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State House

South Carolina Senator: ‘Hate Crimes Are Words As Well’

Slippery slope on display …

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Hate is horrible. It’s bad for business, bad for humanity … bad for the soul. It’s toxic – both to the object of the hatred as well as its point of origin. But guess what: It’s not illegal. And in a free society, it shouldn’t be.

Nonetheless, politicians in South Carolina – a state struggling mightily to hold violent criminals accountable for murders, rapes, assaults against women and all manner of violent crime – want to crack down on hate speech.

Last year, the S.C. House of Representatives passed a bill – H. 3014 – imposing “penalty enhancements” in the event it were proven “beyond a reasonable doubt” that certain crimes were committed against victims “intentionally selected, in whole or in part, because of the person’s belief or perception regarding the victim’s race, color, religion, sex, gender, national origin, sexual orientation, or physical or mental disability, whether or not the perception is correct.”

The bill contained zero guidance as to how these discriminatory factors should be defined – let alone proven – creating what I referred to as a “breeding ground for selective enforcement.”

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My media outlet has editorialized against the adoption of hate crimes legislation for years, arguing “crime is crime,” and that “some degree of hate is required for the commission of most violent crimes.”

“Adding superfluous charges in the hopes of criminalizing the thought processes that ostensibly led to their commission strikes me as silly – to say nothing of creating a slippery slope toward a full-scale assault on the First Amendment,” I noted in a column three years ago.

What did I mean by a “slippery slope?”

Earlier this month, S.C. senator Vernon Stephens addressed his colleagues on the floor of the State Senate to discuss his view on hate crimes legislation.

“We’re going to continue to open up our minds to hate crimes,” Stephens said. “Hate crimes are not just physical. Hate crimes are words as well – and what one say(s) to another based off of their race, creed or national origin.”

Take a listen …

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Did you catch that?

“Hate crimes are words as well.”

I’m sorry, but no … they are not.

It is one thing to argue in favor of enhancing penalties for criminal action based on an alleged “hateful” motivation – which is bad enough – but this lawmaker is suggesting the criminalization of speech, i.e. precisely the slippery slope I warned against.

To be clear: Citizens absolutely must be protected against unreasonable harassment. And they must be protected against specific, credible threats. And civil remedies are obviously in place protecting citizens against false, libelous speech.

But a wholesale criminalization of hateful words? That is unconstitutional. Undemocratic. Anti-American.

We cannot, should not and should never try to outlaw speech we disagree with – including speech that is (or is perceived to be) hateful. Why not? Because that is Orwellian. Dystopian.

And again … let’s not forget the ultimate “prosecutor” of hate speech: The marketplace of ideas.

As I noted last spring, I have no problem with lawmakers buttressing the anemic sentences South Carolina judges are currently doling out for violent crimes in the Palmetto State. Regular readers of this news outlet are well aware that sentencing reform (i.e. longer jail terms for violent criminals) is a key plank in our judicial reform agenda.

But this is not the way to do that.

Moreover, state-level hate crime laws are duplicative. The federal government already has expansive hate crime statutes on its books (18 U.S. Code § 249) – and as the case of convicted white supremacist murderer Dylann Roof made abundantly clear, federal charges always preempt state charges (especially in high-profile cases). I don’t agree with these federal hate crime laws, but even if you do … adding them at the state level is totally unnecessary.

South Carolina lawmakers have habitually failed the public when it comes to appointing judges who hold violent criminals accountable … now they want to tell the rest of us what we can and cannot say based on what we think?

Hell no …

Any lawmaker who votes for this legislation – including the 84 members of the “Republican-controlled” S.C. House of Representatives who already voted for it – are not friends of liberty. They are not conservatives. And if there are credible alternatives to them at the polls during this year’s primary or general elections, we would encourage voters to consider those alternatives.

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THE ROLL CALL …

(Via: S.C. State House)

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR …

(Travis Bell Photography)

Will Folks is the founding editor of the news outlet you are currently reading. Prior to founding FITSNews, he served as press secretary to the governor of South Carolina and before that he was a bass guitarist and dive bar bouncer. He lives in the Midlands region of the state with his wife and eight children.

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4 comments

CongareeCatfish Top fan January 31, 2024 at 12:41 pm

So the straight black thug that callously kills a straight black young man because he wanted his shoes and wallet, or because the victim rubbed up on “his woman” in da’ club is somehow not more or even equally egregious than the thug that does the exact same thing, but the victim is of a different race or sexual orientation. The latter gets an extra five to ten years. The two-tiered system of justice just keeps on expanding, and Republican cowards in the legislature just cave and roll over because they are terrified of anyone calling them a racist for refusing to succumb to the purple-haired, Che Guevara T-shirt wearing activist or the career race- baiting grifters who literally make a living travelling around via funding from the Maoist social justice crowd.

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Laughable January 31, 2024 at 3:41 pm

Funny. Fits”News” has no problem with DeSantis’ Don’t Say Gay law?

Fits”News” has no problem with the banning of books from libraries when MAGA extremists do it?

Fits”News” is against Hate Crime laws because it exists to carry water for the Party of Hate. Whose officials and voter base commit hate crimes on the regular.

Fits”News” does not care about any slippery slope involving the First Amendment. Just protecting ‘conservatives’.

Reply
Thank You January 31, 2024 at 5:50 pm

Excellent and very true editorial, Will Folks!

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Michael Covert Top fan February 2, 2024 at 11:39 am

This column is, like it or not, spot on. When legislators begin to try to legislate words, they have gone too far. This, as Sen Stephens said in the video clip, is unconstitutional.
I also agree with the comment that all crime is a matter of “hate” because of just what IT is.

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