Recently, I posted an email I had written to our U.S. Congressman Nancy Boyda concerning the Hate Crimes Bill. She voted to support it, and it passed the House, now awaiting Senate review. She also emailed me back giving her reasons for support. Below, I have included her response to me, as well as, a second email I sent back responding to her's. Am I going to change her mind? No. But she was elected by the people of our district, and I want her to know that we are paying attention to what she's doing. She must represent all of this district, including the hicks like me in Linn County. At any rate, here is her response to me, and my rebuttal:
May 10, 2007
Dear Mr. Kastler,
Thank you for taking the time to contact my office regarding hate crimes legislation. As your representative, I both need and value your input.
The Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2007, H.R. 1592, was introduced by Representative John Conyers. This legislation passed the House on May 3, 2007 by a vote of 237-180 and is now in the Senate for review.
I appreciate this opportunity to share with you why I voted for this bill. First, I would like to clarify the purpose and effects of this legislation. The bill:
Expands crimes that are protected under hate crimes statutes. The Civil Rights Act of 1968 established the foundation of current federal statutes on hate crimes. For the first time it outlawed the use, or the threat of use, of force motivated by a person's race, color, religion or national origin. It applied to certain federally protected activities like enrolling in or applying to attend a public school, traveling or voting. H.R. 1592 expands the provisions to cover violent crimes such as assault or murder.
Extends protections against hate crimes to more Americans. H.R. 1592 broadens protections to include people victimized because of their gender, sexual orientation or disability.
Protects First Amendment rights to freedom of speech and religion. This legislation does not prohibit any verbal expressions of disapproval toward any group. It does not prohibit any statements about personal religious beliefs, and it does not attempt to police hateful thoughts. In fact, the bill explicitly states that exercises of First Amendment freedoms are not subject to prosecution.
Helps local law agencies. H.R. 1592 directs the Attorney General's office to offer assistance to local jurisdictions by awarding grants to local law enforcement programs.
I voted for this bill because:
Hatred tears communities apart and undermines our democracy. Violent crimes based on prejudice are not just about targeting the individual; they're about spreading fear through the community and throughout the nation. The core principle of our democracy is that all individuals are created equal. No group should have to live in fear.
I believe that motive should be a factor in determining criminal penalties for violent acts. Crimes motivated by hatred of a group of people are especially heinous and deserving of strong punishment. This principle is consistent with centuries of precedent. For example, courts have differentiated between manslaughter and premeditated murder for hundreds of years.
I am moved by the statements of many of the bill's endorsers, including religious groups and law enforcement organizations. While some religious groups do not support hate crimes legislation, many do, including the United Methodist Church , of which I am a member. Of one thing I am certain; we are all God's children. H.R. 1592 is also supported by over 230 national law enforcement, professional, education, civil rights, civic and religious organizations.
I know that you hold your opinion on this issue very deeply, and I understand and respect your views, as I hope you do mine. I am confident that there are many other matters of policy on which we may agree, and I hope that we can work together in the future. Thank you again for contacting me. Sincerely,
Member of Congress
Dear Rep. Boyda,
Thank you for responding to my e-mail concerning the Hate Crimes Bill (HR 1592). As a member of your constituency, I am trying to keep tabs on what is going on in Washington, so we in Kansas can stay informed. In so doing, I would like to address some of your reasoning for support of this bill, and offer a word of encouragement as well.
While this bill does not attempt to “police thoughts”, nor infringe on Free Speech rights, it certainly seems to be a step in that direction. You mentioned that it was your belief that “motive” should be taken into account when prosecuting violent crimes, and that we already do this with crimes such as murder and manslaughter. Of course, the glaring difference would be that those crimes address “motive” of premeditation versus crimes committed in the “heat of the moment” versus crimes involving criminal negligence. The Hate Crimes bill you recently voted for broadens this far beyond these types of motives, to include thoughts expressed towards particular groups. Don’t we already have laws in place to protect ALL PEOPLE from violent crimes?
Furthermore, the Bill provides Federal money and law enforcement aid to local authorities prosecuting Hate Crimes. I suppose we can expect to see a rash of state and local law enforcement agencies labeling crimes as “Hate Crimes” to receive the extra funding grants. It seems rather obvious that this Bill will only serve to drive a deeper wedge between various groups of Americans.
In addition to this, the Hate Crimes Bill seems to be a rather blatant violation of our U.S. Constitution, Article XIV, Section I, which promises that laws shall not be made that will deny to any person "the equal protection of the laws." I ask you: Is it “equal protection” when you are allocating more funds and energy to crimes committed against certain groups? Isn’t a heterosexual murder just as heinous as a homosexual murder? Shouldn’t a Caucasian girl’s rape be prosecuted just as fervently as an African-American girl’s rape? I for one, wish to see all violent criminals punished to the fullest extent of the law, regardless of whether the crime was committed by a bigot, or just a “garden variety” psycho. The perpetrator is not the main point…the victim SHOULD be. This is even more ironic when you wrote to me that one of your reasons for approving this Bill was because our democracy states: “all individuals are created equal.” If you really believe that, then why are you not treating them as equals under the law?
In addition to this, it seems extremely odd to grant special privileges to certain citizens based upon what they do in their bedrooms. Obviously, matters of race and gender differ greatly from issues like homosexuality and transgenderism, which are protected groups under the new law. Your vote for this bill is not a protection of people, it’s a protection of certain behaviors.
Furthermore, I think the biggest concern many have is that this unconstitutional bill opens the door for further legislation involving “hate speech”, whereas any citizen, feeling led of God or their own conscience, to simply speak against lifestyles we deem sinful, will face prosecution. Before you discard this potential scenario, keep in mind that this has already happened in Canada and Sweden, and we know there are some within your political party who would like to see it happen in the United States as well. I fear, you’ve played right into their hands. I am, however, encouraged to hear that President Bush is planning to veto this Bill, given its divisive, discriminatory, and unconstitutional nature.
I would like to close with a word of encouragement. As a Pastor, I am committed to praying for you as you represent us in Washington. Clearly, we won’t agree on some issues, but I hope, as you said, we will have common ground on some. You wrote to me saying: “Crimes motivated by hatred of a group of people are especially heinous and deserving of strong punishment.” and “No group should have to live in fear.” I agree with both of these philosophies to an extent. And since this is a mindset you and I both share, I’ll be watching carefully to see if your voting record shows consistency. We should protect people in our country, especially the one’s who are most vulnerable and cannot protect themselves. I noticed the “disabled” are included in the new Bill, and since you believe no group should have to live in fear, I’ll look forward to seeing you defend the rights of our Nation’s children, whose beating hearts feel so safe and protected within the confines of their mother’s womb. Since you feel that certain groups deserve greater protection, I will assume you will fight to see this group protected as well. Shouldn’t they have just as much right to protection as those of specific races, genders, religions, and sexual orientations? What greater “Hate Crime” can their be than to take a person’s life before they’ve even been given a chance to breathe, and grow, and enjoy the benefits of being an American? This stand will show your consistency in protecting endangered groups, and it will put you at odds with many in your own party. But such a stand would certainly win my respect and admiration.
Thanks again for writing me back. I’ll do my best to keep you in prayer as you serve. And I’ll be sure to watch how you represent us in the Capitol, and let as many people around here know as I can. Pro or con.
Thanks again and have a nice day,
Shane Kastler -- Pastor
The First Christian Church