“When the local police are destroyed, the totalitarian state will have arrived in full force.” —R. J. Rushdoony
Should the federal government be allowed to take over the prosecution of virtually any crime — even where state or local laws don’t classify it as a “hate crime”?
A new bill proposed in Congress would, if enacted into law, do just that.
Nationwide pro-family organizations have denounced the bill because it would include “sexual orientation” among those categories of citizens slated to receive special protection under the law. Crimes committed against citizens “because of the actual or perceived religion, gender, sexual orientation, or disability of any person” would be addressed by federal prosecutors and punished more severely than crimes committed against ordinary citizens.
Critics fear that the “David Ray Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2007” would be used to criminalize Christian opposition to the homosexual socio-political agenda.
In fact, it’s even worse than that.
Unlimited Federal Jurisdiction
The full text of the bill (which can be found by searching http://thomas.loc.gov ) reveals an intention to remove all limitations on federal jurisdiction in criminal cases.
According to the bill, how would a crime become subject to a federal prosecution? If you read carefully, you will see that there would be virtually no crime against a person that would be exempt from federal prosecution (all quotations taken from the text of the bill.)
A “hate crime” would become a federal offense when:
- “such violence affects interstate commerce in many ways, including —” [emphasis added]
- “by impeding the movement of members of targeted groups and forcing [them] to move across State lines to escape the incidence or risk”
- “by preventing [them] from purchasing goods and services”
- “perpetrators cross State lines to commit such violence”
- “instrumentalities of interstate commerce [roads, for instance—Ed.] are used to facilitate … such violence”
- “such violence is committed using articles that have traveled in interstate commerce” [emphasis added]
Every “article” that could possibly be used in the commission of a crime (except, perhaps, for a stick or stone picked up from the ground) has “traveled in interstate commerce” at some time or other. It’s almost impossible to move beyond your own residence without using “instrumentalities of interstate commerce.” Those two criteria alone apply to almost any crime that can be imagined.
Furthermore, the bill would sidestep and frustrate the wishes of state legislatures and local governments:
“[A]lthough many local jurisdictions have attempted to respond to the challenges posed by such violence, the problem is sufficiently serious, widespread, and interstate in scope to warrant Federal intervention” because “many States have no laws addressing” so-called hate crimes.
The Commerce Clause
Even if the bill were amended to delete the “sexual orientation” category, it would still give the federal Justice Department vast new powers at the expense of state and local jurisdictions.
Historically, the “commerce clause” of the Constitution has been used to justify almost any action by the government. Economist Walter Williams, at George Mason University, cites an especially creative application of the commerce clause (see http://www.gmu.edu/departments/economics/wew/articles/03/abuse.html).In 1942, the Supreme Court ruled that the Department of Agriculture could fine a farmer who “harvested nearly 12 acres of wheat above his government allotment. He argued that the excess wheat was unrelated to commerce since he grew it for his own use. He was fined anyway. The Court reasoned that had he not grown the extra wheat he would have had to purchase wheat; therefore, he was indirectly affecting interstate commerce.”
Can you imagine any activity that does not affect interstate commerce in some tortuously indirect way? Whether you buy an item or a service, or decide not to buy it, your decision affects commerce.
Dr. Williams calls such abuses of the commerce clause “tyranny.”
A Blank Check
Robert Knight, now with the Media Research Center (MRC), has for years lobbied in Congress to block passage of various hate crime bills. He agreed with Chalcedon’s analysis of this version of the bill.
“The whole thing’s bad,” he said, “but the invocation of the commerce clause is the key to it all. It’s huge. That one little phrase is their magic wand to involve the federal government any time they please. That commerce clause language is a blank check for them to do anything.”
Groups like the MRC, he said, will do “everything we can to kill this bill. If it passes, we hope the president will veto it. Meanwhile, we have to make it clear to Republican leaders in Congress that if they don’t kill this bill, we will consider them as being on the other side.”
Although the bill offers nothing so blatant as the out-and-out destruction of local police power, it would supersede and nullify state and local jurisdiction in all crimes against persons. It is easy to imagine how almost any individual could be shoehorned into one of the categories covered by “hate crime” language.
The destruction of local police power, Rushdoony wrote in 1965, “is being done by insisting that we have a vast problem of crime which the police cannot cope with.”
This bill is full of such language: “[T]he incidence of violence motivated by [hate] poses a serious national problem … [It] disrupts the tranquility and safety of communities and is deeply divisive … existing Federal law [and state and local laws, too—Ed.] is inadequate to address this problem … [which is] sufficiently serious, widespread, and interstate in scope to warrant Federal intervention to assist such jurisdictions,” and so on.
This is, of course, a scare tactic. The language of the bill makes America sound like Baghdad on a bad day: only “Federal intervention” can save us!
The bill is sponsored by Rep. Sheila Jackson-Lee (D-TX) and is currently before the House Judiciary Committee.
Whether or not the final version of the bill, if it becomes law, singles out Christians to stifle their opposition to organized sodomy’s political designs, its broad-brush application of the commerce clause threatens the liberties of all Americans.
 R. J. Rushdoony, The Nature of the American System (Vallecito, CA: Ross House Books, 1965: 2001 edition), 184.
 Ibid., 179.