The Right’s Incoherent Opposition To Hate Crimes Laws

Yesterday I wrote a post arguing that the Religious Right has two basic options in opposing efforts to add sexual orientation to hate crimes legislation: 1) explain why religion deserves protections while sexual orientation does not even though 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 or 2) advocate doing away with hate crimes laws completely while explaining 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.”

In the article I linked to yesterday, Focus on the Family’s Ashley Horne claimed to support existing hate crimes laws protecting race and religion but opposed adding protection for sexual orientation because … well, religion was special:

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.”

But today, Horne is claiming that hate crimes laws in general are unnecessary:

Ashley Horne, federal policy analyst for Focus on the Family Action, said [Sen. Harry] Reid has it backwards. A hate-crimes law, she said, could distress entire communities – particularly Christian churches.

“As we’ve seen in other nations where such laws are passed, they can have a chilling effect on the free speech of those who would simply share from the Bible God’s views on issues such as homosexuality,” she explained. “Hate-crimes laws are unnecessary in a civil society like ours based on the rule of law.

“All crimes are hate crimes,” she added, “To give special status to certain groups of people allows courts to reach beyond punishing people for the illegal acts they commit and judge them for what they may or may not be thinking as they commit those acts.”

Which is it?  Yesterday Horne thought it was perfectly acceptable to have “special status” for “certain groups,” so long as they were limited to race and religion but now says that giving “special status to certain groups” is fundamentally unfair. 

So, I’ll ask this again:  given that the Religious Right, as Christians, already has “special status” under existing hate crimes laws, why is it only now that there are efforts to grant protections for sexual orientation that they think such protections are unnecessary?

This sort of incoherent stance is typical of the Religious Right’s opposition to hate crimes legislation: They see protections for race and religion as perfectly acceptable but don’t think sexual orientation warrants similar protections … but they can’t seem to explain why and so they end up arguing that hate crimes laws in general are unnecessary even though they actual support them and directly benefit from the protection such laws provide.