Janet M. LaRue

(b) Whoever, whether or not acting under color of law, by force or threat of force willfully injures, intimidates or interferes with, or attempts to injure, intimidate or interfere with--

(1) any person because he is or has been, or in order to intimidate such person or any other person or any class of persons from--

(A) voting or qualifying to vote, in any primary, special, or general election; ... shall be fined under this title, or imprisoned not more than one year, or both; and ... if such acts include the use, attempted use, or threatened use of a dangerous weapon ... shall be fined under this title, or imprisoned not more than ten years, or both;

Holder was certainly aware of Sec. 245 when he testified before Congress on June 25. He quoted the section urging Congress to pass a new "hate crimes" law which would allow the federal government to prosecute crimes based on sexual orientation, gender, gender identity or disability even if the victim wasn't engaged in a federally protected activity. Holder "cited the recent killing of a security guard at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington. The alleged assailant is a white supremacist."

Holder said the expansion of the hate crime law was needed if states lack the "capacity," "willingness" or "desire to prosecute these kinds of cases," even though he does not think "that there is a trend among the states or local jurisdictions in failing to go after these kinds of crimes," according to columnist Debra Saunders.

Since Pennsylvania hasn't indicted the Panthers, wouldn't Holder's logic compel that the feds should? If DOJ can't make the case under Sec. 245 against armed Black Panthers who told Chris Hill, a white Republican poll watcher, "White power don't rule here," and called Larry Counts, a black Republican poll watcher a "race traitor," why is Holder confident that DOJ can successfully prosecute hate crimes based on something as subjective as "perceived gender identity"?

Or is it Holder's goal simply to chill politically incorrect speech?

Holder's response to a question by Sen. Jeff Sessions leads to that conclusion:

Sessions: "[A] minister gives a sermon, quotes the Bible about homosexuality, is thereafter attacked by a gay activist because of what the minister said about his religious beliefs and what Scripture says about homosexuality." Is the minister protected, is what Sessions said. Here's a portion of the answer, the testimony from Eric Holder.

HOLDER: Well, the statute would not -- would not necessarily cover that. We're talking about crimes that have a historic basis. Groups who have been targeted for violence as a result of the color of their skin, their sexual orientation, that is what this statute tends -- is designed to cover. We don't have the indication that the attack was motivated by a person's desire to strike at somebody who was in one of these protected groups. That would not be covered by the statute.

Since religion is one of the classes included in the definition of hate crimes, what authority does Holder have to exclude the attack on the minister from being "covered by the statute"?

Holder, the first black U.S. attorney general, gave a speech at DOJ in honor of Black History Month on Feb. 18, just 16 days after his confirmation. He used the occasion to tell us that the United States is "essentially a nation of cowards" when it comes to race relations.

Unless Holder considers "brandishing a 2-foot-long nightstick" just an innovative invitation to "talk with each other about things racial," it appears that his DOJ is cowering before the New Black Panthers.

Since the statute of limitations hasn't run on filing felony charges under Sec. 245, Mr. Hill and Mr. Counts should request a conversation with Holder about "unresolved racial issues" in Philadelphia.

Maybe Holder will have them over for a beer.

Janet M. LaRue

Jan LaRue is Senior Legal Analyst with the American Civil Rights Union; former Chief Counsel at Concerned for Women; Legal Studies Director at Family Research Council; and Senior Counsel for the National Law Center for Children and Families. Be the first to read Janet LaRue's column. Sign up today and receive Townhall.com delivered each morning to your inbox.