It has been a very grueling week at the Georgia General Assembly, during which I’ve attended and testified at numerous hearings. I have never seen any “hate crime” legislation come to a committee for a hearing in the 11 years I have been down at the Capitol. This week, I attended and spoke against three bills on behalf of Georgia Baptists. Two were in the House (one Democrat, HB 663 and one Republican, HB 660) and another (SB 316) in the Senate (Democrat). Southern Baptists, in general, have opposed Hate Crime legislation since 2007.
Below is a testimony I gave in the last two hearings.
“The Georgia Baptist Mission Board would like to express our opposition to (whichever bill it was). We believe that all people should be treated with respect and dignity because they are all created in the image of God. We also believe that no one should ever be mistreated or physically abused because of their beliefs or lifestyle concerning sexuality. However, we do find it troubling, for example, when terms such as “sexual orientation” or “gender identity” become a higher standard of prosecution for certain crimes. Such classifications do not treat all individuals equally. It sends a message that some people are more valuable than others, and as such, crimes against them ought to carry heavier penalties. This type of bill does not treat everyone equally before the law.
“Note the following quote from Time Magazine: August 4, 2016, entitled: “Hate Crime Laws Are a Form of Discrimination”: “The hate crime law movement re-criminalizes conduct that is already criminal. In effect, it creates a hierarchy of victims – one based upon the group identities of perpetrators and victims, as long as prosecutors can prove a bias motive. Thus, from the beginning, hate crime laws have simply given us something else to argue about: whose victimization should be punished more severely. They further politicize a law-enforcement and criminal-justice process that does best when it is perceived as being apolitical and even-handed—not a tool of identity politics.” – JAMES B. JACOBS.
“The focus in crime legislation needs to be on the act itself and not on criminalizing beliefs. You see, hate crimes legislation seeks to criminalize beliefs as well as actions, creating in essence a form of thought crime. We believe all crimes, especially where bodily harm has occurred, should be prosecuted and punished to the fullest extent of the law, period.
“The bottom-line here is that the 14th Amendment guarantees all citizens equal protection under the law and that since hate crimes legislation elevates some victims of violent crimes over others, we oppose the passage of any Hate Crimes legislation, and we call upon the Georgia General Assembly to oppose such legislation.”