"[T]he legitimate powers of government reach actions only and not opinions ...."
For those who commit physical crimes against others based on race, religion, or sexual orientation I have no sympathy. But the notion that government can punish thoughts and opinions, even offensive ones, is frightening.
A bill making it illegal for people of various faiths to freely hold and profess their respective religion's teaching on sexual morality is working its way through Congress. Regardless of your politics, every American who cares about free speech and religious liberty should tell their U.S. senators to oppose this legislation. This bill has already passed the House of Representatives on a largely party-line vote with a Democrat majority. It is now pending in the Senate Judiciary Committee, and is expected to be voted on by the entire Senate in a month.
This bill would criminalize beliefs. If signed into law, H.R. 1592 would create a new class of crimes.
Called the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2007, this bill would pour federal resources into prosecutions based on suspicions about a person's thoughts and beliefs, not just his alleged criminal act(s).
While criminal law treats all violent acts equally, the proposed law would additionally punish the accused for any prejudice they might have toward the victim. Instead of ending discrimination, this bill would create a judicial caste system in American society by creating categories where some victims are given more consideration and attention than others. This is a direct affront to the equal protection provision of the U.S. Constitution.
As a former U.S. Ambassador to the UN Human Rights Commission, and a person who grew up fighting racism, I oppose the idea of thought crimes. In America, our Constitution guarantees everyone the freedom to think and believe whatever he or she wants, no matter how repulsive those beliefs are to others. And, our Declaration of Independence champions the dignity and worth of every individual.
Our system of laws requires evidence and varying levels of proof for different offenses. We lock people up for criminal acts. That penalty is already established in law. This bill would allow government to further punish them for their alleged beliefs.