KEVIN LEININGER: What do Indiana, Congress have in common? They both prove danger of hate-crime laws

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Kevin Leininger

Indiana is once again being caricatured as backward and bigoted for a proposed hate-crimes bill that would allow additional punishment for bias without explicitly protecting certain groups. You know the list: women, minorities, sexual orientation/identity and so on.

But don’t police officers and members of the military deserve protection, too?

And what about would-be targets of one of the world’s oldest and most virulent forms of hate, anti-Semitism?

The response to both of those questions, one coming from Indianapolis and the other from Washington, D.C, is the clearest evidence yet that Indiana should proudly cling to its status as one of only five states without a hate-crime law — and invite those 45 lemmings to jump on the small but crucial sanity bandwagon while they still can.

A member of Indiana’s Legislature tells me that during the recent state Senate debate over a group-specific hate crimes bill a suggestion to explicitly name police and military personnel was rejected as a “deal breaker” because urban Democrats and others would not go along. Neither the legislator nor I can prove the veracity of that Statehouse rumor, but the fact that no bill emerged offering protected status to such groups suggests its credibility. Where “hate” is concerned, apparently, some groups need and deserve extra protection and some don’t.

After all, just 150 American cops died in the line of duty last year according to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund — 52 of them by gunfire. That’s seven more shooting deaths than the year before, for those who care about such things.

Unfortunately for progressives, congressional Democrats’ response to allegedly anti-Semitic comments from one of the party’s young stars indicates the wisdom of Indiana’s generic approach — and the cynical hypocrisy of those who insist creation of “protected classes” is about justice, not identity politics.

Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., is a refugee from Somalia who was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives last year. In 2012 she tweeted that Israel had “hypnotized” the world, and even though she disavowed the comment in January, she almost immediately invited more controversy by suggesting that congressional supporters of the Jewish state owe “allegiance to a foreign country” and that “It’s all about the Benjamins, baby.”

Whether the statements are indeed anti-Semitic is not the point, and it is entirely possible to criticize Israel without hating Jews. The point is that many of Omar’s peers considered the statements anti-Semitic and called on the House to pass a resolution condemning them as such.

The Democrat-controlled House’s response should serve as a wake-up call to anyone who still believes Indiana can appease any of its progressive critics by becoming more like California, New York — or the Washington D.C., swamp.

Instead of criticizing a female, black, Muslim colleague with a potentially bright political future, the House by a vote of 407-23 passed a resolution that condemned not only anti-Semitism but racism, white supremacy and anti-Muslim bigotry, too. “It’s the first time we have ever voted on a resolution condemning anti-Muslim bigotry in our nation’s history,” Omar said with no apparent sense of shame or even irony.

The world Jewish Congress, meanwhile, criticized the House for its “watered down” resolution.

The logical inference to be drawn from these examples from Indianapolis and Washington is this: When politicians want to pass or avoid passing legislation stating that certain groups are more capable of hate or more deserving of protection than others, the concept of equal protection under the law no longer applies. Guess who wins when traditional Christianity collides with progressive and ever-shifting views of sexuality and marriage? Do you really think people ashamed of living in one of only five states without a hate-crimes bill let a little thing like the First Amendment stand in the way?

Hoosier judges already have the authority to impose an additional sentence for crimes motivated by bias. Passage of a generic bill therefore would be legally redundant, while a bill containing a laundry list of potential victims would simply invite the roster to grow or shrink every year, blown about by the political winds. Thus would “hate” become a specific weapon to be used against opponents instead of a universal evil to be overcome.

Sometimes the best option is to do nothing. In Indiana, this clearly is one of those times — unless you happen to admire Congress.

This column is the commentary of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of The News-Sentinel. Email Kevin Leininger at kleininger@news-sentinel.com or call him at 461-8355.

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