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October 15, 2014

The Shepard-Byrd Hate Crimes Prevention Act: Five Years Later

The Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act (HCPA), enacted into law on October 28, 2009, is the most important, comprehensive, and inclusive federal hate crime enforcement law passed in the past 40 years.Matthew_Shepard_and_James_Byrd,_Jr._Hate_Crimes_Prevention_Act

The HCPA encourages partnerships between state and federal law enforcement officials to more effectively address hate violence, and provides expanded authority for federal hate crime investigations and prosecutions when local authorities are unwilling or unable to act.  Importantly, the HCPA adds sexual orientation, gender, gender identity and disability to the groups which previously had federal protection against hate crimes – race, color, religion and national origin.

For more than a dozen years, the Anti-Defamation League led a broad coalition of civil rights, religious, educational, professional, law enforcement, and civic organizations advocating for the HCPA. The legislation was stalled by fierce opposition from some conservative organizations — and, for eight years, by President George W. Bush — in large part because it provided new authority for the FBI and the Justice Department to investigate and prosecute cases in which members of LGBT communities were targeted for violence.  Energetic support by President Barack Obama and Attorney General Eric H. Holder, Jr.  was essential to achieving final passage of the measure.

The HCPA has proven to be a valuable tool for federal prosecutors.  The Department of Justice has brought more than two dozen cases over the past five years – and has successfully defended the constitutionality of the Act against several constitutional challenges.

Enactment of the HCPA also sparked a wel­come round of police train­ing and out­reach – and the devel­op­ment of a num­ber of sig­nif­i­cant new hate crime train­ing and pre­ven­tion resources, including an updated Hate Crime Model Policy prepared by the International Association of Chiefs of Police.

Yet, much work remains to be done.  Hate crimes remain a serious national problem. In 2012 (according to the most recent data available) the FBI documented more than 6,500 hate crimes – almost one every hour of every day. The most frequent were motivated by race, followed by religion and sexual orientation.  Of the crime motivated by religion, more than 60 percent targeted Jews or Jewish institutions.

Unfortunately, more than 90 cities with populations over 100,000 either did not participate in the FBI 2012 data collection program or affirmatively reported zero (0) hate crimes. That is unacceptable. As FBI Director James B. Comey said in remarks to the 2014 ADL Leadership Summit, “We must continue to impress upon our state and local counterparts in every jurisdiction the need to track and report hate crime. It is not something we can ignore or sweep under the rug.”

The fifth anniversary of the HCPA provides an important teachable moment.  It is a fitting occasion for advocates, the Obama Administration, and Congress to promote awareness of the HCPA, to report on the progress our nation has made in preventing hate violence, and to rededicate ourselves to effectively responding to bias crimes when they occur.

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October 28, 2013

Matthew Shepard And James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act Four Years Later: Demonstrating Its Value

This week marks the fourth anniversary of the signing of the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act (HCPA).  The HCPA is the most important, comprehensive, and inclusive hate crime enforcement law enacted in the past 40 years. In addition, passage of the act has sparked a welcome round of police training and outreach – and the development of a number of significant new hate crime training and prevention resources. hate-crimes-prevention-act-HCPA

It is appropriate to pause to reflect on the extraordinarily broad coalition ADL was privileged to lead in support the HCPA – including over 250 civil rights, education, religious, civic, and professional organizations and, crucially, virtually every major law enforcement organization in the country. Originally drafted in 1996, progress on the bill was stalled, Congress after Congress, because of persistent, adamant – and erroneous – concerns about the impact of the bill’s coverage of hate crimes directed at individuals because of their sexual orientation. In the end, even after 13 long years of advocacy, with the strong support of President Obama and Attorney General Holder, the measure still had to be attached to “must-pass” legislation – the Department of Defense FY 2010 Authorization bill – in order to be enacted into law.

But now, four years later, advocates cannot doubt that the titanic efforts to enact the HCPA by Senate and House champions and the hate crime coalition were worthwhile. Here are highlights of some of the important advances since the enactment of the HCPA, Public Law 111-84.


  • Lawyers from the Department of Justice (DoJ) Civil Rights Division, FBI agents, and professionals from DoJ’s Community Relations Service have trained thousands of state and local law enforcement officials from more than a dozen states on the HCPA’s new tools and federal-state partnership opportunities.  


  • DoJ has investigated dozens of cases and has brought indictments in about 20 cases, including several cases in states that lack their own hate crime laws.    
  • Under the expanded authority of the HCPA, Justice Department lawyers have provided forensic and other investigative assistance to state and local law enforcement officials prosecuting cases under their state laws. 
  • In coordination with several lead US Attorneys, DoJ has vigorously defended the HCPA in both facial and as applied constitutional challenges. 

Hate Crime Data Collection


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July 31, 2013

Remembering the Hate Crime Victims at Oak Creek – And Acting

Update – August 5, 2013: ADL has joined a coalition of groups urging the White House to also take steps to address religious-based violence and discrimination.

On August 5, 2012, six Sikh worshippers were killed, and four others wounded, by a white supremacist skinhead at their Gurdwara in Oak Creek, Wisconsin.  The shooter then turned his gun on himself.  Less than a week after the tragedy, US Attorney General Eric Holder. Jr.  participated in a memorial service for the victims, stating that the crime was “an act of terrorism, an act of hatred, a hate crime.”  sikh-temple-shooting-oak-creek-anniversary

Now, one year later, we observe the anniversary of this tragedy, honoring the memory of the victims by elevating the fight against discrimination and hate crimes – and by working to ensure that all places of worship will be safe.

In the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, our nation has experienced a disturbing number of backlash attacks against Muslim, Sikhs, Arabs, and South Asians.  In fact, the first bias-motivated murder after 9/11 was Balbir Singh Sodhi, a Sikh gas station owner in Mesa, Arizona. 

After the Oak Creek Gurdwara murders, ADL Chicago/Upper Midwest Regional Office Director Lonnie Nasatir participated in a program in Oak Creek with the US Attorney and FBI officials to show support for the community and ADL professionals across the country reached out to Sikh organizations to provide resources on how to keep their community institutions safe.

ADL has been the national leader in promoting improved hate crime data collection by law enforcement authorities.  Since 2008, the League has supported requiring the FBI to collect and report specific data on hate crimes directed against Sikhs, Arabs, and Hindus.  

The murders at Oak Creek provided additional impetus to make this change.  And the issue was examined and promoted in September 19 Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Human Rights hearings on “Hate Crime and the Threat of Domestic Extremism,” to which the League submitted comprehensive testimony. 

Working with Congressional champions, like Rep. Joseph Crowley, the League helped to coordinate a coalition effort to urge the FBI to include these new hate crime data categories as part of the Bureau’s annual hate crime report prepared under the 1990 Hate Crime Statistics Act.   In May, an FBI Advisory Policy Board recommended that the Bureau take this action.  

As we commemorate the first anniversary of the tragedy at Oak Creek, we can take some solace in knowing that our communities have done something positive to address that horrific incident.  Collecting specific data on hate crimes directed against individuals will increase public awareness, encourage victims to report these crimes, and expand existing engagement and relationships between law enforcement authorities and these communities. ADL has joined a coalition of groups urging the White House to also take steps to address religious-based violence and discrimination. 

Our attention now turns to working with the FBI and local law enforcement officials to provide training and education on these crimes.

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