A statute's words do not tell how the law will be interpreted and applied.
All laws are expansively interpreted. For example:
The 1964 Civil Rights Act explicitly bans racial quotas and defines racial discrimination as an intentional act. Yet, quotas were imposed by the civil rights bureaucracy on the basis of the 1964 Act, and intent was replaced by statistical disparity.
The Clean Water Act makes no reference to wetlands and conveys no powers to the executive branch to create wetlands regulations. Yet, for example, Ocie and Carey Mills, who had a valid Florida state permit to build a house, were imprisoned by federal bureaucrats, who claimed jurisdiction under the Clean Water Act. The bureaucrats ruled that the clean dirt used to level the building lot constituted discharge of pollutants into the navigable waters of the U.S. No navigable waters were involved, and according to the state of Florida, no wetlands.
The Exxon Valdez accident was criminalized. An unintentional oil spill became the intentional discharge of pollutants without a license, and the bird kill became killing migratory birds without a license. An accident was prosecuted as crimes of intent.
Well-informed attorneys can provide many examples. Others are documented in The Tyranny of Good Intentions. Awareness of what can be pulled out of even clearly written laws is essential to the preservation of civil liberty.
With this in mind, consider the Hate Crimes Prevention Bill.
Opponents criticize the bill for adding a second punishment to existing punishments for acts of violence. Assault, murder, rape are crimes regardless of motivation. The penalties are sufficient, or can be made so, without applying a new crime of motivation that creates specially protected classes, such as homosexuals and minorities. To commit a violent act against a member of a specially protected class will carry a heavier punishment.
How will a court know whether a violent act was committed because of hatred or because of sexual lust or the need for money? As case law is made, the likely direction will be to eliminate intent. The issue will be resolved by whether the attacked person is a member of a protected class. The mugger who beats as well as robs a victim who turns out to be homosexual or Jewish will have committed a "hate crime".
It will prove difficult to separate speaking against members of protected classes, or criticizing their practices, from hate. The two things are easily conflated. Once enacted, "hate crimes" will become independent of specific violent acts. An eventual likely outcome will be that speaking against members of specially protected classes will itself become a violent act of inciting violence.
Since the passage of the Global Anti-Semitism Review Act in 2004, the US Department of State is required to monitor anti-Semitism worldwide. The State Department is not required to monitor anti-Americanism or sentiments against Christians, Muslims or Arabs. Thus, the act created a specially protected class worthy of careful monitoring by the US Department of State of negative sentiments expressed against Jews.
In order to monitor anti-Semitism, the term must be defined. The definition is subjective and will be widely, rather than narrowly, interpreted.
The State Department has come up with its attempt. The State Department's approach could include any truthful statements about Israel and its behavior toward the Palestinians that the Israeli government or AIPAC or the Anti-Defamation League would deny or contest.
Anti-Semitic speech can be interpreted as inciting hatred. Inciting hatred can be interpreted to be a violent act. "Excessive" criticism of Israel is a subjective, indefinable concept that can be used to determine anti-semitic speech. It is easy to conflate "excessive" with "strong".
Thus, demands that Israel be held accountable for war crimes committed in Gaza, the West Bank, Lebanon, or elsewhere become acts of the "hate crime" of anti-semitism.
Paul Craig Roberts [email him] was Assistant Secretary of the Treasury during President Reagan's first term. He was Associate Editor of the Wall Street Journal. He has held numerous academic appointments, including the William E. Simon Chair, Center for Strategic and International Studies, Georgetown University, and Senior Research Fellow, Hoover Institution, Stanford University. He was awarded the Legion of Honor by French President Francois Mitterrand. He is the author of Supply-Side Revolution : An Insider's Account of Policymaking in Washington; Alienation and the Soviet Economy and Meltdown: Inside the Soviet Economy, and is the co-author with Lawrence M. Stratton of The Tyranny of Good Intentions : How Prosecutors and Bureaucrats Are Trampling the Constitution in the Name of Justice. Click here for Peter Brimelow's Forbes Magazine interview with Roberts about the recent epidemic of prosecutorial misconduct.