Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2009
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Mr. PITTS. I thank the chairman.
Mr. Speaker, I rise in opposition to H.R. 1913, the hate crimes legislation.
This bill would be more appropriately termed the ``thought crimes act,'' as it seeks to criminalize certain types of thoughts. Our legal structure was established to punish actions, not thoughts or beliefs, and this bill would set a dangerous precedent.
It will threaten our most basic right to free speech established under the First Amendment. Religious groups who hold certain convictions based on their faith could, in fact, be targeted by this law. In Sweden, a pastor was convicted by a trial court and sentenced to jail time for a hate crime after preaching a sermon that discussed biblical views of homosexuality. And in New York, the State hate crimes laws were used to justify taking down billboards on sexual immorality that a local pastor had paid to post.
This legislation seeks to create categories of citizens who are either more or less protected under the law depending on what category they fall into. This framework flies in the face of one of the most fundamental principles of our justice system. Chiseled in stone across the front of the Supreme Court building are the words ``Equal Justice Under Law.'' This means that all citizens, regardless of sexual identity or anything else, are to receive equal protection from the law. I support this basic principle that has long guided our Nation's system of justice.
But this bill undermines that principle. It seeks to establish different groups of citizens with different levels of protection under the law. And the bottom line is that this legislation simply isn't necessary.
If someone commits a violent crime, they should be punished to the full extent of the law regardless of who the victim is.
I urge you to preserve equal justice under the law and oppose H.R. 1913.
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