Friday, February 17, 2006

Arson: Not a Hate Crime if Directed at Christians

From Jeff Jacoby’s column in the Boston Globe:

. . . the fact that the definition of a “hate crime” depends on what religious group is being attacked.

Suppose that in 2005 unknown hoodlums had firebombed 10 gay bookstores and bars in San Francisco, reducing several of them to smoking rubble. It is not hard to imagine the alarm that would have spread through the Bay Area’s gay community or the manhunt that would have been launched to find the attackers. The blasts would have been described everywhere as “hate crimes,” editorial pages would have thundered with condemnation, and public officials would have vowed to crack down on crimes against gays with unprecedented severity.

Suppose that vandals last month had attacked 10 Detroit-area mosques and halal restaurants, leaving behind shattered windows, wrecked furniture, and walls defaced with graffiti. The violence would be national front-page news. On blogs and talk radio, the horrifying outbreak of anti-Muslim bigotry would be Topic No. 1. Bills would be introduced in Congress to increase the penalties for violent “hate crimes” — no one would hesitate to call them by that term — and millions of Americans would rally in solidarity with Detroit’s Islamic community.

Fortunately, those sickening scenarios are only hypothetical. Here is one that is not:

In the past two weeks, 10 Baptist churches have been burned in rural Alabama. Five churches in Bibb County — Ashby Baptist, Rehobeth Baptist, Antioch Baptist, Old Union Baptist, and Pleasant Sabine — were torched between midnight and 3 a.m. on Feb. 3. Four days later, arsonists destroyed or badly damaged Morning Star Missionary Baptist Church in Greene County, Dancy First Baptist Church in Pickens County, and two churches in Sumter County, Galilee Baptist and Spring Valley Baptist. On Saturday, Beaverton Freewill Baptist Church in northwest Alabama became the 10th house of worship to go up in flames.

Ten arson attacks against 10 churches — all of them Baptist, all in small Alabama towns, all in the space of eight days: If anything deserves the label of “hate crime,” obviously this does.

Or does it?

“We’re looking to make sure this is not a hate crime and that we do everything that we need to do,” FBI Special Agent Charles Regan told reporters in Birmingham. Make sure this is not a hate crime? If 10 Brooklyn synagogues went up in flames in a little over a week, wouldn’t investigators start from the assumption that the arson was motivated by hatred of Jews?

[. . .]

“I don’t see any evidence that these fires are hate crimes,” Mark Potok, a director of the left-wing Southern Poverty Law Center, told the Los Angeles Times. “Anti-Christian crimes are exceedingly rare in the South.”

But are anti-Christian crimes really that rare? Or are they simply less interesting to the left, which prefers to cast Christians as victimizers, not victims?

A search of the Southern Poverty Law Center’s website, for example, turns up no references to Jay Scott Ballinger, a self-described Satan worshiper deeply hostile to Christianity, who was sentenced to life in prison for burning 26 churches between 1994 and 1999. The SPLC has claimed that the number of hate crimes in American is sharply underreported. Yet if Ballinger’s arsons weren’t “hate crimes,” what were they?

Jacoby goes on to cite an attempt by National Public Radio to interpret the crimes in racial terms. After all, white racists burning black churches fits the politically correct template just fine. Unfortunately, of the ten churches burned, five had predominantly black congregations, and five mostly white congregations.
But real progress will come only when we abandon the whole misguided notion of “hate crimes,” which deems certain crimes more deserving of outrage and punishment not because of what the criminal did, but because of the group to which the victim belonged. The burning of a church is a hateful act regardless of the congregants’ skin color. That some people bend over backward not to say so is a disgrace.
The fundamental problem is that politically correct liberals believe that they are by definition tolerant, and conservatives aren’t.

Thus, intolerance coming from their side of the political spectrum must be either rationalized as justified (of course blacks should hate whites, and women should hate men), or just flat out ignored.

Of course, the arsonists may not be liberal in any serious political sense. But then, guys who beat up homosexuals aren’t conservative in any serious political sense either. Just violent thugs. But that doesn’t prevent the liberals interpreting such attacks as evidence of “homophobia.”

So why not interpret these arsons as examples of anti-religious bias?

Because Christians aren’t a properly accredited victim group.


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