November 05, 2007

Hate Crimes

The Westboro Baptist Church of Kansas has spent the last several years of the Iraq War picketing the funerals of slain soldiers. They are not protesting against the war, trying to bring our troops how, or even protesting against the soldiers for participating. Instead, they are picketing military funerals to tell people that God is killing American soldiers to punish American for tolerating homosexuals.

Recently, a Baltimore federal court, handed down a judgment of $9 million against the church for picketing the funeral of a fallen Pennsylvania marine. Many applaud the decision, but the church has emphatically stated it will not stop their activities. A classmate of mine, equally outraged at their behavior, recently reminded us that if they had been found guilty of a hate crime, they could have been jailed.

So the questions are these: Is it a hate crime if it is driven by hate but the subject of the crime (families of fallen soldiers) and the object of the hate (homosexuals) are not the same? Is it enough if a crime is carried out because they hate homosexuals? Or would they actually have to harm a homosexual person? And – If this can be considered a hate crime based on the motivation, why wasn’t it prosecuted as such? Is it possibly, as my classmate wondered, a case of Christian judges (and police) protecting a Christian church, however repulsive it’s actions? I sure hope not.

Here in Nebraska and around the Midwest various motorcycle clubs have taken it upon themselves to counter picket military funerals – acting as an unofficial honor guard by lining the route between the fallen’s church and cemetery and keeping the Westboro Baptists away. So far it has worked and not incidents have been reported between the two, so far as I know.

I feel bad for the Westboro Baptists – to be so filled with hate and blindness and so unhappy.

1 comment:

SFNative said...

While we all have our own ideas of right and wrong, because it would be a criminal matter, the question of "is it a hate crime" has to come down to a legal definition.

It would depend on how Kansas defines hate crimes but checking the legal definition at we find that both felonies and misdemeanors are all predicated on whether or not the crime was "motivated by the victim's actual or perceived race, color, religion, national origin, ethnicity, or physical or mental disability".

So, using that definition this case could not be defined as a hate crime.

Now, should the laws be changed to allow cases such as this to be classified as a hate crime? I certainly think so. As situations like this arise, criminals (include potential criminals in that definition) start widening their perceived envelopes of what is criminally plausible.

Someone finds out that it's not a hate crime to perpetrate a wrong against someone because of a prejudice they have against someone else and we have a whole new area of crime from which it will be difficult to protect innocent people.