"Hate crime" prosecution for flushing Koran down a toilet
stevenjamar at gmail.com
Sat Jul 28 15:59:06 PDT 2007
Can motive ever make an otherwise legal act illegal? Sure. The hammer,
screwdrivers, wrenches, and other tools I carry in my car can suddenly
become "burglary tools" if used in a certain way or if carried with the
intent to use them in that way.
Killing someone by accident is different from doing so with intent or
Why would a motive of hate not be an acceptable one to consider in intent or
severity of a crime?
If we limit certain kinds of speech on the basis of the content of the
speech and of the intent and circumstances when made, why not conceptually
include hate speech as one of the circumstances and intentions that changes
what might otherwise be protected speech to unprotected?
But, the problem with any such sort of speech limitation is that it can
quickly and easily get out of hand both in the hands of legislators and in
the hands of those enforcing it.
The abuse by law enforcement is a real and serious concern - even with the
best of motives.
This strikes me as a curious case for a hate crime per se on the theory that
it seems to be brought. But it seems to me that one could make it a crime
to desecrate religious works either absolutely or contextually (e.g.,
publicly). It doesn't seem that this conduct is really covered by the
What about Pace? If this was a student, could it discipline him for this
sort of disrespectful conduct? Or must the conduct be targeting a
particular individual? Or can it be this sort of group disrespect? Surely
Pace or other private schools can require some minimal level of civil
Prof. Steven Jamar
Howard University School of Law
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