Here is where I disagree. While I think the effort to prevent groups of people from being harassed or spreading fear is a noble one I still see a flaw in the execution of it. I agree with Patrick that it disinigrates into a way for people in power to shut others up they don’t agree with. Here is an example:
When grandmas go to jail for witnessing
Posted: February 7, 2007
1:00 a.m. Eastern
By Janet Folger
Arrested for sharing the Gospel? An expected outcome in North Korea, China or any Muslim country on the globe. But in Pennsylvania? Yep. Arlene Elshinnawy, a 75-year-old grandmother of three, and Lynda Beckman, a 70-year-old grandmother of 10 (along with nine others), were arrested for sharing their faith on the public sidewalk in Philadelphia, Pa., USA. They faced 47 years (the rest of their lives) in jail for spreading the Gospel because of a Pennsylvania “hate crimes” law that is nearly identical to H.R. 254 – the “hate crimes” bill reintroduced in Congress and said to be on the “fast track” in the House Judiciary Committee. This is the same bill that previously passed both the House and Senate and was killed only because of Republican leadership opposition in conference – something we no longer have.
Don’t believe hate crimes will silence your freedom of speech and freedom of religion? Think again.
Pastors in Pennsylvania are now seeking liability insurance to protect themselves from being prosecuted under the “hate speech” law. That’s right. They are reacting to Pennsylvania’s addition of “sexual orientation” to the state’s hate crimes laws. Of particular concern was the expansion of the definition of “harassment” to include “harassment by communication” – which means one could be convicted based upon spoken words alone.
Also paraphrased in my words from her article:
In Sweden they actually prosecuted and found guilty a pastor named Ake Green for violating “hate crimes” laws because he preached a sermon on Romans chapter 1. The Swedish supreme court eventually aquitted him, but imagine the anguish and expense his family had to go through first. (It took about 2-3 years.)
In Canada there is a pastor named Mark Harding who was convicted of “willfully promoted hatred” in violation of Canadian law that had just passed six months earlier. He was then forced to undergo two years probation and 340 hours of “community service” at the Islamic Society of North America in Mississauga, Ontario. His crime was protesting the actions of a local high school which began handing out copies of the Quran and set aside a special room for Muslim students to pray.
I find each of these scenarios to be TERRIFYING. It is punishing people not for something they DID but for what they BELIEVE or SAY.
Clearly protection of free speech is not universally agreed to by all governments (see Saudi Arabia) so I am not going to comment about the Sweden or Canada cases cited. However the story quoted about the Grandmothers is way out of context. If you read it as written it sounds like storm troopers arrested a group of senior citizens for quietly praying on the sidewalk. The following is from the court case-
—The charges filed against Petitioners arose out of their alleged actions in the nature of “fighting, threatening, violent or tumultuous behavior, making unreasonable noise with intent to cause public inconvenience, annoyance, or alarm, or recklessly creating a risk thereof by protesting a gay/lesbian block party, using bullhorns, and yelling offensive messages, thereby obstructing traffic.—
As often is with these types of cases when an arrest is made it is almost never about what the message is but the way the message is delivered. Trust me no police officer or government agent wants to arrest a couple of 70 year old women and I am sure the officers did everything in their power to come to a different resolution prior to the arrest.
Put it this way – If a bunch of potato eating fanatics came to BrandX and started yelling insults through bullhorns and throwing marbles in the driveway risking injury to people running around the building, blocking the driveway and disrupting classes someone would call the police and ask to have the people removed. And then they would complain that they were just exercising their right to free speech and marble playing. Eventually the rights of one group to exercise free speech has to be weighed against the rights of the other group to live in peace.
Again the law is written to defend people against criminal acts perpetuated against someone solely because of their race, nationality, religion, sexual orientation, disability, or gender.
The following are definitions used in the law- a Hate crime is an illegal act a Hate Incident is not:
A hate crime is any criminal act or attempt directed against a person(s), public agency or private institution based on the victim’s actual or perceived race, nationality, religion, sexual orientation, disability, or gender or because the agency or institution is identified or associated with a person or group of an identifiable race, nationality, religion, sexual orientation, disability or gender. A hate crime includes an act which results in injury, however slight; a verbal threat of violence which apparently can be carried out; an act which results in property damage; and, property damage or other criminal act(s) directed against a public or private agency.
A hate incident is any non- criminal act including words directed against a person(s) based on that person’s actual or perceived race, nationality, religion, sexual orientation, disability or gender. Hate incidents include, but are not limited to, epithets, distribution of hate material in public places, posting of hate materials that does not result in property damage, and the display of offensive material on one’s own property.