More Hate Crme Laws Hit the Books

By: Wallin & Klarich

Much has been written regarding “hate crime” laws and whether enactment of such laws is appropriate or even consistent with the US Constitution. While, on the one hand, crimes committed in the name of “hate” cannot be condoned in a free society, on the other hand, as US Supreme Court Justice Robert Jackson noted: “”If there is any fixed star in our constitutional constellation, it is that no official, high or petty, can prescribe what shall be orthodox in politics, nationalism, religion, or other matters of opinion or force citizens to confess by word or act their faith therein.” West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette, 319 U.S. 624, 642 (1943).

Apparently New York State is the most recent state to enact a “hate crime” law, which actually represents an expansion of existing New York State “hate crime” legislation. The new law provides that, any person who etches, paints, draws or otherwise places or displays a noose on any private or public building or other real property without the express permission of the owner or operator of such building or real property with the intent to harass, annoy, threaten or alarm another person because of a belief or perception regarding such person’s race, color, national origin, gender, religion, religious practice, age disability or sexual orientation shall be guilty of the crime of aggravated harassment in the first degree. Aggravated harassment in the first degree is a E-Felony punishable by up to four years in prison.”

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