A representative from Focus on the Family once gave a presentation regarding bullying, the issue of the day. In her speech she stated that she disagreed with the label of “hate crime” attached to bullying. To say something is hate related indicates that other similar behavior is not and requires that some extra punishment be imposed for the hate crime. She continued to say that bullying children of a different race, gender, or with a disability should not be tolerated, not because it was a hate crime, but because they are a child of the King.
The sanctity and value of human life is why bullying is unacceptable. It is this same value for human life that is why we have laws to punish criminals who murder, assault, or abuse. Hate crime laws indicate that we value some lives more than others. According to the FBI:
“A hate crime is a traditional offense like murder, arson, or vandalism with an added element of bias. For the purposes of collecting statistics, Congress has defined a hate crime as a “criminal offense against a person or property motivated in whole or in part by an offender’s bias against a race, religion, disability, ethnic origin or sexual orientation.” Hate itself is not a crime—and the FBI is mindful of protecting freedom of speech and other civil liberties.”*
Should it really matter if a criminal shoots someone because of their race, religion, or gender, or if it’s just to rob them? Either way it is a senseless murder.
An armed robber enters a bank late Friday afternoon. He’s out for money and knows he can find it on a Friday as people cash their paychecks. While he is there, a customer decides to do his Lone Ranger bit and attempts to subdue the would-be thief. The robber begins firing and doesn’t stop. He ends up killing the Lone Ranger and eight others before police officers surround the building and overtake him.
An armed white man goes into a Southern black church. He sits down in a pew for Bible study and listens to the conversation for an hour. Suddenly he stands and begins firing at will killing nine parishioners before leaving the premises. In less than twenty-four hours he is captured in another state and interrogated. Authorities learn that he is a racist who has a confederate flag at home and killed the black people in the church because he believes they are the source of all the problems in the world.
The first example is one of a typical crime while the second, a synopsis of the tragic events that took place this week in Charleston, SC, is considered a ‘hate’ crime. Because of the lack of hate on behalf of the bank robber, his sentence will not be as severe as that of the church shooter.
Re-examine this: In both examples people were killed needlessly and tragically. Each perpetrator had a plan, went into the situation, waited for the right opportunity, and acted out their intentions. They both murdered innocent people. Yet, by enforcing a stricter penalty on the church shooter, it would appear that the lives of the parishioners are more valuable than those in the bank. If they are not, then why aren’t both criminals punished equally for taking the lives of nine people? Why would one murderer receive a lesser sentence than the other? Will the families of the victims of the church shooting feel more comforted than those of the bank shooting since the perpetrator will receive more time due to the hatred he had for the victims?
The loss of any one life is equal to the loss of any other. Our judicial system provides for different “levels” of the criminal act of taking the life of another, such as manslaughter, murder in the first degree, etc., each with appropriate penalties. There are also the issues of self-defense and accidental death. However, in the case of the bank robbery and the church shootings, both are murder. Just try telling a loved one of the deceased that the perpetrator is going to receive a lesser sentence because it wasn’t a hate crime.