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Thursday, May 24, 2007

God Hates Fags Fliers A Hate Crime?

I have seen reference to this story several times, and I just kept thinking it was misreported. But now it's on Volokh:
She and her 16-year-old friend each face charges of hate crime, disorderly conduct and resisting a peace officer stemming from their arrest May 11 outside Crystal Lake South High School. The charges allege the girls were distributing fliers showing two men kissing and containing inflammatory language toward homosexuals....
The hate crime charge is a felony. Eugene Volokh raises an eyebrow:
Calling it "harassment," "breach of the peace," "disorderly conduct," or "intentional infliction of emotional distress" is just labeling, and doesn't explain which First Amendment exception strips the words of protection. If anything, it highlights the vagueness of the legal theory under which the prosecution is operating, since these terms do not clearly define which speech will be punished by the law, and thus pose the three related problems of vague speech restrictions: lack of fair notice to speakers, risk of discriminatorily viewpoint-based enforcement, and tendency to deter speech. It's not just about "God Hates Fags"; if those words can be made a felony under one of these vague rationales, a wide (and unpredictable) range of other words could be punished as well.
I'm still dubious about whether we really know the story. If the facts I keep seeing written are true, there's trouble ahead. Even spiteful juvenile delinquents, as unadmirable as they might be, are protected by the Constitution. A felony charge for a hate crime seems beyond the allowable limits. The school has suspended them, and I suppose the pictured person has the right to file a civil complaint for libel. Perhaps they are being charged under a harassment statute, sustainable because the picture was of the person harassed?

It is difficult to reconcile Brandenburg V Ohio with this, and while the conduct is uncivil, I do think this sort of thing is taking us into deep waters. The conduct in Brandenburg was egregious, but the statute under which the KKK weekend revolutionaries were charged was deemed unviable by the court:
Measured by this test, Ohio's Criminal Syndicalism Act cannot be sustained. The Act punishes persons who "advocate or teach the duty, necessity, or propriety" of violence "as a means of accomplishing industrial or political reform"; or who publish or circulate or display any book or paper containing such advocacy; or who "justify" the commission of violent acts "with intent to exemplify, spread or advocate the propriety of the doctrines of criminal syndicalism"; or who "voluntarily assemble" with a group formed "to teach or advocate the doctrines of criminal syndicalism." Neither the indictment nor the trial judge's instructions to the jury in any way refined the statute's bald definition of the crime [395 U.S. 444, 449] in terms of mere advocacy not distinguished from incitement to imminent lawless action. 3

Accordingly, we are here confronted with a statute which, by its own words and as applied, purports to punish mere advocacy and to forbid, on pain of criminal punishment, assembly with others merely to advocate the described type of action.
As a practical matter, the quarrel over whether disapproval of homosexuality may be publicly voiced is only making it the rebellion of choice for today's wanna-be teenaged leaders of the pack. This is a growing problem in high schools, and I have to say that people in many political demonstrations that I have seen would probably be in trouble also.

On a lighter note, Iowahawk has returned to the pressing question of the Lutherans, and Dr. M takes a decided whack at vegans - in Illinois, this may or may not be a hate crime. In my experience, Vegans have got to be the most passionate causists on the planet. Not many people are willing to inflict malnutrition on their kids because of a belief - and I've actually seen one of these stunted children. Awful.


Comments:
My mother-in-law belongs to an organization that tries to stop those who would inflict harm to their children due to their "religious" believes or any passionate believes that would hinder a child from growing healthy and strong. It is amazing the stories that she has heard. They always seem to experiment on their children...and it is the children who are dying.
 
It's hard to understand. Something about belief systems, I suppose. But if you think about the care and worry most parents go through to try to take care of their children, it's hard to understand why instinct and basic common sense doesn't override their belief system.
 
"My mother-in-law belongs to an organization that tries to stop those who would inflict harm to their children due to their "religious" believes"

I would be interested in knowing more about this organization. My concern is that that kind of organization can easily become motivated by their own beliefs (green, PC, anti-religionism, whatever) and attempt to supplant (strange-seeming but not ultimately truly harmful) parental beliefs with their own.

On the other hand, physical or certain psychological damage (as opposed to the type that Stalinists were always finding in those opposing them) should be reined in to protect the innocent child with little or no voice of their own.

Echoing MOM's thoughts, it is indeed sad/strange that more basic parental instincts and broader cultural influences don't seem to come into play to override their belief systems when genuine danger exists. E.g., parents at Jonestown allowing the deaths of their own children
 
Frank, the organization is CHILD, which is an acronym for "Child Healthcare is a Leagal Duty." The board of directors are very educated and reputable in their fields. I can contact my mother-in-law if you want more information and you can also find them on the net.
 
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