By Harmony Grant
18 April 2007
We are in a hold-your-breath moment in American history. Our civil liberties tremble in enormous danger from Stalinist legislation that could, within days, largely shatter our freedom of speech. American civil liberties are our best protection from the abuses of government. They define the U.S.A. we know and love, a nation where we can travel and gather in extraordinary freedom, write and read almost anything, and speak our minds in public. Without civil liberties, there will be no America left in which to resist “Islamofascism” or wage “culture wars.” Before any other battle, we must protect our rights.
On Thursday April 12, Sens. Ted Kennedy and Gordon Smith re-introduced the federal thought crimes bill, renaming it after Matthew Shepard, the most famous and misrepresented “hate crime victim.” It’s like the maraschino cherry in the poisoned gin of lies spread about this legislation (See, "Top 11 Reasons You Should Fight Hate Laws" ). Shepard wasn’t the victim of a hate crime and his brutal death was prosecuted without federal help (which is what a federal hate bill is all about).
It’s poetic justice that Kennedy and Smith chose a fake “hate crime” victim for fake “anti-hate” legislation. These laws don’t counter hate; they institutionalize it by empowering the government to prosecute “bias”—and to decide whose biases are bad! This bill would allow the feds to invade states' rights in law enforcement, violating the Constitution. It would create castes of crime victims in our society, tripling penalties for criminals who are judged to be motivated by a “bias” that the government has declared illegal. This means if a 20-year-old kills a drag queen and a judge thinks he was motivated by rage at effeminacy he’ll spend three times longer in jail than if he’d killed his girlfriend because of rage that she cheated.
Violent crimes should be punished, and all their victims should get satisfaction from the law, period. The government has no business in the complicated psychology of motivations, beliefs, and biases. “Anti-hate” laws also do worse than triple penalties for bias-motivated violent crimes; they set precedents for the criminalization of pure speech itself.
This federal law could pass very soon, within days. The Imus fiasco demonstrates the culture of censorship promoted by progressive leftists in mainstream media. A scary willingness to trample freedom of speech also shows in the European Union’s proposal to punish Holocaust denial with up to three years’ jail, in all EU states. This law is before the EU right now, and many believe it will pass. It will criminalize “denial or trivialization” of the Jewish Holocaust and 1994 genocide in Rwanda, but no others. A majority of EU member states refuse to include Communism’s mass murders. This refusal further reveals the ideological bent of the ban; thought crime laws enforce one perception of history, and privilege one set of victims. The same goes for hate laws and all speech bans. They are, by nature, discriminatory. Our beliefs always do discriminate and privilege, but that’s the right of individuals, not governments. Supreme Court Justice Robert Jackson said in 1943, "No official, high or petty, can prescribe what shall be orthodox politics, nationalism, religion, or any other matters of opinion, or force citizens to confess by word or act their faith therein."
I wish every American citizen knew and understood those words. Maybe then we would be quicker to resist a federal hate law that would—among other things—prescribe approval of homosexuality as national orthodoxy, silencing moral objections under threat of jail-time.
Who’s Talking about the Hate Bill?
More conservatives are following the leadership of Rev. Ted Pike and the National Prayer Network, sounding the alarm about the threat of the federal hate bill. Janet Folger’s work has been especially valuable. Townhall columnist Matt Barber served his readers well with two spitfire pieces about the bill (See, CWA to Feds: It’s Time to Investigate Fake "Hate Crimes" Reports and "Gay" Goliath Lobs Dud at CWA; Aims for Clever, Lands on Silly), and The New American ran a great critique by Alabama Supreme Court senior attorney John Eidsmoe.
World Net Daily features an excellent news piece with references to National Prayer Network. The Christian Newswire also put out a warning. FOX News and the Washington Post both ran a small Associated Press story; Cybercast News Service and the Washington Times did their own.
Homosexual news and advocacy organizations write supportively of the bill, as have the Arab-American Anti-Discrimination Committee and, of course, the Anti-Defamation League and the Jewish Council for Public Affairs.
Still, there is far more awareness of the gun lobby and their resistance to gun control laws than of any kind of “freedom lobby.” Many, many major conservative news outlets—and mainstream sources, of course—remain silent about this horribly dangerous legislation.
Other Arrows in the Anti-Christ Quiver
The federal hate law is just the scariest weapon in an arsenal of speech control legislation looming over America. Even now, the Supreme Court is hearing a landmark free speech case; and the Fairness Doctrine, which would shatter talk radio, is getting bandied about as a solution to stupid talkers like Imus (and political opponents of the Democrats in Congress and the Clinton machine).
Imus’ words were crass and mean, just the latest in a string of bad stuff he’s said. But lynching him is not the right response! “The only thing worse than an uncivil society is a society where government legislates what is civil,” comments Charles Haynes of the First Amendment Center.
“If you want to see what the brave new world of controlled speech looks like, visit many of our public colleges and universities — places that are supposed to be bastions of free expression. According to the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, more than 73% of public universities maintain unconstitutional speech codes, despite numerous federal court decisions striking down similar policies. Overall, 68% of colleges and universities surveyed, including private institutions, have policies that restrict freedom of speech.” (1)
After Imus slurred the Rutgers' women's basketball team, Oprah Winfrey hosted them on her show. She praised their grace in “holding up” under the terrible, horrific trauma of being called a bad name by a shock jock. The women spoke of “shattered dreams” with pathos that makes you wonder how they mark a true tragedy like the Virginia Tech massacre.
Yes, words wound. But I’d rather be called every foul word found in America’s truckstops than have the federal government shut somebody’s mouth by force. Doesn’t anybody remember Stalin? Censorship is one of humankind’s primal urges, and that’s abundantly clear from our government’s present actions. It’s up to us to protest, before our right of free expression is swept away.
Our laws already sufficiently criminalize violent actions committed against American citizens, whatever their stripes. We do not want speech codes that ban free expression. We do not want a federal hate law to create special classes of victims, providing triple penalties for criminals based on the thinking behind their actions. We do not want Big Brother legislating our thoughts, beliefs, and biases.
Liberals want government to stay out of the bedroom? Well, I want government to keep their handcuffs off my mind!
Many people do realize this. Big kudos and thanks go to the Christian, conservative groups who are on the strange side of freedom in the ongoing case of Deborah Morse, Juneau School Board v. Joseph Frederick. This Supreme Court case concerns a student’s right to hold up a banner reading “Bong Hits 4 Jesus” across the street from his school.
Who thinks Joe Frederick should be allowed to hold up this nonsensical, arguably irreverent, pro-drug banner across the street from his school? Christians, that’s who! Supporters of the student’s rights include the Christian Legal Society, the American Center for Law and Justice, the Alliance Defense Fund, and the Rutherford Institute—solidly conservative organizations. These groups recognize that if school officials are allowed to censor Frederick’s controversial speech they will be able to censor other student speech—that of Christians and conservatives, the most common targets of academic speech codes. (See Nat Hentoff’s column Saving Free Speech and Jesus)
This case is a perfect example of defending speech you dislike to preserve speech you value. And it is further proof that freedom of speech has become a battle for the conservative right, whose moral beliefs are the ultimate target of speech codes and “anti-hate” legislation.
If we do not speak up and fight this battle now, we may lose the chance forever. Now is the time to call and protest to your elected representatives, demanding that they resist the federal hate bill when it comes to a full vote in the House. Make your voice heard. Nothing matters more than defending our civil liberties at this crucial moment in our nation’s history.
(1) Charles Haynes' column, April 15, “Imus, Coulter and the marketplace for offensive speech”
Harmony Grant writes and edits for National Prayer Network, a Christian/conservative watchdog group. Read more of her work at www.hisnamesake.blogspot.com. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Come to www.truthtellers.org for full information on how you can help preserve freedom of speech in America.
(Click What Can I Do? )
Watch Rev. Pike's film Hate Crimes: Making Criminals of Christians at video.google.com for the whole story of how ADL took away free speech in Canada and wants to do the same in America. The film is also available at www.truthtellers.org in VHS or DVD for $24.90 postpaid.
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