Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Hate Crimes Laws: Putting the "USSR" in "USA"

We hate to say "we told you so" to various hate-crime laws proponents -- including fellow libertarians -- but. . . well. . . we told you so.

Two high school girls in Illinois have been arrested and charged with an anti-gay hate crime.

Did they assault a gay man or woman? Perhaps murder someone?


They wrote a brochure with anti-gay comments in it.

The Associated Press reports:

A judge Tuesday ordered that one of two teens charged with a hate crime for distributing fliers that contained hateful messages toward gays at a Crystal Lake high school remain in custody at a juvenile detention center until her trial.


The girls were arrested this month after they allegedly were caught distributing the fliers in Crystal Lake South High School’s parking lot. The fliers depicted a male student kissing another boy, along with hateful statements about gays.

Students told the Northwest Herald that the girls produced the fliers to get revenge on a friend after their relationship soured.

The alleged victim of the hate crime also is the neighbor to one of the girls charged, according to court testimony.

Now, I have no doubt that the girls in question are unpleasant people -- and that their message was probably hateful and offensive.

But last time I checked, the Constitution guaranteed freedom of expression -- including for anti-gay messages that are unpopular.

Our country has always been a bastion of free expression and free ideas. Anti-gay ideas, racist ideas, fascist ideas, communist ideas, and other ideological threats to the health of our society have not been defeated through draconian legislation or central planning -- but through the victory of liberty in the free market of ideas, where debate is unfettered by the chilling effects of state censorship.

Sadly, hate crimes laws destroy this dynamic.

And lest you think that, as a gay person you are safe, consider the recent death of Jerry Falwell.

In San Francisco, local gay activists jubilantly handed out brochures condemning the late and not-so-great Reverend's death -- replete with some unflattering, perhaps even "hateful," comments about his flock.

Will we soon be seeing the arrest of gay activists for brochures that "victimize" right-wing preachers through "hateful statements about fundamentalist Christians?"

I'm afraid so. In fact, with laws like these on the books, it's inevitable. That's why it's imperative that they be repealed -- or failing that, challenged in court and struck down as unconstitutional -- posthaste.