The Right’s Hate Crimes Conundrum

One of the main points I have tried to make in my various posts on hate crimes legislation is the obvious hypocrisy of the Religious Right as they decry the so-called “special protections” that such legislation would grant to gays while simultaneously ignoring the same “special protections” they already have as Christians under existing hate crimes legislation. As I wrote a few weeks ago, “It seems that, for the Religious Right, the predominant theme of late has been ‘special rights for me, but not for thee.'”

The Right basically has two options in opposing protections for sexual orientation: explain why gays don’t deserve the same protection offered to religion and race or call for the elimination of hate crimes laws entirely.

The latter, according to Tiffany Stanley of Religion News Service, seems to be the tactic of choice for at least some Religious Right groups:

With a Democrat-controlled Congress and a president who has indicated his support for the Matthew Shepard Act, time may be running out for its opponents. To stop the legislation, a few Christian leaders have suggested repealing all hate-crimes law, which would undo historic protections for race and even religion.

“The entire notion of hate-crimes legislation is extraneous and obsolete,” said Matt Barber, director of cultural affairs with the conservative nonprofit Liberty Counsel, adding that he believes hate-crimes laws are unconstitutional.

“All violent crime is hate crime,” said Tom McClusky, vice president for government affairs at Family Research Council here in the capital. “What drives an individual to commit a violent crime but hate for their victim?”

Frankly, if they really believe that all hate crimes laws should be repealed, then these groups need to explain why the existing enhanced penalties for a racist who burns a cross on someone’s lawn or a neo-Nazi who burns down a synagogue are “extraneous and obsolete.”   Good luck making that case.

But there are others, like Focus on the Family, who say they don’t support doing away with existing hate crimes laws, but just don’t think gays should be protected:

If, as opponents of the bill say, gays and lesbians do not deserve hate crime protections, then who does?

Focus on the Family does not favor repealing hate-crime laws, but sees sexual orientation and gender identity as changeable, unlike race, for instance, said Ashley Horne, federal policy analyst for the Colorado-based group.

While Horne acknowledges individuals can change their religion, that category is the exception to the rule because “the government has historically protected religion since the founding of this country.”

So it is perfectly fine that hate crimes laws protect people on the basis of religion because the government has always protected religion, but gays don’t deserve similar protection despite the fact that there are nearly 2.5 times as many violent hate crimes targeting individuals because of their sexual orientation as there are violent crimes targeting individuals because of religion?

This is basically the Right’s view in a nutshell:  gays don’t deserve hate crimes protection while religion does because religion is special … and if the government is going to try and grant similar protections to gays, they’d rather lessen penalties for racists and anti-Semites than let that happen.