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THOUGHT POLICE

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Social cons will sometimes give you the “love the sinner, hate the sin” argument or the “I  don’t hate gay people, I just don’t want to redefine marriage” argument, but, to my mind, the movement’s response to impending hate crimes legislation proves that those aren’t honest arguments.

Pam Meister doesn’t want us determining punishment based on a person’s thoughts:

[I]t bothers me that individuals may soon be prosecuted for not just the crime, but the “behind the scenes” thoughts that may have contributed to that crime.

Now, this bit seems sensible at first glance.  “Let’s stick with what we can prove, and not worry about what’s in a defendant’s mind.”  There’s a little problem, though, when you look at the paragraph directly preceding that one.

I’m all for prosecuting criminals for their acts, especially violent criminals. I’m pro-death penalty, if truth be told. I figure that if you deliberately take someone else’s life, you should pay by forfeiting yours. Not very PC of me, but there you have it.

Thanks for putting that in bold for me, Pam!  There you are, arguing for punishment based on thoughts.  In fact, our criminal legal system punishes based on intent, malice, etc all the freaking time!  Especially in assault and murder cases (the only offense covered by hate crimes legislation), where punishment can vary wildly.  A defendant’s state-of-mind isn’t used to determine guilt or innocence, but it is already often used as contributing or mitigating factor.

Apparently Meister has not taken the 5 minutes to read the actual text of the bill:

(A) IN GENERAL- Whoever, whether or not acting under color of law, in any circumstance described in subparagraph (B), willfully causes bodily injury to any person or, through the use of fire, a firearm, a dangerouse weapon, or an explosive or incendiary device, attempts to cause bodily injury to any person, because of the actual or perceived religion, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability of any person–
‘(i) shall be imprisoned not more than 10 years, fined in accordance with this title, or both; and
‘(ii) shall be imprisoned for any term of years or for life, fined in accordance with this title, or both, if–
‘(I) death results from the offense; or
‘(II) the offense includes kidnaping or an attempt to kidnap, aggravated sexual abuse or an attempt to commit aggravated sexual abuse, or an attempt to kill.(A) IN GENERAL- Whoever, whether or not acting under color of law, in any circumstance described in subparagraph (B), willfully causes bodily injury to any person or, through the use of fire, a firearm, a dangerouse weapon, or an explosive or incendiary device, attempts to cause bodily injury to any person, because of the actual or perceived religion, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability of any person–‘(i) shall be imprisoned not more than 10 years, fined in accordance with this title, or both; and

(A) IN GENERAL- Whoever, whether or not acting under color of law, in any circumstance described in subparagraph (B), willfully causes bodily injury to any person or, through the use of fire, a firearm, a dangerouse weapon, or an explosive or incendiary device, attempts to cause bodily injury to any person, because of the actual or perceived religion, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability of any person–

‘(i) shall be imprisoned not more than 10 years, fined in accordance with this title, or both; and

‘(ii) shall be imprisoned for any term of years or for life, fined in accordance with this title, or both, if-

‘(I) death results from the offense; or

‘(II) the offense includes kidnaping or an attempt to kidnap, aggravated sexual abuse or an attempt to commit aggravated sexual abuse, or an attempt to kill.

I’d like to hear exactly what it is about this that Meister opposes.  She apparently favors the death penalty, so the second part should be no problem.  The first part raises the maximum sentence for gay-hate-motivated assaults (other hate-motivations have been covered since 1969) to 10 years.  That’s it.  It’s not a mandatory minimum sentence, it’s a maximum sentence, with hate-motivation as a contributing factor.
I’d encourage everyone to read the full text of the legislation.  90% of the bill is about getting federal resources to local law enforcement agencies to assist in fighting hate crimes.  And, while Meister doesn’t mention this part of the right-wing reaction, there is this clause:

Nothing in this Act, or the amendments made by this Act, shall be construed to prohibit any expressive conduct protected from legal prohibition by, or any activities protected by, the Constitution.

Meaning no one’s going to arrest your asshole pastor for preaching against homosexuality from the pulpit.
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Written by dieblucasdie

October 22, 2009 at 3:22 pm

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