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April 13, 2006

Hate Crimes Legislation and Schools

Letter from Renee Doyle, EdWatch President

Dear Friends,

With very little publicity, and almost no citizen input, pending Minnesota renegade legislation will make felonies out of misdemeanor crimes depending on what the accused person was thinking at the time of the crime. (HF 3471)

This legislation would create hate crime laws for every existing crime contained in Chapter 609 of our criminal code, increasing current misdemeanor penalties to gross misdemeanors and gross misdemeanors to felonies if "hate" is involved.

EdWatch is troubled that several prominent House leaders are supporting this dangerous legislation. You may know it better by its self-promoting and public-opinion-shaping name: hate crime legislation.  EdWatch opposes bullying behavior and all forms of assault on people. All law abiding people oppose crimes, particularly premeditated acts, whether they are the result of greed, passion, hate or thrill-seeking. This legislation, however, makes a crime out of  statements about selected groups of people. It violates equal protection, treating similarly situated victims differently.

For example, this incident is one among many:
[T]he Pennsylvania state hate crime law was used to justify the arrest and jailing of nearly a dozen Christians. On October 11, 2004, homosexual activists were celebrating "National Coming Out Day" at a street fair for an event called Outfest. The Christian Group Repent America walked into the gathering, singing hymns and carrying signs encouraging homosexuals to repent. They were surrounded by a self-described group called "The Pink Angels," who blocked their movement with large cut-outs of angel shapes. Police then arrested 11 Christians and none of the Pink Angels. Ranging in age from a 17-year-old girl to a 72-year-old grandmother, the Christians spent the night in jail. The next day, five of them, including the teenager, faced eight charges -- three felonies and five misdemeanors -- stemming from Pennsylvania's "hate crimes" law: criminal conspiracy, possession of instruments of crime, reckless endangerment of another person, ethnic intimidation, riot, failure to disperse, disorderly conduct and obstructing highways.

If convicted on all charges, the Christians could have faced a total of 47 years in prison. Despite a videotape that showed no criminal activity, the prosecution refused to withdraw the charges, and characterized the group's views in court as "hate speech."
Pro-homosexual materials are already being included in school programs, such as sex education and anti-bullying efforts. The Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN) and Parents, Family and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) are involved with these programs. Students are taught they are "hateful" if they are opposed homosexual behavior for any reason. Homosexual behavior must be accepted by students as normal and healthy, or they are flagged as bigots. The hate crimes bill amounts to criminalizing and muzzling one side of the cultural battle and providing a sword for the other.
Perhaps most disturbing is that our state legislature feels that the Minnesota court system can now read minds and fairly distribute punishment; punishment only for the hate of select groups. Rather than protect people from bias or hate, it legalizes bias and hate against unprotected groups, like a young man or woman who simply wants to be left alone. What if a young man is approached by several gay young men?  Will he have the right to defend himself?
A good friend of mine worked as an electrician in Houston, Texas. He traveled all over the city every day, doing one or two hour service calls. On several occasions, he was approached by a gay male who made physical advances. These advances would occur where there were no witnesses, such as in an elevator or hallway.  On more than one occasion, the advances were so aggressive, that my friend had to slam the individual against the wall or use major force to be left alone. The bill that is currently on the table in St. Paul would put the law on the side of the gay aggressor and leave my friend facing assault charges that would be a felony.
This bill is far-reaching and devastating to personal freedom. It undermines equal protection and would criminalize thoughts and beliefs instead of actions. Passage of this bill will be a major move toward putting in place a system in which our children will be jailed someday for their beliefs.

Renee T. Doyle
EdWatch President

HF 3471 passed the House Public Safety Committee Tuesday, April 10th as part of the Public Safety Omnibus bill -- HF 2953.

Authors of the hate crimes language (HF 3471) are: Ellison (DFL), Jeff Johnson (R),  Thao (DFL), Mariani (DFL), Entenza (DFL), Walker(DFL), Clark (DFL). The Senate author is Sen. Pappas (DFL). Rep. Jeff Johnson is seeking the Republican endorsement for Attorney General. Steve Smith (R) is the author of the omnibus bill, and he supported the bill in his Public Safety Committee.

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