Since I wrote about the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2009 earlier this week, I've had an opportunity to help write a press release on the issue for the Republican Liberty Caucus, and made it the subject of my latest Poolside Chat video (see below). In the process I spent a lot more time looking over the legislation and found even more to be worried about.
The original complaint remains the same. Hate crimes laws like this destroy the idea that everyone is equal under the law. The first truth held to be self-evident in our Declaration of Independence is that "all men are created equal," but when you start dividing them into groups and giving those groups special legal protections you are making some more equal than others. That's not equality at all. It's the tyranny of privilege in the service of political correctness.
What I discovered on a closer reading of the bill is even more troubling than my original concerns. Included in the legislation are extensive provisions for providing grants from the federal government to local law enforcement specifically for investigating and prosecuting hate crimes. This program is similar to programs from the War on Drugs, which blurred the line between state and federal jurisdiction and provided incentives for gratuitous investigations and prosecutions to keep the federal dollars coming in.
Under the grant program local law enforcement can get grants for up to $100,000 a year and material assistance from federal agencies. In return all they have to do is let the feds, who are normally limited to prosecuting interstate crime and crime on federal property, come into their jurisdictions and play an expanded role in pursuing hate crimes. Of course, if they want that federal money to keep coming they need to find and prosecute hate crimes. This leaves law enforcement actively looking for crimes which they can define as hate crimes to justify the federal grant money they are receiving.
When there's a profit motive you can guarantee that investigators are going to find hate crimes everywhere and prosecutors are going to pursue convictions as hard as they can. There won't actually be any more hate-motivated crimes than there were before, but there will certainly be more people spending extra time in jail because it was profitable to add a hate crimes charge to the case against them.
The situation is reminiscent of the Fugitive Slave Law which was in place before the Civil War, where judges were paid $5 if they ruled that the accused was a free man, but $10 if they ruled that he was an escaped slave. Not surprisingly a lot of free blacks were forced into slavery under this law in a gross miscarriage of justice which helped to push the nation into civil war.
This hate crimes bill doesn't just make us unequal under the law and criminalize thought, it also puts justice up for sale, using federal money to finance a boom in the hate crime industry.