On May 2, Orrin Hatch, alongside Democratic California Senator Diane Feinstein, proposed the Protecting Religious Affiliated Institutions Act, a bill that would make threats to obstruct the free worship of any religious group — including to deface or destroy mosques, synagogues, or churches — a federal crime.
This is a praiseworthy and necessary step against the burgeoning tide of hateful rhetoric worldwide. Senators Hatch and Feinstein have, for now, sent the message that hate speech, rather than a partisan issue, is antithetical to American values generally.
It is odd, then, that our state Legislature has yet to pass effective or enforceable policy against hate crimes or threatening behavior. Senator Hatch rightly points out that “an attack on one religion is an attack on all.” It is also true that a threat against one person’s lifestyle is an attack on an entire society’s freedom — for no person who is afraid to openly express their identity or beliefs is free. And Utah, many of whose residents come from a legacy of persecution, ought to understand this better than any other state. Utah lawmakers would be wise to follow Senator Hatch’s lead, for my free expression ends where yours begins; liberty ends where coercion begins.
Salt Lake City