Monday, May 12, 2008

Hate crimes in Canada

Barack Obama supports hate crimes legislation. Those who think this is a good idea might want to consider where such legislation has led in Canada:
British Columbia now bans all words and images "likely to expose a person ... to hatred or contempt" because of race, religion, age, disability, sex, marital status or sexual orientation." This sounds like a libel law for groups, except that libel is a misstatement of fact that damages an individual reputation. In the United States, for a public figure to be libeled, the false statement has to be made maliciously or recklessly.

The Canadian idea of hate speech is less specific and more dangerous. Hate is like obscenity, about which Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart famously said, "I know it when I see it." The difference is that a ban on obscenity does not touch political
discourse, and a ban on hate does (Seattle Times).

Yeah, I know. America has the First Amendment so it could never happen here. I find it ironic that supporters of hate crimes bills who think it could never happen here are often the very ones who complained so bitterly about how the Bush Administration has supposedly trampled on our Constitutional protections over the last seven years. (Hat tip: Kevin).

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