Sunday, May 17, 2009

When I say 'hate crime,' you say . . .

This is not just a threat to the American way of life. It threatens the "very survival of freedom."

So says former grand wizard of the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan David Duke.

Tell us, Brother Duke. What is it? Unauthorized eavesdropping? The abolition of habeas corpus? Martial law under the Patriot Act?

Actually, no. The threat to our very freedom is something called the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Act.

The bill broadens the definition of a federal hate crime to one targeting homosexuals or transgendered people. It is named after the college student beaten and left to die, bound to a Wyoming fence post, by two men who posed as gays.

An act aimed at offenses like this, say Duke and other fringe characters like Operation Rescue's Flip Benham, threatens our freedom and the First Amendment. They have mounted a march on Washington and a "gathering of Christian leaders" (ahem) to stop it. Godspeed, voyagers. Let us know if any of your First Amendment rights are stripped in the process by homeland security.

The bill in question, S.909, certainly wouldn't do that, unless you decided to take a mighty rod to some people with gender-identity issues to instill the fear of a wrathful God in them.

Oh, but the bill is much worse, says Benham. It "expressly forbids any language that might be perceived as 'hate' by the homosexual community. This makes illegal every word in the Bible."

Well, I flipped though S.909. Here's what I found: "Nothing in this act shall . . . prohibit any constitutionally protected speech, expressive conduct or activities (regardless of whether compelled by, or central to, a system of religious belief) . . ."

This bill is not about faith or free expression. It's about violence, violence aimed at a group of people to imprint mortal fear in them, much as the cross burnings and lynchings of Brother Duke's forebears did with Americans of color.

You may object to hate crimes as a legal concept, being a crime compounded by the mind-set of an offender. But if you say it's a case of the state enforcing an unconstitutional "thought crime," know that the penalties for any number of criminal offenses are made more severe based on the intent of the offender. Indeed, that's the difference between manslaughter and murder.

Really, what's at play here is absolute, unmitigated hate masquerading as Christian love.

It's the kind of hatred that would cause Republican Congresswoman Virginia Foxx to stand on the House floor and call the hate crime against Matthew Shepard a "hoax." You see, she says, it was just a robbery.

It's the kind of venom that would get a hate merchant like Duke engaged in the issue, to say that including "sexual orientation" in a hate-crimes bill would make it a hate crime to slap a pedophile.

I'd like to see a prosecutor try that legal tack. No, Brother Duke, I'm thinking this "threat to our very liberty" is all in your calcifying skull.

Oh, and by the way: Pedophiles come of all sexual persuasions, including yours.

Your anti-S.909 literature, Brother Benham, quotes Jesus ("Have I now become the enemy of the truth?") and says, "Is truth hate?"

Does God hate homosexuals? Or were homosexuals (like you and me, as Genesis says) formed in God's image?

My opinion: The last person for whom you people speak is Jesus Christ. The "truth" you express is hate. Constitutionally protected, I might add, but hate nonetheless. It must be. You are so stirred by it to look right past the intent of something aimed at acts of violence to find a "threat to our very freedom" in it.

Freedom to do what, Brother Duke?

John Young's column appears Thursday and Sunday. E-mail:

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