Jan Evans’ letterin the March 7 Deseret News is the latest in a series of letters denigrating the concept of hate crimes legislation.
Evans opens by stating “We cannot legislate behavior,” which is a variation of the statement, “We cannot legislate morality.” The fallacy with both versions of that sentiment is that we have been successfully legislating behavior and indirectly legislating morality since the beginning of time and our society is the better for it.
Abolition of slavery was a legislation of behavior. It largely worked. Then, as Jim Crow laws undermined it, civil rights legislation was enacted to prevent immoral end-runs around it. These new laws have been successful in marvelous degree, with more progress needed. I agree that immorality in the hearts of man continues and creates a proliferation of laws, but over time fewer and fewer hearts agree with the premises of racism as our society has spoken its conscience through its laws.13 comments on this story
What Evans did not state was that a hate crime has more than one victim and constitutes multiple crimes. If I were to burn and kill a patch of someone’s lawn for no reason other than I was in the mood, I would be rightly prosecuted for damaging her property. However, if I burn a cross in that person's lawn because she was black, I not only damage her lawn but I terrorize her, her family and all other blacks in the neighborhood. The same crime at the outset, but a second crime has occurred because of my animus toward that person's race.
Hate crime laws, including the one now being diluted and defeated by our Legislature, do not punish immoral thought. They punish the actions which violate the rights of individuals. They are needed to define the nature of the victimization being perpetrated and hence the nature of the crime.