Outlawing Opinion

OP/ED: Outlawing Opinion
By Chuck Norris
It greatly alarms me that Americans’ constitutional right of freedom of speech is being squeezed out of our culture.
    Several years ago, I watched then-20/20 correspondent Diane Sawyer interview Saddam Hussein, who was dictator of Iraq at the time. She respectfully confronted him for the atrocities and executions he used as punishments for people who merely spoke out against him, his rule or his politics.
    Surprisingly naive of America’s constitutional basis, Saddam asked, “Well, what happens to those who speak against your president?” (He clearly was expecting that such speech was also a crime in the U.S. and punishable by law.) Shocked by his sheer ignorance of the U.S. -and somewhat at a loss for words herself – Diane quipped back in answering his question, “They host television talk shows!” Saddam’s facial expression revealed that he was totally confused by her answer.
    Sounds so far-out, doesn’t it? Offensive speech being punishable by law? But it might not be that far off for America, especially if the course of free speech continues on its present track – a path of progressive restrictions, both from our government and our culture.
    For example, presently bill S. 909 is on the fast track through the Senate, poised under the guise of the “Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act.” While the bill purports to target crimes of brutality, not speech, once enacted, local justices could expand its interpretive enforcement to encompass a wider meaning than originally conceived. In the end, it could not only criminalize opinions (an unconstitutional act) but also provide elevated protection to pedophiles.
    If our policymakers understood and followed the constitutional government our Founders laid down for us, they never would advocate any so-called hate crimes bill. As Rep. Ron Paul once wrote: “Hate crime laws not only violate the First Amendment, they also violate the Tenth Amendment. Under the United States Constitution, there are only three federal crimes: piracy, treason, and counterfeiting. All other criminal matters are left to the individual states. Any federal legislation dealing with criminal matters not related to these three issues usurps state authority over criminal law and takes a step toward turning the states into mere administrative units of the federal government.”
    The limiting of free speech is happening through not only legal ends but also social avenues. It was tragic to watch at the recent White House Correspondents’ Association dinner how the present administration provided the platform for and then laughed at a parade of mean-spirited, cruel jokes about Rush Limbaugh, which made fun of his history of addiction to painkillers, wished him kidney failure, and suggested he might have been the 20th hijacker involved in 9/11. Is that even funny? Despite the fact that I believe even this offensive language is protected by the First Amendment, is it the type of belittling humor we should expect at a White House function?
    When the feds seek to silence their critics through intimidation and social demise, have they not failed to properly lead a blended nation and uphold the heart of the Constitution? Mark my words that the reinstitution of the Fairness Doctrine – which would subject talk radio, among other media, to government regulation — is right around the corner.
    Government isn’t the only one restricting free speech. We recently witnessed many in our culture clamping down on that basic American right via the travesty of the response to Carrie Prejean’s – who is Miss California and the Miss USA runner-up – giving her honest opinion when a question was posed by a judge during the Miss USA contest. As a result of her respectfully giving her personal convictions she’s been persecuted and even has received death threats from those who oppose her.
    I don’t care what your cause is. I don’t care what your mission is. I don’t care what the issue is. I don’t care what your beliefs are. It is every American citizen’s constitutional right to speak freely, without fear of repercussion. If the First Amendment is not there to protect anyone’s offensive speech, then what type of speech is it protecting?
    It’s simply un-American and unconstitutional to impede, harass, threaten or persecute anyone who is guilty of nothing more than sharing his opinion or even exercising his right to vote. This is America, not Saddam’s Iraq!
    When free speech is restricted or punished, we can be certain that we’ve drifted from our roots. Isn’t it time we returned home to the Constitution?

OP/ED: Outlawing Opinion

By Chuck Norris

It greatly alarms me that Americans’ constitutional right of freedom of speech is being squeezed out of our culture.

    Several years ago, I watched then-20/20 correspondent Diane Sawyer interview Saddam Hussein, who was dictator of Iraq at the time. She respectfully confronted him for the atrocities and executions he used as punishments for people who merely spoke out against him, his rule or his politics.

    Surprisingly naive of America’s constitutional basis, Saddam asked, “Well, what happens to those who speak against your president?” (He clearly was expecting that such speech was also a crime in the U.S. and punishable by law.) Shocked by his sheer ignorance of the U.S. -and somewhat at a loss for words herself – Diane quipped back in answering his question, “They host television talk shows!” Saddam’s facial expression revealed that he was totally confused by her answer.

    Sounds so far-out, doesn’t it? Offensive speech being punishable by law? But it might not be that far off for America, especially if the course of free speech continues on its present track – a path of progressive restrictions, both from our government and our culture.

    For example, presently bill S. 909 is on the fast track through the Senate, poised under the guise of the “Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act.” While the bill purports to target crimes of brutality, not speech, once enacted, local justices could expand its interpretive enforcement to encompass a wider meaning than originally conceived. In the end, it could not only criminalize opinions (an unconstitutional act) but also provide elevated protection to pedophiles.

    If our policymakers understood and followed the constitutional government our Founders laid down for us, they never would advocate any so-called hate crimes bill. As Rep. Ron Paul once wrote: “Hate crime laws not only violate the First Amendment, they also violate the Tenth Amendment. Under the United States Constitution, there are only three federal crimes: piracy, treason, and counterfeiting. All other criminal matters are left to the individual states. Any federal legislation dealing with criminal matters not related to these three issues usurps state authority over criminal law and takes a step toward turning the states into mere administrative units of the federal government.”

    The limiting of free speech is happening through not only legal ends but also social avenues. It was tragic to watch at the recent White House Correspondents’ Association dinner how the present administration provided the platform for and then laughed at a parade of mean-spirited, cruel jokes about Rush Limbaugh, which made fun of his history of addiction to painkillers, wished him kidney failure, and suggested he might have been the 20th hijacker involved in 9/11. Is that even funny? Despite the fact that I believe even this offensive language is protected by the First Amendment, is it the type of belittling humor we should expect at a White House function?

    When the feds seek to silence their critics through intimidation and social demise, have they not failed to properly lead a blended nation and uphold the heart of the Constitution? Mark my words that the reinstitution of the Fairness Doctrine – which would subject talk radio, among other media, to government regulation — is right around the corner.

    Government isn’t the only one restricting free speech. We recently witnessed many in our culture clamping down on that basic American right via the travesty of the response to Carrie Prejean’s – who is Miss California and the Miss USA runner-up – giving her honest opinion when a question was posed by a judge during the Miss USA contest. As a result of her respectfully giving her personal convictions she’s been persecuted and even has received death threats from those who oppose her.

    I don’t care what your cause is. I don’t care what your mission is. I don’t care what the issue is. I don’t care what your beliefs are. It is every American citizen’s constitutional right to speak freely, without fear of repercussion. If the First Amendment is not there to protect anyone’s offensive speech, then what type of speech is it protecting?

    It’s simply un-American and unconstitutional to impede, harass, threaten or persecute anyone who is guilty of nothing more than sharing his opinion or even exercising his right to vote. This is America, not Saddam’s Iraq!

    When free speech is restricted or punished, we can be certain that we’ve drifted from our roots. Isn’t it time we returned home to the Constitution?

/////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////

S 909 IS

 

 

111th CONGRESS

 

 

1st Session

 

 

S. 909

 

To provide Federal assistance to States, local jurisdictions, and Indian tribes to prosecute hate crimes, and for other purposes.

 

 

IN THE SENATE OF THE UNITED STATES

 

 

April 28, 2009

Mr. REID (for Mr. KENNEDY (for himself, Mr. LEAHY, Ms. SNOWE, Ms. COLLINS, Mr. SPECTER, Mr. SCHUMER, Mr. DURBIN, Mrs. FEINSTEIN, Mr. LEVIN, Ms. MIKULSKI, Mr. WHITEHOUSE, Mr. CARDIN, Ms. KLOBUCHAR, Mr. LIEBERMAN, Mrs. GILLIBRAND, Mr. MERKLEY, Mr. REED, Mr. NELSON of Florida, Mr. KERRY, Mr. BINGAMAN, Mr. DODD, Mr. BAYH, Mr. UDALL of Colorado, Mrs. SHAHEEN, Mr. HARKIN, Mr. BROWN, Mrs. MURRAY, Mr. CASEY, Mr. JOHNSON, Mr. LAUTENBERG, Mr. NELSON of Nebraska, Ms. LANDRIEU, Ms. CANTWELL, and Mr. AKAKA)) introduced the following bill; which was read twice and referred to the Committee on the Judiciary

 


 

A BILL

 

To provide Federal assistance to States, local jurisdictions, and Indian tribes to prosecute hate crimes, and for other purposes.

 

    Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,

     

 

SECTION 1. SHORT TITLE.

    This Act may be cited as the ‘Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Prevention Act’.

     

 

SEC. 2. FINDINGS.

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    •  

        (A) The movement of members of targeted groups is impeded, and members of such groups are forced to move across State lines to escape the incidence or risk of such violence.

         

        (B) Members of targeted groups are prevented from purchasing goods and services, obtaining or sustaining employment, or participating in other commercial activity.

         

        (C) Perpetrators cross State lines to commit such violence.

         

        (D) Channels, facilities, and instrumentalities of interstate commerce are used to facilitate the commission of such violence.

         

        (E) Such violence is committed using articles that have traveled in interstate commerce.

         

    • (1) The incidence of violence motivated by the actual or perceived race, color, religion, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability of the victim poses a serious national problem.

       

      (2) Such violence disrupts the tranquility and safety of communities and is deeply divisive.

       

      (3) State and local authorities are now and will continue to be responsible for prosecuting the overwhelming majority of violent crimes in the United States, including violent crimes motivated by bias. These authorities can carry out their responsibilities more effectively with greater Federal assistance.

       

      (4) Existing Federal law is inadequate to address this problem.

       

      (5) A prominent characteristic of a violent crime motivated by bias is that it devastates not just the actual victim and the family and friends of the victim, but frequently savages the community sharing the traits that caused the victim to be selected.

       

      (6) Such violence substantially affects interstate commerce in many ways, including the following:

       

      (7) For generations, the institutions of slavery and involuntary servitude were defined by the race, color, and ancestry of those held in bondage. Slavery and involuntary servitude were enforced, both prior to and after the adoption of the 13th amendment to the Constitution of the United States, through widespread public and private violence directed at persons because of their race, color, or ancestry, or perceived race, color, or ancestry. Accordingly, eliminating racially motivated violence is an important means of eliminating, to the extent possible, the badges, incidents, and relics of slavery and involuntary servitude.

       

      (8) Both at the time when the 13th, 14th, and 15th amendments to the Constitution of the United States were adopted, and continuing to date, members of certain religious and national origin groups were and are perceived to be distinct ‘races’. Thus, in order to eliminate, to the extent possible, the badges, incidents, and relics of slavery, it is necessary to prohibit assaults on the basis of real or perceived religions or national origins, at least to the extent such religions or national origins were regarded as races at the time of the adoption of the 13th, 14th, and 15th amendments to the Constitution of the United States.

       

      (9) Federal jurisdiction over certain violent crimes motivated by bias enables Federal, State, and local authorities to work together as partners in the investigation and prosecution of such crimes.

       

      (10) The problem of crimes motivated by bias is sufficiently serious, widespread, and interstate in nature as to warrant Federal assistance to States, local jurisdictions, and Indian tribes.

       

  • Congress makes the following findings:

     

 

SEC. 3. DEFINITION OF HATE CRIME.

  •  

      (1) the term ‘crime of violence’ has the meaning given that term in section 16, title 18, United States Code;

       

      (2) the term ‘hate crime’ has the meaning given such term in section 280003(a) of the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994 (28 U.S.C. 994note); and

       

      (3) the term ‘local’ means a county, city, town, township, parish, village, or other general purpose political subdivision of a State.

       

  • In this Act–

     

 

SEC. 4. SUPPORT FOR CRIMINAL INVESTIGATIONS AND PROSECUTIONS BY STATE, LOCAL, AND TRIBAL LAW ENFORCEMENT OFFICIALS.

  •  
    •  

        (A) constitutes a crime of violence;

         

        (B) constitutes a felony under the State, local, or tribal laws; and

         

        (C) is motivated by prejudice based on the actual or perceived race, color, religion, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability of the victim, or is a violation of the State, local, or tribal hate crime laws.

         

    • (1) IN GENERAL- At the request of State, local, or tribal law enforcement agency, the Attorney General may provide technical, forensic, prosecutorial, or any other form of assistance in the criminal investigation or prosecution of any crime that–

       

      (2) PRIORITY- In providing assistance under paragraph (1), the Attorney General shall give priority to crimes committed by offenders who have committed crimes in more than one State and to rural jurisdictions that have difficulty covering the extraordinary expenses relating to the investigation or prosecution of the crime.

       

    •  
      •  

          (i) describe the extraordinary purposes for which the grant is needed;

           

          (ii) certify that the State, local government, or Indian tribe lacks the resources necessary to investigate or prosecute the hate crime;

           

          (iii) demonstrate that, in developing a plan to implement the grant, the State, local, and tribal law enforcement agency has consulted and coordinated with nonprofit, nongovernmental victim services programs that have experience in providing services to victims of hate crimes; and

           

          (iv) certify that any Federal funds received under this subsection will be used to supplement, not supplant, non-Federal funds that would otherwise be available for activities funded under this subsection.

           

      • (A) IN GENERAL- Each State, local, and tribal law enforcement agency that desires a grant under this subsection shall submit an application to the Attorney General at such time, in such manner, and accompanied by or containing such information as the Attorney General shall reasonably require.

         

        (B) DATE FOR SUBMISSION- Applications submitted pursuant to subparagraph (A) shall be submitted during the 60-day period beginning on a date that the Attorney General shall prescribe.

         

        (C) REQUIREMENTS- A State, local, and tribal law enforcement agency applying for a grant under this subsection shall–

         

    • (1) IN GENERAL- The Attorney General may award grants to State, local, and tribal law enforcement agencies for extraordinary expenses associated with the investigation and prosecution of hate crimes.

       

      (2) OFFICE OF JUSTICE PROGRAMS- In implementing the grant program under this subsection, the Office of Justice Programs shall work closely with grantees to ensure that the concerns and needs of all affected parties, including community groups and schools, colleges, and universities, are addressed through the local infrastructure developed under the grants.

       

      (3) APPLICATION-

       

      (4) DEADLINE- An application for a grant under this subsection shall be approved or denied by the Attorney General not later than 180 business days after the date on which the Attorney General receives the application.

       

      (5) GRANT AMOUNT- A grant under this subsection shall not exceed $100,000 for any single jurisdiction in any 1-year period.

       

      (6) REPORT- Not later than December 31, 2010, the Attorney General shall submit to Congress a report describing the applications submitted for grants under this subsection, the award of such grants, and the purposes for which the grant amounts were expended.

       

      (7) AUTHORIZATION OF APPROPRIATIONS- There is authorized to be appropriated to carry out this subsection $5,000,000 for each of fiscal years 2010 and 2011.

       

  • (a) Assistance Other Than Financial Assistance-

     

    (b) Grants-

     

 

SEC. 5. GRANT PROGRAM.

    (a) Authority To Award Grants- The Office of Justice Programs of the Department of Justice may award grants, in accordance with such regulations as the Attorney General may prescribe, to State, local, or tribal programs designed to combat hate crimes committed by juveniles, including programs to train local law enforcement officers in identifying, investigating, prosecuting, and preventing hate crimes.

     

    (b) Authorization of Appropriations- There are authorized to be appropriated such sums as may be necessary to carry out this section.

     

 

SEC. 6. AUTHORIZATION FOR ADDITIONAL PERSONNEL TO ASSIST STATE, LOCAL, AND TRIBAL LAW ENFORCEMENT.

    There are authorized to be appropriated to the Department of Justice, including the Community Relations Service, for fiscal years 2010, 2011, and 2012 such sums as are necessary to increase the number of personnel to prevent and respond to alleged violations of section 249 of title 18, United States Code, as added by section 7 of this Act.

     

 

SEC. 7. PROHIBITION OF CERTAIN HATE CRIME ACTS.

    (a) In General- Chapter 13 of title 18, United States Code, is amended by adding at the end the following:

     

 

‘Sec. 249. Hate crime acts

  •  
    •  
      •  

          ‘(i) death results from the offense; or

           

          ‘(ii) the offense includes kidnapping or an attempt to kidnap, aggravated sexual abuse or an attempt to commit aggravated sexual abuse, or an attempt to kill.

           

      • ‘(A) shall be imprisoned not more than 10 years, fined in accordance with this title, or both; and

         

        ‘(B) shall be imprisoned for any term of years or for life, fined in accordance with this title, or both, if–

         

      •  
        •  

            ‘(I) death results from the offense; or

             

            ‘(II) the offense includes kidnapping or an attempt to kidnap, aggravated sexual abuse or an attempt to commit aggravated sexual abuse, or an attempt to kill.

             

        • ‘(i) shall be imprisoned not more than 10 years, fined in accordance with this title, or both; and

           

          ‘(ii) shall be imprisoned for any term of years or for life, fined in accordance with this title, or both, if–

           

        •  

            ‘(I) across a State line or national border; or

             

            ‘(II) using a channel, facility, or instrumentality of interstate or foreign commerce;

             

            ‘(I) interferes with commercial or other economic activity in which the victim is engaged at the time of the conduct; or

             

            ‘(II) otherwise affects interstate or foreign commerce.

             

        • ‘(i) the conduct described in subparagraph (A) occurs during the course of, or as the result of, the travel of the defendant or the victim–

           

          ‘(ii) the defendant uses a channel, facility, or instrumentality of interstate or foreign commerce in connection with the conduct described in subparagraph (A);

           

          ‘(iii) in connection with the conduct described in subparagraph (A), the defendant employs a firearm, dangerous weapon, explosive or incendiary device, or other weapon that has traveled in interstate or foreign commerce; or

           

          ‘(iv) the conduct described in subparagraph (A)–

           

      • ‘(A) IN GENERAL- Whoever, whether or not acting under color of law, in any circumstance described in subparagraph (B) or paragraph (3), willfully causes bodily injury to any person or, through the use of fire, a firearm, a dangerous weapon, or an explosive or incendiary device, attempts to cause bodily injury to any person, because of the actual or perceived religion, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity or disability of any person–

         

        ‘(B) CIRCUMSTANCES DESCRIBED- For purposes of subparagraph (A), the circumstances described in this subparagraph are that–

         

    • ‘(1) OFFENSES INVOLVING ACTUAL OR PERCEIVED RACE, COLOR, RELIGION, OR NATIONAL ORIGIN- Whoever, whether or not acting under color of law, willfully causes bodily injury to any person or, through the use of fire, a firearm, a dangerous weapon, or an explosive or incendiary device, attempts to cause bodily injury to any person, because of the actual or perceived race, color, religion, or national origin of any person–

       

      ‘(2) OFFENSES INVOLVING ACTUAL OR PERCEIVED RELIGION, NATIONAL ORIGIN, GENDER, SEXUAL ORIENTATION, GENDER IDENTITY, OR DISABILITY-

       

      ‘(3) OFFENSES OCCURRING IN THE SPECIAL MARITIME OR TERRITORIAL JURISDICTION OF THE UNITED STATES- Whoever, within the special maritime or territorial jurisdiction of the United States, commits an offense described in paragraph (1) or (2) shall be subject to the same penalties as prescribed in those paragraphs.

       

    •  

        ‘(A) the State does not have jurisdiction;

         

        ‘(B) the State has requested that the Federal Government assume jurisdiction;

         

        ‘(C) the verdict or sentence obtained pursuant to State charges left demonstratively unvindicated the Federal interest in eradicating bias-motivated violence; or

         

        ‘(D) a prosecution by the United States is in the public interest and necessary to secure substantial justice.

         

    • ‘(1) IN GENERAL- No prosecution of any offense described in this subsection may be undertaken by the United States, except under the certification in writing of the Attorney General, or his designee, that–

       

      ‘(2) RULE OF CONSTRUCTION- Nothing in this subsection shall be construed to limit the authority of Federal officers, or a Federal grand jury, to investigate possible violations of this section.

       

      ‘(1) the term ‘bodily injury’ has the meaning given such term in section 1365(h)(4) of this title, but does not include solely emotional or psychological harm to the victim;

       

      ‘(2) the term ‘explosive or incendiary device’ has the meaning given such term in section 232 of this title;

       

      ‘(3) the term ‘firearm’ has the meaning given such term in section 921(a) of this title; and

       

      ‘(4) the term ‘gender identity’ for the purposes of this chapter means actual or perceived gender-related characteristics.’.

       

      ‘249. Hate crime acts.’.

       

  • ‘(a) In General-

     

    ‘(b) Certification Requirement-

     

    ‘(c) Definitions- In this section–

     

    (b) Technical and Conforming Amendment- The analysis for chapter 13 of title 18, United States Code, is amended by adding at the end the following:

     

 

SEC. 8. STATISTICS.

    (a) In General- Subsection (b)(1) of the first section of the Hate Crime Statistics Act (28 U.S.C. 534 note) is amended by inserting ‘gender and gender identity,’ after ‘race,’.

     

    (b) Data- Subsection (b)(5) of the first section of the Hate Crime Statistics Act (28 U.S.C. 534 note) is amended by inserting ‘, including data about crimes committed by, and crimes directed against, juveniles’ after ‘data acquired under this section’.

     

 

SEC. 9. SEVERABILITY.

    If any provision of this Act, an amendment made by this Act, or the application of such provision or amendment to any person or circumstance is held to be unconstitutional, the remainder of this Act, the amendments made by this Act, and the application of the provisions of such to any person or circumstance shall not be affected thereby.

     

 

SEC. 10. RULE OF CONSTRUCTION.

  •  

      (1) RELEVANT EVIDENCE- Courts may consider relevant evidence of speech, beliefs, or expressive conduct to the extent that such evidence is offered to prove an element of a charged offense or is otherwise admissible under the Federal Rules of Evidence. Nothing in this Act is intended to affect the existing rules of evidence.

       

      (2) VIOLENT ACTS- This Act applies to violent acts motivated by actual or perceived race, color, religion, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity or disability of a victim.

       

      (3) CONSTITUTIONAL PROTECTIONS- Nothing in this Act shall be construed to prohibit any constitutionally protected speech, expressive conduct or activities (regardless of whether compelled by, or central to, a system of religious belief), including the exercise of religion protected by the First Amendment and peaceful picketing or demonstration. The Constitution does not protect speech, conduct or activities consisting of planning for, conspiring to commit, or committing an act of violence.CommentsPermalink

       

      (4) FREE EXPRESSION- Nothing in this Act shall be construed to allow prosecution based solely upon an individual’s expression of racial, religious, political, or other beliefs or solely upon an individual’s membership in a group advocating or espousing such beliefs.

  • For purposes of construing this Act and the amendments made by this Act the following shall apply:

     

 

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