Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Hating With the Times - Why Our Laws Must Change

Congress is expected to expand federal hate crimes laws to add "sexual orientation" to a list that already includes "race, color, religion or national origin." Is this necessary? Should there be special laws against crimes motivated by intolerance, bigotry and hatred? Isn't a crime a crime?

Adding “sexual orientation” to the federal hate crime laws is absolutely necessary if we are to remain a society that provides laws to fit the time. Since laws are almost always enacted in response to a situation, it is the duty of federal lawmakers to pay vigilant attention to the needs of the culture.

I remember the first time I saw “The Laramie Project,” the play written about the brutal death and beating of Matthew Shepard. I was in college and had no idea what the play was about. When I emerged, I remember a powerful feeling of doom because there had not been much progress in creating a hate crime bill, yet hope since this brutal crime had gotten people talking about the situation.

But it seems like we’re back to where we started.

This issue is an issue that should deeply move the religious individual because at this point, crimes committed towards an individual solely because they are homosexual are not considered hate crimes. That means that they are not determined to be quite as hateful as violence motivated by hate towards individuals due to race, color, religion, or national origin.

Those of us who read the Bible know that there are certain laws that must be changed in order to fit the times. We no longer believe that parents should stone their child if that child is stubborn or rebellious (Deut. 21:18-12), and we definitely do not believe that a woman must marry the man that rapes her (Deut. 22:28029). If we are willing to see that our holy books must change with the times, how much more should we be willing to have our worldly laws change with the times?

Yes, crimes are crimes, but there should be special attention paid to those crimes that are motivated against individuals based on their race, color, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, gender, ability, etc. Indiscriminate crimes are tragic and deadly, but discriminate crimes are in a class all by themselves, a class that needs discriminate attention.


Midrashional Thinker said...

Well done making this a theological issue. It can be tough to talk about something really contemporary and attach it to Scripture but it is a testament to your faith (and the bible's limberness) that you made the transition so easily.

SpiritSong said...

I especially appreciated your use of the term "discriminate crimes". I have not heard that term, so if you "coined" it- well done! I, too, remember my first introduction to "The Laramie Project". I guess I have always assumed that the hate crime legislation ALREADY included language to protect sexual identity. I saddened and shocked me to learn that it doesn't.

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