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Politically correct N.O. Council pursues thought control

The American Civil Liberties Union usually gets it wrong, but even a stopped clock is right twice a day and it’s that time to be correct for the ACLU when it voices what oddly is almost the sole opposition to the New Orleans City Council’s Big Brother attempt to regulate thought.

The Council appears ready to dive into and beyond the trendy and constitutionally and theoretically troubling waters of “hate crimes.” As a recent bill that passed the U.S. House of Representatives redefines the existing 1994 law, a hate crime is one where someone “willfully causes bodily injury to any person or, through the use of fire, a firearm, or an explosive or incendiary device, attempts to cause bodily injury to any person, because of the actual or perceived religion, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity or disability of any person” – an expansion of the existing federal law in terms of protected categories. (The Senate is trying to sneak such language into the current defesne appropriaiton bill.)

The existing federal act itself is highly problematic for it allows government to apply stiffer punishments merely on the basis of one’s presumed thoughts. It is inherently immoral because, by making certain motivations for committing violence cause for additional punishment, it tacitly condones violence that is not “hateful.” Violence is violence regardless of motive; it is the act, not the thought behind it (the only exception being self-defense because that removes entirely the criminality of the act), that causes the injury and it is unjust to treat equal acts differently.

There are other obvious problems with the whole concept of hate crimes, constitutionally and in terms of application, such as really knowing what an attempted or actual assailant was thinking which invites abuse of government power using these statutes to persecute certain selected groups yet not others. But far worse is the Council’s desire to go way beyond existing law not just to expand the additional penalties for violent acts, but to make non-violent acts punishable under this concept as well.

The envisioned ordinance creates the crime of intimidation by use of hate symbols by their mere appearance in public places when intended as an act of intimidation. This invites tremendous government abuse and selective prosecution based upon the political whims of the day and of politicians and government officials – how can you read the minds of people to say it was with the purpose of intimidation, and what is a “hate symbol,” and how does one know it was hatred on the basis of some category that motivated the individual? With a direct act or attempted act of violence, there’s no question of symbol and the act obviously intimidates.

New Orleans’ municipal code already covers threatening someone with harm (such as Sec. 54-403 concerning disturbing the peace) so not only is this proposed law superfluous, it additionally makes “bad thoughts” a crime. And while such displays may be in bad taste, it should never be a crime simply because somebody gets offended – why should the Council fall prey to the fashion that offense, as defined solely by the offended themselves become a matter for government intervention?

In the final analysis, this politically correct proposal sets up a situation based far too much on subjectivity that criminalizes stupid thoughts. This is an exceptionally bad bill that the Council, as part of an already-overbearing city government, needs to trash immediately.

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