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March 23, 2015

New FBI Hate Crime Training Manual Published

This week the FBI published an updated hate crime training manual. The excellent new guide is the single most important, most inclusive hate crime training resource available for law enforcement officials

DOJ sealThis version of the Bureau’s Hate Crime Data Collection Guidelines and Training Manual  includes new definitions, training scenarios, and a special considerations section to help police officials effectively identify and report the new categories of crime mandated for collection for 2015 – including hate crimes directed at Arabs, Sikhs and Hindus. The first edition of the manual, published in early 2013, included guidance on how to define and identify gender and gender identity hate crimes, based on requirements set forth in the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act(HCPA).

The FBI has been track­ing and doc­u­ment­ing hate crimes reported from fed­eral, state, and local law enforce­ment offi­cials since 1991 under the Hate Crime Sta­tis­tics Act of 1990 (HCSA). The Bureau’s annual HCSA reports pro­vide the best sin­gle national snap­shot of bias-motivated crim­i­nal activ­ity in the United States. The Act has also proven to be a pow­er­ful mech­a­nism to con­front vio­lent big­otry, increas­ing pub­lic aware­ness of the prob­lem and spark­ing improve­ments in the local response of the crim­i­nal jus­tice sys­tem to hate vio­lence – since in order to effec­tively report hate crimes, police offi­cials must be trained to iden­tify and respond to them.

Although the newest data from the 2013 Hate Crime Statistics Act report showed hate crimes have been declining, the numbers are still disturbingly high.  The addition of anti-Arab, anti-Sikh, and anti-Hindu hate crimes for 2015 demonstrates the Bureau’s commitment to preventing and counteracting these crimes.  After the tragic murder of six Sikh worshippers in Oak Creek, Wisconsin in 2012, collecting data on Arab, Sikh, and Hindu victims of hate crimes became even more urgent. This updated FBI hate crime training manual is a crucial step in the work to address these crimes.

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March 7, 2014

ADL-Led Coalition Defends The Hate Crimes Prevention Act

The Anti-Defamation League has filed an amicus brief in a case pending before the Sixth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on behalf of a broad coalition of civil rights, religious, educational, and law enforcement organizations in support of the constitutionality of the Mathew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act (HCPA).  This is the first coalition brief defending the Act, and it attracted some of the most prominent and important civil rights, religious, law enforcement, LGBT, educational, and professional organizations in the country. HCPA-brief

The cases involve Samuel Mullet Sr., the self-appointed Bishop of an Old Order Amish sect in central eastern Ohio, who ordered more than a dozen of his followers to engage in violent beard-and hair-cutting attacks against church members who had rebelled against his domineering control.

The victims of these religiously-motivated crimes were being punished: they had not obeyed Mullet’s edicts and “strayed from the true path.”  Married men in this Amish community typically grow long beards and the women grow their hair long and keep it covered under a prayer bonnet.  Beards and hair are sacred symbols of their religious identity.

The assailants invaded the victims’ homes or lured them into the open before attacking them. They forcibly cut their hair and beards using a variety of implements, including horse shears and electric beard trimmers. The attackers took pictures of their assaults to compound and memorialize the victims’ shame, and then buried the camera.

The attacks inspired fear throughout the Amish communities in the region. In September 2012, Mullet and his followers were tried and convicted of federal conspiracy, kidnapping, and violating the HCPA. U.S. District Judge Dan Aaron Polster eloquently described the defendants’ actions during sentencing: “you did more than just terrorize, traumatize, disfigure your victims, you trampled on the Constitution, and particularly the First Amendment which guarantees each and every American religious freedom.”

The defendants, Mullet and his followers, are now appealing the case, challenging their convictions and sentences on the grounds that the HCPA is unconstitutional, a violation of the First Amendment, and that the HCPA cannot apply to a case in which the perpetrators and victims are of the same religion.

The ADL coalition brief counters each of these arguments.

First, the brief argues the fact that the perpetrators identify as the same religion as the victims does not shield them from culpability under the HCPA: “To exempt intra-faith crimes from the HCPA would ignore many acts of bias-motivated violence that that devastating effects on communities.”

Second, the brief clearly demonstrates that the HCPA does not infringe on the defendants’  religious freedom rights:  “Appellants are, and always have been, free to speak their minds and free to worship in any way they wish.  They simply are not free to target victims for violent crimes because of religion.”

The list of organizations joining ADL and the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights on this brief includes American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, American Association of People with Disabilities, American Association of University Women, American Federation of Teachers, American Jewish Committee, Asian Americans Advancing Justice, Bend the Arc: A Jewish Partnership for Justice, B’nai B’rith International, GLSEN, Central Conference of American Rabbis, Hindu American Foundation, Human Rights Campaign, Human Rights First, Interfaith Alliance Foundation, Japanese American Citizens League, Jewish Council for Public Affairs, Jewish Women International, Muslim Advocates, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, National Center for Transgender Equality, National Council of Jewish Women, National Disability Rights Network, National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives, National Organization for Women Foundation, National Urban League, OCA – Asian Pacific American Advocates, People For the American Way Foundation, PFLAG National, Police Executive Research Forum, Sikh American Legal Defense and Education Fund, Sikh Coalition, Society for Humanistic Judaism, South Asian Americans Leading Together, Southern Poverty Law Center, Union of Reform Judaism, UNITED SIKHS, Women of Reform Judaism, and Women’s League for Conservative Judaism.

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