Letter: Writer doesn’t grasp hate crime law


I am responding to Fred Wilferth’s letter in your April 13 edition.

He begins by stating “Perhaps I don’t have a proper understanding about ‘hate’ speech and laws.” Of course, this does not prevent him from criticizing said laws he lacks any understanding of, and this statement is the only portion of his letter I can agree with him on.

He goes on to state “I don’t believe in hate crime laws (hate is a reason, not a crime) since at one time or another most of us ‘hate’ something or someone.” Hate, by itself, is not a crime. In order to have an actionable crime the government must show that not only did you have bad intentions (“mens rea”), but also that you committed some overt act (“actus reas”) in conjunction with said bad intent. That is why “hate crime laws” require that you act upon hate, not just subjectively feel hate.

He goes on to state “You can’t tell me that hate is not part of criminal behavior, whether it is in a robbery of a mini market or a carjacking, a mugging, vandalism or drive by shooting.” Most of these are property crimes and I would suggest greed, necessity or retribution are more likely the motivations rather than hate, but at least he does demonstrate some understanding of the concept that bad intentions alone are not a crime.

He finishes by stating what appears to be the real gist of his letter: “But if we are bent on prosecuting hate, I would suggest we start with those who ‘hate’ America. With all those people breaking into our country, there is nothing to prevent anyone from going into a county they don’t ‘hate.’ I hear Canada is nice this time of year. Iran sounds like a fine place as well.” I guess he has abandoned, in the space of a few paragraphs, the notion that hate was a “reason” and not a crime.

And why does he direct this at “people breaking into our country” and not his fellow citizens? If hating America is the crime, why extend the invitation to leave solely to hateful immigrants? Among “America haters,” are they the only ones worthy of prosecution? Why not simply say: “America – Love it or Leave it,” since everyone is well familiar with this tired old rant.

Steve Bezaire