Bill Sizemore: Case against hate crime legislation

Senator Smith’s Frightening Hate Crimes Bill
By Bill Sizemore

Oregon’s junior U.S. Senator, Gordon Smith, is pressing hard for adoption of federal hate crimes legislation. Among other things, Smith’s bill would increase criminal penalties for a crime when it is determined that the person committing the crime was thinking bad thoughts about the sexual orientation of the person he or she harmed.

As we shall see in a moment, Smith’s bill would make Thomas Jefferson roll over in his grave.

Here is a link to a press release recently issued by Senator Smith’s office regarding the legislation he and Massachusetts Senator Ted Kennedy are at this moment jointly pushing through the Congress.

Although Senator Smith has expressed support for maintaining the separation between church and state, I wonder if he has even read Thomas Jefferson’s famous Danbury Baptist letter. That letter is the source of Jefferson’s “separation of church and state” doctrine, a doctrine that has been enthusiastically opined into law by activist federal judges over the last half century or so.

Jefferson prefaced his famous quotation about the wall of separation with three sound reasons for wanting to maintain that separation. One of his reasons was his belief that legislation should only reach as far as a man’s actions and not to his thoughts.

Here are Jefferson’s exact words to the Danbury Baptists:

“Believing with you that religion is a matter that lies solely between man and his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legislative powers of government reach actions only, and not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should “make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,” thus building a wall of separation between church and state. (emphasis added)


While Americans will continue to debate whether Jefferson’s wall was meant to keep government out of religion or religion out of government, and whether the wall was meant to keep prayer and Bibles out of schools (something Jefferson clearly never advocated) or to keep manger scenes out of town squares, the three reasons Jefferson offered for his wall are probably worthy of universal acceptation.

First, a man’s religion is between him and God. Second, he does not have to answer for his religious beliefs to anyone else, and finally, the legislative power of government must be limited to a man’s actions, not reaching as far as his opinions. This final reason is so fundamental to Americanism that Smith’s violation of its principle is inexcusable.

Perhaps Gordon Smith is merely trying to win reelection in Oregon, a moderate to liberal state with an organized and militant gay rights movement. Perhaps persecution of gays bothers Senator Smith more than most because he is a Mormon and Mormons themselves suffered major persecution in the early decades of their existence. Perhaps Gordon Smith simply disagrees with Jefferson and thinks government should punish us for what we think. Perhaps Smith really believes that an American should be punished more severely for assaulting a gay man than for assaulting a little old lady.

Regardless of his motivation for sponsoring it, Gordon’s Smith’s hate crimes legislation is about as un-American as any bill I have seen work its way through Congress. You might even say that Smith’s hate crimes bill is a kind of hate crime itself, a crime against the God-given freedom to think and believe as you wish. Yes, even the freedom to hate. After all, whom or what you hate and whom or what you love is between you and God. It is not Smith’s business and certainly not the business of the federal government.

If a man hits you with a club because you are gay or because he wants your money, it makes no difference. The crime is that he assaulted you, not that he hated you. The damage the club did is the business of government, not the opinions of the one who struck you. Assault is already a crime. There is absolutely no reason to make the victim’s sexual orientation an issue.

Consider the absurdity of Senator Smith’s stated reason for this legislation. He said in his press release: “Congress needs to approve Matthew’s bill so there is protection in the law for every American in every community.” What is the senator saying? Is there some place in this country where it is legal to do what was done to Mathew Shepard? Of course not.

Without going into the much debated details of the Shepard case, assault is a crime in every state. Interjecting the opinions and motivations of the attackers into the Shepard case or any other involving a gay or lesbian adds no further protections to gays, except to make assaulting a homosexual more heinous under the law than assaulting a straight person. Certainly there is no rational basis for doing that unless your goal is not equal rights for gays, but special rights.

Finally, Oregonians represented by Gordon Smith ought to know that their senator has been so enthusiastic in pushing hate crimes legislation in the United States Senate that several gay rights groups in Washington D.C. have endorsed him for reelection. Smith has become to the national gay rights movement what another senator from Oregon was to the national abortion rights movement a couple of decades ago. He is a champion for their cause.

The more I have pondered this matter, the more troubled I have become by Smith’s actions. A person who does not understand the fundamental truth that someone’s thoughts and beliefs are none of the government’s business ought not to be in a position of authority in this nation. This is not one of those things on which conservatives may disagree. This is a betrayal of one of the foundational pillars of Americanism.

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Posted by at 05:55 | Posted in Measure 37 | 16 Comments |Email This Post Email This Post |Print This Post Print This Post
  • Steve Plunk

    Well said. Let’s hope the good Senator is listening.

  • Bob Clark

    Amen, Bill!

    Senator Smith is a Rhino but he’s preferable to the democrats running against him. Maybe the Senator is a Rhino because it’s the only way he can get re-elected. For libertarians and conservatives, Oregon is in a sad position politically.

  • Douglas Hooper

    Dear Mr. Sizemore

    I just finished reading your article in News With Views, and agree
    100% with what you said. However, I was shocked to see the Senator
    is a Mormon. He is not only going against the very fundamental
    truths espoused by our founding fathers but he is in, what I consider, a
    complete and total repudiation of the teachings of the Church of Jesus
    Christ of Latter-Day Saints.

    In the Book of Mormon, Alma, Chapter 11 verses 7 – 11, the very
    process for punishment of crime is clearly addressed. This is considered
    sacred scripture for members of the church, and as such, I am surprised
    and appalled at either the senators apparent ignorance, or his professed
    arrogance, in proposing laws that are in total contravention of our countries
    historical intent as well as the scriptural teachings of the church to which he
    belongs..

    To wit: Alma, Chapter 30, Verses 7 – 11

    7 Now there was no law against a man’s belief;
    for it was strictly contrary to the commands of God
    that there should be a law which should bring men
    on to unequal grounds.

    8 For thus saith the scripture; Choose ye this day,
    whom ye will serve.

    9 Now if a man desired to serve God, it was his
    privilege; or rather, if he believed in God it was his
    privilege to serve him; but if he did not believe in him
    there was no law to punish him.

    10 But if he murdered he was punished unto death;
    and if he robbed he was also punished; and if he stole
    he was also punished; and if he committed adultery he
    was also punished; yea, for all this wickedness they
    were punished.

    11 For there was a law that men should be judged
    according to their crimes. Nevertheless, there was
    no law against a man’s belief; therefore, a man was
    punished only for the crimes when he had done; there-
    fore all men were on equal grounds.

    As you can see, his religious teachings certainly are not in
    conformance with his performance as a senator.

    Regards,
    Douglas Hooper
    Anchorage, Alaska

    • DMF

      He may be a member of the church, but I’ll bet he more fully qualifies as a Jack Mormon

  • Bill Sizemore

    Smith could hide behind the “just trying to get reelected in a liberal state” argument, if all he did was vote for stuff like this. That may be what he did with drilling for oil with ANWR.

    But when you are the chief cheerleader in the Senate for something as unRepublican and un American as hate crimes legislation, you are not just trying to get reelected, you have lost your bearings.

  • Bill Sizemore

    Sorry, I meant drilling for oil in ANWR not with ANWR. Besides, Smith has done this on too many issues for it to be just about getting reelected.

    I think that this is more of a warped sense of legacy. Apparently, the senator has chosen the wrong exRepublican senators as his heroes and is trying to be remembered as one of those “kinder and gentler” Republicans that even the liberal editorial writers liked.

  • Sybella

    The one thing that really bothers me about hate crime legislation is the fact that unless it is spelled out specifically, hate is in the eye of the beholder. What a can of worms that can open.

  • Sybella

    More comment, Since hate is in the eye of the beholder this can go on and on, I hate fat people, who hate smokers, who hate drunks, who hate gays, who hate drug addicts, who hate ???????? and on and on into infinity. Of course if it is legislated we can’t hate, obviously those who have committed sex crimes cannot be hated, they can hate you because you hate them.

    THe alternatives to vote for instead of Smith scare me bad, but he’s worse because he believes his own garbage. I’m a Republican and support the party wherever possible, but when the party does not support me, they don’t need mine. No I’m not becoming a Demoliberalcrat

    • dean

      Syb…2 quick points from a Demoliberalcrat:

      1) The proposed bill does not outlaw hating. If it passes you can still hate whomever you want to hate, and so can Bill Sizemore.

      2) The crime statistics Senator Smith cites suggest the issue is real. A growing number of crimes against gay people are done because the victim is gay.

      And to Mr Sizemore, I’m curious why you brought religion into the discussion. How does the hate crimes bill affect anyone’s ability to practice their religion, unless their religion calls for them to go out and assault gay people?

      • Sybella

        You better go back and read Mr. Sizemores comments againt. More slowly this time.

        • dean

          OK…I did. Very slowly. What did I miss?

          • Gienie

            Hi Dean

  • Gienie

    How many people serving in Congress do you agree with 100%? How many people do you agree with 100% outside of congress?

    I know I don’t even agree with my husband 100% of the time… but that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t support him.

    As voters we have an obligation to provide feedback to our representatives. This feedback should be constructive however, even if we dissagree with the votes that have or will be taking place.

    I’m dissapointed with the division in our party, particularly with all the finger pointing. Until you yourselves are spotless and can be found with out any blemish… you shouldn’t be throwing stones!

  • Anonymous

    I think most of these arguments by Sizemore are pretty weak. Let’s face it, we can not agree with the gay lifestyle (and find it sinfull) but still find room to recognize that the gay community has been singled out because of their lifestyle.

    I am not opposed to the idea of procecuting a crime that is clearly premeditated and motivated by hate.

    I don’t think that makes me less of a Christian.

    • Anonymous

      Gays and Lesbians who were always known as ODD spelled differently, really had no problems until they made an issue of it. Gay lifestyle is sinful, unnatural. I have two friends who are gay. I appreciate the fact, they allow me to just be friends and they have never once mentioned their lifestyle to me, nor asked me to accept it. I only have to accept them as individuals, but truly, I think we would all e better off if they went back into the closet. Once they made an issue of it, in my minds eye, they caused most of their own problems.

      • dean

        Gay people were not “left alone” when they were in the closet. They were as persecuted then as now, but the results were not as public.

        And being gay is not a “lifestyle.” It is a sexual orientation that the evidence suggests is in born. I have a family friend who had a son who showed “gay tendencies” from the time he was 2 years old. We all figured he would grow up to be gay, and it would not matter how he was raised or what religion he had. He is now a young adult, is indeed gay, and is a great person I am honored to be friends with.

        Gay people have as high a diversity of “lifestyles” as anyone else. They are rich, poor, Democrat, Republican, non-political, tall, short, skinny, fat, extroverted, introverted, and some are even conservative Christian clergymen.

        It is well past the time for the rest of us to get over our own aversion to gay people and their personal sex lives, embrace them as equal citizens and get on with more important issues.

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