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Mr. CARTER. Mr. Speaker, I have the distinct honor and privilege to represent 52,000 fighting American soldiers, men and women. As we stand here on the floor of this House today, 25,000 of my soldiers that I represent from Fort Hood, Texas, are engaged in combat against an enemy of the United States. And we have lost hundreds of soldiers from Fort Hood; and we have had thousands of soldiers, men and women, injured from Fort Hood fighting for freedom and doing their duty and accomplishing their mission.
I have always supported the United States military in every form or fashion, and I have always been a crusader for the authorization bill that gives those tools that gives my fighting men and women that fight for Fort Hood and fight for Texas and fight for America the opportunity to do their mission, accomplish their goals and maintain freedom.
But I'm in a dilemma today, as are many, many of my colleagues because we seem to be following a code of secrecy that seems to be the new mode in this Congress. When you have something you don't want to talk about out in public, you hide it somewhere. And so we're looking today on the fact that we've added to the bill that's designed to protect the men and women of the United States military and keep them safe, we've added a criminal justice issue having to do with hate crimes.
In 20 years on the bench as a criminal judge, at a felony level in Texas, I've spent an inordinate amount of time protecting the rights of the individual and protecting the rights of the defendant. I believe that we have created a justice system in America that blindly treats everyone equally. There are those who disagree, and I understand that debate.
But that debate should be resolved in a one-on-one confrontation between those who think the justice system treats all fairly and those who do not, and if hate crimes is the solution to that bill, if we thought crimes are what we want in America, then I think we should go forward independently on a hate crimes bill. And I think those who support hate crimes should have the courage to come out from underneath the cover of the United States serviceman and step up and say, this is a problem in America and it needs to be solved, and here's how we solve it.
Let us discuss it as men and women who represent the American people, and let us vote as our constituents would have us vote on the issue before us, hate crimes. Let's not hide that issue behind that American soldier who, at this very moment, is patrolling over in Iraq and putting his life on the line. This is an awful thing to do to the American soldier because it is taking him and having his Representative have to be in a quandary to support the military because someone is plugging in a bill that they might disagree with.
I believe every victim is entitled to be protected by the law. No matter who they are or what they do, they are entitled, as a victim, to be protected under the law and their rights to be part of the criminal justice system. And I believe the sentencing process that we give to our judges and our juries it is very important that they have choices to make and they can take into consideration evidence of why the event occurred, whatever that why may be.
But I think, to stick in here a controversial issue, which goes farther than just what the crime is, but what was that person thinking, or what are we going to presume that person was thinking, and if anybody ever talked to him on this subject, do we presume that they shall be considered aiding and abetting in this criminal offense. And it has issues that affect the religious freedom of the United States.
These are issues that should be talked about independently. It's time for the United States Congress to address this type of thing and other things openly and forthwith, and not hide them in another bill and force people to vote against their conscience. I'm ashamed of what we're doing here today, Mr. Speaker. I think we can protect these innocents that we're talking about using the fact that our Constitution tells us to and demand that kind of behavior from our justice system without going into thought crimes, hate crimes, and infringement upon States' rights.
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