"Hate crimes are incompatible with religious freedom." That’s what I heard a religious rights expert say on the radio the other morning. If it’s an either/or situation, is the most obvious answer not to protect religious freedom – one of the core principles of our nations founding?

The Democrats slipped in a hate crimes amendment to the recent defense spending bill.

I disagree with the entire concept of hate crimes for several reasons. I don’t think the government should criminalize thought. They should not create classes of victims: if someone is murdered for their money and someone else is murdered for their race is the first victim any less dead and the first criminal any less guilty? There is also numerous free speech (and in with the provision for gays: freedom of religion) issues that are raised.

Most of the news articles about this legislation, what little there are, focus on physical violence against gays. The problem is that is already illegal, this amendment does not suddenly criminalize violence against gays or any group. The actions are already criminal acts, the amendment criminalizes the thoughts of the perpetrator.

It also may allow states and the federal government the right to prosecute religious leaders who speak out against gay marriage or other issues involving homosexual rights. I know most gay people do not see any delineation between opposition to gay marriage and opposition to gay individuals, but that again is a case of thought projection. You believe I hate gays because I oppose gay marriage. Neither you or the federal government knows my real thoughts, but they believe they can prosecute me based on their perception of my thoughts.

No one should verbally or physically assault someone for any reason, be they gay, black, hispanic, white, Christian, Jewish, or any other category. Anyone who does those things should be prosecuted, but hate crimes goes far beyond that by granting the government the power to judge our thoughts and intentions. Even if you support this type of hate crimes legislation, surely you can see that it is dangerous to grant the courts and police that type of power. How can you prove you are innocent of thoughts? That is a dangerous thought.

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