[H/t Dave E/]
Yesterday, a genuinely historic moment passed with scarcely a blip of attention from the media: President Obama signed into law the nation's first genuine federal bias-crimes statute.
Everyone interested in advancing civil rights in America and defending the nation's minorities from the deprivation of their rights by terroristic thugs -- particularly their historic victims, from African Americans and Asian Americans to Latinos, to Jews and other religious minorities, to gays and lesbians and transgender folk -- have real cause to celebrate. Brian Levin has a nice collection of their thoughts at HuffPo.
Then, of course, there's the Religious Right, which is holding its collective breath and pouting over the event. Case in point: Pat Robertson at The 700 Club, ripping into the new law both yesterday and today on his show.
His basis for opposing the law, however, is completely detached from reality. For instance, Robertson argues:
Robertson: You know, there’s a law – what about a law that says it’s a federal crime to attack somebody because of his religious beliefs? Not a chance!
Robertson seems completely unaware that in fact religious bias is one of the categories of bias crime covered by hate-crime laws -- and it has been from the very start, since these laws were first enacted on the state level in the early 1980s!
Hint to Pat: Religion was covered as a bias category from the start because Jews have long been some of the most common victims of bias crimes. For instance, in the FBI's hate-crime statistics for 2007, some 1,400 of the nation's 7,600 or so reported bias crimes were of the "anti-religion" category; of those, some 118 were varieties of anti-Christian bias.
Indeed, he needs only read the text of the the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Prevention Act to see that religion is one of the categories of bias it covers:
“(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.—
“(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—
, claiming that the law will attack people's free-speech rights. This is, of course, a completely bogus claim, since the bill has very specific free-speech language built into it.
Finally, as Media Matters points out, religious discrimination has long garnered special federal attention in the federal criminal code.
The mewling and fearmongering from the religious right should actually tell progressives they're on the right track here.
Below, I've preserved video footage of President Obama signing the bill into law.