On a cold night early in 1998 a college freshman in Wyoming decided to engage in one of his periodic bouts of very hazardous behavior. He went out cruising the bars looking for rough sex with a male stranger or strangers. From a bar, the youngster went off into the night with two men who pistol-whipped him, robbed him, and left him tied to a fence by the side of a road. He died some days later in a hospital. The young man's name was Matthew Shepard. Shepard's parents instantly found themselves, their dead son, and their grief being exploited to publicize what the activists endlessly interviewed by the media announced was rampant anti-homosexual bias in American culture. His father told the thronging media that the death of his misguided and unfortunate son should not be so used. But the opportunity for exploitation was irresistible, and Shepard was made the poster-boy for a campaign to write into law a special protected status for homosexuals. This campaign had already been vigorous, and Shepard's iconic murder turned it positively frenzied. The ever-opportunistic Bill Clinton appeared on television to condemn "gay bashing" and to demand new federal and state laws to combat it. He expressed perfectly the wishes of the liberal elite who intend to blanket the country with laws that will punish such "hate crimes."
As of this writing, 40 states and the federal government have enacted laws intended to punish what are described as hate offenses - an ambiguous term used to specify any crime deemed motivated by various kinds of prejudice or bias - and 21 states consider crimes deemed motivated by hostility to homosexuality as "hate crimes." To be found guilty of a hate crime means additional punishment. According to the 1998 book Hate Crimes, Criminal Law and Identity Politics by James Jacobs and Kimberly Potter, the appearance of hate statutes is the result of a well-financed public relations campaign waged on an unsuspecting citizenry. The authors, two legal scholars from New York University, also contend that anti-hate statutes do not in fact lessen actual prejudice. Instead they tend to weaken the First Amendment protections of the Constitution. Claiming to strengthen human rights, they do the opposite, by attempting to criminalize thoughts and feelings.
The argument that "hate laws" criminalize thoughts was heard by the U.S. Supreme Court in the case of Todd Mitchell, a teenager convicted in Wisconsin of committing aggravated assault. He received the maximum two-year sentence for the assault, but under the new Wisconsin hate-crime law five years were added to his sentence. His lawyers appealed, and eventually the Wisconsin Supreme Court struck down the added five-year penalty, stating that the lower court's decision "creates nothing more than a thought crime," which it rejected as an "Orwellian" concept. But in 1993 the U.S. Supreme Court reversed the state supreme court. The nation's highest court voted 9-0 to uphold the hate-crime concept.
The earliest efforts to classify certain bias-based offenses at the federal level began in 1985 with hearings prompted by lobbying from several civil-rights groups that led to the passage of the Hate Crime Statistics Reporting Act. Next, the House Judiciary Committee was urged by Rep. Barney Frank, an openly "gay" congressman, to include crimes against homosexuals in the statistics. In 1986 the House of Representatives held hearings to "sensitize the public to the ... prevalence of anti-gay violence." This was the first action by Congress toward recognizing homosexuals as a privileged minority group.
By 1992 Congress was debating the first federal hate crime enhancement statutes and holding more hearings. According to Jacobs and Potter, the hearings opened with witnesses stating that "a veritable epidemic is sweeping through our country at an alarming rate" and pointing to "reports generated by the Anti-Defamation League of B'nai B'rith (ADL) and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force (NGLTF)." Senator John Kerry pointed to statistics from the NGLTF which proved, he said, that "the number of hate crimes has increased by 42% from the previous year." The senator declared that "legislation is required to address the situation." In 1992 such legislation was passed.
The so-called hate-crime epidemic appears to have been the product of a series of well-coordinated articles that were reproduced in major daily newspapers around the nation. A typical headline for such stories reads "Rise in Hate Crime Signals Alarming Resurgence of Bigotry." In one example, a New York Newsday article appeared under a headline, "Bias Flares Up in City's Heat." However, by the middle of the page the reader was informed that "the number of bias related incidents dropped in the first half of this year from the same period last year." Such contradictions suggest that the laws on hate crime were rushed through Congress without a serious investigation into whether the alleged "hate epidemic" was based on credible evidence. Many states also passed hate-crime laws in an effort to copy other states that were doing the same thing. Most state legislatures did not draft the laws themselves but merely reworked a model statute provided by the ADL, the main group that contrived the dubious concept of a hate crime in the first place.
It's worth noting that Congressman Frank, who led the drive for hate laws, showed his own attitude toward the American people and his oath of office in 1988. That was the year it was discovered that a homosexual brothel was operating in his Washington, D.C., apartment. Frank was allowed to stay in office when the members of the House of Representatives accepted his alibi that his "gay" lover never disclosed to him what was going on in his own home!
The invention of "hate crimes" is but one aspect of a larger social-engineering project which flies the banner of tolerance, diversity, and human rights but which aims at making this a secular totalitarian society. Our culture's deep roots in biblical teachings are being severed, slowly but surely. The campaign to purge God and religion from public and even nonpublic activities has made swift progress on many fronts, its first notable modem milestone coming in 1947 when Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black issued his infamous opinion proclaiming the existence of "a wall" of separation between church and state. That opinion was based on a misreading of the so-called establishment clause of the First Amendment - it went directly counter to the explicit words of America's Founding Fathers, who endorsed a close connection among the state, the moral law, and the Creator. This attack on the Constitution has been used as justification to create an agnostic or positivist legal framework serving to override the natural-law basis of the American system of law. The Black decision paved the way for the detestable 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling that declared a so-called constitutional right to obtain an abortion. We are arriving at a point where American law will be divorced from and opposed in practice to the moral order.
Many of the major proponents of hate-crime laws go so far as to assert that the Catholic and other traditional Christian churches are promoting hatred and bigotry merely because they adhere to historical Christian moral teachings. Specifically, they lambaste such churches for opposing abortion and refusing to revise their teachings prohibiting sodomy and so-called gay marriage. With the use of bias laws to protect homosexual perversity, and the employment of criminal conspiracy laws like RICO (Racketeering Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act) against abortion opponents, the underlying intention of the hate-crime lobby is obvious. The statutes are a legal device carefully crafted to shift public morals against the primacy of the family and toward a post-Christian utopia of sexual liberation.
Hate laws have already become a tool with which to limit the rights of so-called bigots and religious extremists, terms which are increasingly used by the mainstream media as synonyms for evangelical Christians, faithful Catholics, and any other social conservatives who speak plainly against immorality. A columnist put it succinctly when he commented, "If homosexuality is acceptable and normal, then those of us who believe in Christianity and biblical truths are anti-social deviants." Several recent legal cases involving hate-crime statutes demonstrate how successful the "gay rights" organizations and the ADL have been in downsizing what remains of the First Amendment and the rest of the Bill of Rights. For example, in 1998 an Illinois hate-crime statute was used against a group of junior high school students accused of handing out what were called "racist flyers." The students were originally charged with disorderly conduct (a misdemeanor) but the charge was elevated to a hate crime (a felony) because of their alleged motive.
In Canada, which has no Constitution or free speech guarantee, the liberal establishment has little effective opposition. The Canadian hate-crime law incorporates sexual orientation and gender discrimination. A Canadian citizen does not even have to be accused of committing a specific crime; he can be charged under what is deemed "hate speech." Merely stating a fact - that AIDS is found primarily among homosexuals, or that abortion kills an unborn child - can get you thrown into prison.
In the wake of the hate-crime phenomenon, the entire prolife movement has been smeared as violent and prejudiced against women for its courage in opposing what groups like the National Organization for Women call "women's reproductive rights." This is precisely how Joseph Scheidler and associates of the Pro-Life Action League found themselves portrayed when indicted by federal prosecutors. In a decision that Chicago's Francis Cardinal George called an outrageous perversion of the legal system, three prolife leaders including Scheidler were convicted last year of masterminding a "criminal" enterprise under RICO. The three were assessed damages to the abortion-providers of a quarter of a million dollars because the federal court claimed they had "created a climate of intimidation" and "damaged the business interests" of the abortion industry.
Originally, the RICO case against Scheidler was deemed to be so baseless that it was thrown out by a federal judge more than a decade ago. However, just as it did with hate-crime laws, the U.S. Supreme Court reversed that ruling in 1994 and ordered the defendants to go to trial. Federal prosecutors, abortion providers, and the U.S. courts all agree that persons who engage in peaceful protest at abortion mills, and those who urge young women to preserve the life of an unborn child, can be prosecuted as criminal racketeers. Yet a second RICO case is now underway against Scheidler and the Pro-Life Action League, aimed at bankrupting and shutting down the prolife movement. G. Robert Blakely, the Notre Dame professor who drafted the anti-racketeering act in 1969, spoke out recently to make it clear that Congress had never intended the RICO law to be applied to public protestors or political demonstrators. He expressed grave concern that the Scheidler ruling will chill the right of free speech: "Everybody who loves the First Amendment has got to sleep uneasily...."
In his encyclical Veritatis Splendor ("The Splendor of Truth"), Pope John Paul II makes clear the consequences of uncoupling positive law from the moral law. He quotes Pope Leo XIII: "Totalitarianism arises out of a denial of truth in the objective sense . If there is no transcendent truth ... then there is no sure principle for guaranteeing just relations between people." John Paul continues that today there is no less grave a danger that the fundamental rights of the human person will be denied.... This is the risk of an alliance between democracy and ethical relativism, which would remove any sure moral reference point from political and social life....
Indeed, if there is no ultimate truth to guide and direct political activity, then ideas and convictions can easily be manipulated for reasons of power. As history demonstrates, a democracy without values easily turns into an open or thinly disguised totalitarianism."
This writer is not suggesting that all U.S. law has already been severed from the natural law, or that Constitutional protections are about to vanish overnight. The special protection for immorality being fostered by lawmakers and the courts will take some time to be fully consolidated. Nonetheless, there is grave danger in such blatant disregard of the intention of the Founding Fathers and in such irresponsible cutting of the nation's cultural roots. Expressions of Christian (and other traditional religious) faith are already being regarded as hate speech. The new totalitarianism of Pope John Paul's vivid warning may be closer than we think.
David J. Peterson is the author of Revoking the Moral Order: The Ideology of Positivism and the Vienna Circle, just published by Lexington Books.
This article can be found on the "New Oxford Review" website (link closed). Reprinted with permission.