Let’s pretend that I’m the violent type and I don’t like a guy named Fred. Let’s say that I punch Fred and break his nose as I yell, “I don’t want to see your ugly self around here any more!” I don’t know what the penalty is for assault and battery, but let’s assume it’s a year.
Now let’s assume that the facts are identical, but we just change one word. I punch Fred and break his nose, but I yell, “I don’t want to see your gay self around here anymore!”
If I did that, the law in this country in most places would say that I’ve committed a “hate crime,” so the same offense might get me up to 10 years in jail. In other words, the only difference in the two scenarios is the word I use, so I’m spending far more time in prison because of my speech and what some prosecutor decides was in my thoughts when I committed the crime.
The absurdity of this insane idea is even more on display in Boston right now, where three young women have been accused of beating up a 43-year-old man. (That’s one of the women above.) The only thing we know for sure is that the guy was beaten up. (See a video report from local cable news at the bottom of this article.)
The two sides have different stories. But prosecutors are calling it a “hate crime” because the victim says the women shouted a slur about his sexual orientation. The kicker? The women are lesbians and they say they didn’t know he was gay. So how do prosecutors figure that the guy was attacked because the women hated gay people?
Under this Orwellian law, it doesn’t matter whether the attackers were also gay. They don’t have to actually have hate toward gays to be charged with a hate crime. Their alleged language was enough. The law allows the charge because the victim was in a “protected class”:
Prosecutors and the ACLU of Massachusetts said no matter the defendants’ sexual orientation, they can still face the crime of assault and battery with intent to intimidate, which carries up to a 10-year prison sentence, by using hateful language.
Complicating the Boston case even further, the three women say that the beating victim yelled racial slurs at them. The man was walking in an opposite direction from the three women at a transit station. Someone bumped someone. Words were exchanged. There was a fight. The three women apparently won the fight and then ran.
If the women beat the guy up, they should be punished, but they should be punished because of what they did, not because of an insult they threw at him or what they thought of the color of his skin or his religion or the color shirt he was wearing or his accent. Their alleged actions are a crime. Their words and thoughts shouldn’t be crimes.
And that’s the bottom line. Laws against “hate crimes” are laws against thoughts and words. Our laws should criminalize actions, not words. The reason a person commits a crime is irrelevant. It’s the crime that matters, not the motivation in a person’s mind or heart. The Boston case shows the absurdity of the current system. Even if you like the idea of criminalizing speech and alleged intent, it has to give you pause to see people accused of bias when the alleged bias is against people of their own kind.