifications I've heard for legislation is that hate crimes dehumanize the victim and instill fear in the community. Don't all violent crimes dehumanize the victim and instill fear in the community? Why is this a special case?
3. Some of the same problems I have with labeling things as hate speech I have with hate crimes. I don't think we should outlaw discriminatory speech. If we did, you'd be opening up a can of worms. What speech is hate speech becomes up to the popular whim of the society. This is where you start getting things like blasphemy laws.
On the contrary, I can appreciate that we do take motive into account in the legal system. Motive is the difference between murder and self-defense. I recognize that as a weakness in my objection, but I'm not sure how to word it in properly.
I'll end my initial post with an analogy that I think expresses some of my concerns:
Scenario A: I beat up Ray Comfort and take his cash-filled wallet while screaming at him that he's an "idiotic fundie douche" and that anyone who gives him money is a moron.
Scenario B: I beat up a defenseless old lady and take her pension check out of her purse because she's an easy mark.
I understand that both scenarios are immoral and illegal. It is separate from the point that I'm trying to make with this analogy.
1. Which of these scenarios (if any) qualify under the laws as hate crimes?
2. Ethically, which is worse under your own personal worldview? Are they equivalent?
3. Which should carry the harshest criminal sentence? Should they be equivalent?