Misguided thought crimes legislation on U.S. House floor

Posted: May 03, 2007 10:03 AM
Misguided thought crimes legislation on U.S. House floor

Fresh off a vote last week urging our abrupt surrender in Iraq, and just hours removed from coming up 62 votes short in an attempt to override the president's veto, Democrats will use the House floor this afternoon to slide through legislation conceived of, written by, and moved in consultation with a key segment of their special interest constituency.

The bill, harmlessly coined "the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act" by House Democrats, would create a nebulous new class of criminals based not on the things they do, but on the basis of what they may or may not have been thinking while they committed the crime. Even worse, the legislation takes the unprecedented step of declaring some victims of heinous crimes not as worthy of justice as others, simply because they don't happen to fall into a special category of favored status.

But as we've seen in cases from San Francisco to Sweden, the actual application of "thought crime" laws is hardly restricted to criminals. Take for example the 2004 arrest of 11 people in Philadelphia simply for holding signs and reading passages out of the Bible during a gay pride festival downtown.

Though by all indications their protests were conducted peaceably, and with proper restraint, these men and women were forcibly detained, unceremoniously dragged down to the police station, and eventually charged with a total of three separate felonies and five misdemeanors

What, exactly, was the nature of their crimes? Well, according to the police, their charges included "possession of instruments of crime" (a bullhorn), "ethnic" intimidation (reciting a Biblical passage), and "inciting a riot" (again, reading verses from the Bible). All told, the protesters faced more than $90,000 in fines and court costs, and the very real prospect of facing as many as 47 years in prison.

The most charitable members of the Democratic caucus today will suggest those opposed to thought crime legislation are either misguided or confused; the most liberal will stand up and make blanket declarations insisting that we're all racists, bigots, or worse.

Unfortunately, it will be House Democrats advancing a bill that restricts basic religious freedoms and criminalizes innocent speech. And it will be House Democrats who will be imposing legislation that, at its core, enforces unequal justice for victims of our most serious crimes.

That's a fact of which House Republicans will be reminding Democrats early and often on the floor this afternoon. I'd urge Townhall readers to do the same.