“Hate Crime” Laws Criminalize Ideas
WASHINGTON, October 19, 2009--The House recently voted to expand federal “hate crimes” to include those committed because of the victim’s sexual orientation.
“Despite the denials of ‘hate crime’ law supporters, this criminalizes certain ideas,” writes Don Watkins, an analyst with the Ayn Rand Center. “If the government can punish a criminal more harshly based on the ‘message of intolerance and discrimination’ he sends through his crime, then the inevitable conclusion is that sending a ‘message of intolerance and discrimination’ is a crime.
“It is irrelevant whether the ideas currently deemed ‘hateful’ are repugnant, which in the case of racism or anti-gay vitriol they certainly are. Every attack on free speech starts by targeting ideas people find repugnant; that’s how censorship gains purchase. But once the principle is established that the government can punish people for holding unpopular ideas, then any dissenter is at risk.
“The men who wrote the First Amendment sought to safeguard intellectual freedom by barring the state from taking cognizance of men’s ideas. The government, they said, has no role in deciding what ideas are true or false, right or wrong, hateful or loving. Its job is to proscribe actions that violate individual rights, so that each of us can make those determinations for ourselves.”
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