Do certain crimes justify being labeled as “hate crimes?” The shooting of a seventeen year-old in Florida has set off a firestorm of emotions. Some are demanding the application of “hate crime” status for action of the shooter. For a crime to be prosecuted as a “hate crime,” there must be clear evidence that the crime was committed based on the sole motivation of hatred of the victim because of his/her religion, race, ethnicity, or sexual orientation. If found guilty of a “hate crime” the perpetrator could be punished to a greater degree than if the “hate crime” status did not apply to the situation. In other words, if the same exact crime were committed out of any other motivation, the perpetrator likely would not face as severe a penalty. The reasoning for “hate crime” application to any case seems flawed to me on several levels.
First, from a practical point of view, it seems to me that if justice is truly blind, then it cannot at the same time be discriminating. Justice by its very nature does not favor one person over another (although our justice system and society at times does). From a historical perspective, it flies in the face of the statement that we believe all men are created equal. That statement implies that all people are held to be equally valuable and deserve equal protection under the laws that govern our society. And then we have the biblical view of man. I refer to the words of Jesus where He stated, “You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘Do not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment.” (Matthew 5:21, 22) At first glance it may look as though Jesus would endorse “hate crime” legislation, but look carefully at what Jesus is saying. Jesus equates the powerful emotion of hatred with murder.
Every murder or other crime against another person, no matter who they are, has hatred at its core. Hatred is not just a volatile intense disliking. It can range from active hostility to passive indifference. If you ignore a person in dire need, it can be an expression of hatred. In any case, hatred is a complete willful disregard for another human being. Plus, the Bible clearly states that God is no respecter of persons. That means that every person can experience God’s love–and His discipline–to the same degree.
To designate only select groups or classifications of people as qualifying for “hate crime” protection undermines the concept of equal protection. My argument is that if one person deserves that level of protection, then every person deserves it. Every human being–no matter the race, culture, ethnicity, sexual orientation, religious preference, music preference, or any other characteristic–is made in the image of God. The basic issue here is the sanctity of human life. Terrible crimes committed against any person deserve the proper penalty for those crimes. “Hate crime” status, as applied today, serves only to further divide people. Every crime is based on hate. In the end, I guess I do believe there are hate crimes.