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National Defense Authorization Act For Fiscal Year 2010

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC



Mr. DeMINT. Mr. President, I have to say there have been some amazing proposals coming out of the House and the Senate in the last few weeks in some fairly desperate economic times, when job loss is at some of its highest rates in years, when borrowing and spending have gone through the roof. It is pretty amazing that we have come out with proposals, such as cap and trade, that are going to add huge taxes on electricity and other energy when we should be doing all we can to create more energy in our country and to lower the cost, if possible, for Americans. It is pretty amazing to me that we would consider adding taxes and cost onto the cost of living when so many are out of work and we are in very difficult economic times.

Now we see this health care proposal that the Congressional Budget Office says is going to hurt our economy, it is going to insure very few uninsured people, and it will cost trillions of dollars. Again, at a time when we are having difficulty paying the interest on the debt we already owe, we have proposed this massive expansion of government.

Here we are today supposedly discussing funding for our whole defense system in our country, the Defense authorization bill, and the majority has decided to add on to that bill hate crimes legislation. They apparently have scheduled a vote at 1 a.m. tomorrow morning for hate crimes legislation in the middle of a defense authorization debate which should be bipartisan, should be focused on the defense of our country, a clear constitutional responsibility. But we are spending the day waiting for a cloture vote at 1 a.m. tomorrow morning on hate crimes.

There are many practical problems with this hate crimes amendment they are trying to force us to attach to the Defense authorization bill. The broad language will unnecessarily extend Federal law enforcement beyond its constitutional bounds, it will undermine the effectiveness and confidence of local law enforcement, and it will create conditions for arbitrary and politicized prosecution of certain cases. But instead of the practical problems, I want to focus on basic, fundamental problems with Federal hate crimes legislation.

The rule of law requires that we oppose this amendment on principle. Justice is blind, and under the rule of law justice must be blind--blind to the superficial circumstances of the victims and the defendants.

The law says crime must be investigated and punished. There is no evidence to suggest that crimes defined by this amendment as hate crimes are not being prosecuted today. This amendment is, therefore, unnecessary as a matter of criminal law.

There is no need, or even any law enforcement benefit, to create a special class for crimes based on--and I quote from the amendment--``the actual or perceived race, color, religion, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability of the victim.'' Indeed, as a matter of justice, this amendment is patently offensive. It is based on the premise that violence committed against certain kinds of victims is worse and more in need of Federal intervention and swift justice than if it were committed against someone else. I am sure most parents of a minority, homosexual, or female victim would appreciate the extra concern, but that also implies that certain crimes are better, for lack of a better word. Where does that leave the vast majority of victims' families who, because of the whims of political correctness, are not entitled under this amendment to special status and attention? How can a victim's perceived status or the perpetrator's perceived opinions possibly determine the severity of the crime?

The 14th amendment explicitly guarantees all citizens equal protection of the laws. This amendment creates a special class of victims whose protection of the laws will be, in Orwell's phrase, more equal than others, and if some are more equal, others will be less equal; that is, this amendment will create the very problem it purports to solve.

Let's talk about thought crimes for a minute. This amendment will also move our Nation a dangerous step closer to another Orwellian concept--thought crime. This legislation essentially makes certain ideas criminal in that those ideas involved in a crime make that crime more deserving of prosecution. The problem, of course, is that politicians are claiming the power to decide which thoughts are criminal and which are not.

Canadians right now live under this regime where so-called human rights
commissions operating outside the law prosecute citizens for espousing opinions with which the commissioners disagree. This concern is only heightened by the last section of this hate crimes amendment which says it does not allow ``prosecution based solely upon an individual's expression of ..... religious ..... beliefs.''

Let me repeat that because we are being told this would not affect anyone expressing a religious opinion or value judgment:

Prosecution based solely upon an individual's expression of religious beliefs .....

Two questions come to mind: First, if the hate crimes amendment is really just about law enforcement, why should it even need a restatement of the self-evident fact that religious expression is constitutionally protected? And second, why include the adverb ``solely'' if not to allow for the potential prosecution of people's religious speech so long as it is part of a broader prosecution of the accused hater?

Today, only actions are crimes. If we pass this legislation, opinions will become crimes. What is to stop us from following the lead of European countries and American college campuses where certain speech is criminalized? Can priests, pastors, and rabbis be sure their preaching will not be prosecuted? In Canada, for instance, Pastor Stephen Boissoin was so prosecuted by Alberta's Human Rights Commission for publishing letters critical of homosexuality, a biblical concept. Or will this amendment serve as a warning to people not to speak out too loudly about their religious views lest the Federal law enforcement come knocking at their door? What about the unintended consequences, such as pedophiles and sex offenders claiming protected status as disabled under this legislation? There is no such thing as a criminal thought, only criminal acts. Once we endorse thought crimes, where will we draw the line? And more importantly, who will draw the line?

Let me talk a little bit about equality and how it relates to this bill. If my own children were attacked in a violent crime, justice--true justice--demands that their attackers be pursued no more or less than the attackers of any other children.

We also say we want a colorblind society--even Judge Sotomayor. But we cannot have a colorblind society if we continue to write color-conscious laws. Our culture cannot expect to treat people equally if the law, if the ruling class treats citizens not according to the content of their character but according to their race, sex, ethnicity, or gender identity.

As we wait through the night to vote on this hate crimes bill, I encourage my colleagues, first of all, to set this aside and let's focus on it separately, if it needs to be focused on. It is not part of the Defense authorization bill. But they are holding the Defense authorization bill hostage to other things, much like we did a few weeks ago when we were trying to pass a defense appropriations bill and they attached a $100 billion giveaway to the International Monetary Fund. In order to vote for the support of our troops, we had to vote to give away another $100 billion from American taxpayers.

This hate crimes legislation makes no sense. It violates all the principles of equal justice under the law. It makes what we think and what we believe a crime, rather than what we do. It asks judges and juries to determine what we were thinking when we were committing a crime, instead of trying to decide what we really did. This is not what is carved above the Supreme Court, which says ``equal justice under the law.'' It violates all the principles we have talked about as far as blind justice, that a judge does not look at who is in front of him but considers the facts of the case.

Hate crimes violate everything that is essentially American and fair and equal about a justice system.

It makes no sense to bring it up at all. It makes even less sense to bring it up under the Defense authorization bill.

I encourage my colleagues, particularly the majority, to withdraw this amendment and let us move ahead with the debate of the defense of our country.

I thank the Chair, and I yield the floor.


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