Thursday, May 03, 2007

Report of Expected Veto

The Cybercast News Service reports that President Bush will likely veto the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2007 currently being discussed in the US House of Representatives. The report indicates that the proposed legislation would stiffen penalties for certain crimes committed on the basis of "actual or perceived religion, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity or disability."

The bill's sponsor states that the bill seeks "to provide basic rights and protections for individuals so they are protected from assaults based on their sexual orientation." The report also notes that the sponsor claims that 54% of hate crimes are based on race, 17% on "religious bias" and 14% on "sexual orientation bias".

However, the report quotes sources who argue that the bill is both unnecessary and dubious from a constitutional standpoint. The main objection to the bill presented in the report is that state and local law enforcement already possess sufficient means to prosecute these crimes. Further, the bill creates inequity in meting of retribution for similar crimes.
"Under this bill justice will no longer be equal but depend on the race, sex, sexual orientation, disability or status of the victim .... For example, criminals who kill a homosexual or a transsexual will be punished more harshly than criminals who kill a police officer, members of the military, a child, a senior citizen or any other person."

What the report does not significantly address, however, is that the bill would also allow for the prosecution of those who affirm their faith traditions in regard to certain behaviors. For example, Church Teaching on chastity entails condemnation of homosexual activities. Under the bill, a sermon stating that homosexuality is sinful could be prosecuted.

Thus, the bill would de facto outlaw the assertion that immutable values exist. In criminalizing speech that could broadly be characterized as promoting "sexual orientation bias" the bill would in fact attempt to silence judgments based on assent to the existence of those truths and values.

The problem, of course, is that hatred is rightly to be condemned, but it cannot be outlawed. Hate crimes are crimes of passion, disordered passion; and disordered passions are matters that involve the soul, immutable values and sin. Hatred requires spiritual rehabilitation, which can only come through recognition of the infinite value of every human life.

From the concrete reality of the value of human life, every human life, objective judgments regarding the moral values of human actions are derived. When the one who hates recognizes that the one who is hated possesses innate value the distinction between hatred of the person and disapproval of the act emerges. Recognition of this distinction allows the drive toward aggression to subside, replaced by filial concern for the well being of the other.

This is a rational process. Irrationality gives way to reason, love dissolves hatred and the passions are restored to proper order.

Objection: Undoubtedly, as the debate about this bill continues the charge will be raised that those who oppose it are engaged in discrimination.

To this charge, I would plead guilty.

For it is a hollow charge that would view any and all discrimination as inherently equal and equally wrong. Discrimination based on attributes is wrong. Acts are distinct from attributes, even as accidental attributes do not touch on the essence of a thing. (cf The Physics of Aristotle)

To discriminate (judge) that an act is unacceptable, wrong or sinful is quite different from the irrational judgment that a man is in some way inferior due to an accidental attribute, e.g., pigmentation.

This bill confuses, or refuses to recognize, the distinction between the legitimacy of judgments in regard to acts, properly admissible for moral evaluation, versus the illegitimacy of judgments grounded in a fallacious (because erroneously perceived as substantial) condemnation of accidental attributes. Thus the bill contributes to the cult of relativism, which decays the fabric of society and degrades the human person.

The president is correct to oppose Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2007.

UPDATE: I understand that the bill as finally passed by the House excluded language that would have criminalized religous speech. However, the bill warrants observation and prayer until the Senate has completed their version and the conference bill is finalized.

No comments: