I’m thinking a little more about the new hate-crime legislation, trying to understand conservative concerns over it. Rep. John Boehner (R-Ohio) is worried that the new bill will target people with traditional Christian values and possibly punish them for voicing their moral opinions on “alternative lifestyles”… or even just housing such opinions in their minds. Of course, the bill isn’t designed to force people to change their opinions or silence vocalization of their opinions, only deter violence against people by utilizing federal law enforcement where local law enforcement comes up short.
But while the justice of this might seem more obvious when applied to extremely conservative counties in our country, it may become a little more questionable when applied to extremely liberal counties.
Assault is generally said to occur when one person either strikes another or tries to strike another or when one person acts in a “threatening manner,” so that another fears immediate harm. So a strong case can potentially be made in court for an Assault charge, based not on an “attacker’s” actions, but on a “victim’s” fears. The morally righteous are well known and loved for their, um, particularly vigorous and unflinching rhetoric in favor of their beliefs, and I can think of many situations in which a sensitive person of alternative lifestyle might interpret a fiery-eyed condemnation in the Biblical style as actual, legal assault… While being shrieked at that angels will cast ye down into the torments of eternal damnation is certain to be obnoxious to a progressive sensibility, I doubt that any court would actually rule this behavior “Assault.” Under the new hate-crime legislation, a number of, if not well-meaning, then at least harmless people might be brought to federal trial and accused of crimes they did not commit, resulting in a great expense of money and a great deal of humiliation and social damage to everyone involved…
In the end, it is as much a liberal’s responsibility to peaceably and nobly bear the unpleasant outward face of conservative extremism as it is a conservative’s responsibility to peaceably and nobly bear the unpleasant outward face of progressive extremism. We must all live together, side by side, and we are called to do so without violence, or false accusations, against our fellow citizens.