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October 15, 2014 0

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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March 7, 2014 0

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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June 28, 2013 5

One Giant Step Forward Towards Full Equality for the LGBT Community — What’s Next?

There is much to cel­e­brate in the Supreme Court mar­riage equal­ity deci­sions. The Anti-Defamation League filed ami­cus briefs in both U.S. v. Wind­sor and Hollingsworth v. Perry on behalf of a broad, diverse group of reli­gious orga­ni­za­tions, empha­siz­ing that there are many dif­fer­ent reli­gious views on mar­riage and that no one reli­gious under­stand­ing should be used to define mar­riage recog­ni­tion and rights under civil law.

Your rights should not depend on your ZIP code.

Your rights should not depend on your ZIP code.

ADL’s brief in the Wind­sor case began with the asser­tion that reli­gious def­i­n­i­tions of mar­riage vary, includ­ing per­spec­tives over whether or not gay and les­bian cou­ples may marry. Our brief then set out two argu­ments: (1) the Defense of Mar­riage Act (DOMA) vio­lated the estab­lish­ment clause because it was enacted with a reli­gious pur­pose, based on a par­tic­u­lar reli­gious under­stand­ing of mar­riage; and (2) DOMA vio­lated equal pro­tec­tion under the Fifth Amend­ment because it was moti­vated by moral dis­ap­proval of gay and les­bian peo­ple with­out any legit­i­mate gov­ern­ment purpose.

Our Perry brief urged the Court to reject the reli­gious and moral jus­ti­fi­ca­tions expressed by Propo­si­tion 8 pro­po­nents.  It demon­strated how, over the past quar­ter cen­tury, the Supreme Court has rejected laws dis­fa­vor­ing minor­ity groups based on moral or reli­gious dis­ap­proval alone – with one, now dis­cred­ited, excep­tion, Bow­ers v. Hard­wick. The brief looked back over time and showed how laws like slav­ery, seg­re­ga­tion, pro­hi­bi­tions on inter­ra­cial mar­riage, and laws dis­crim­i­nat­ing against women – laws that were jus­ti­fied on moral and reli­gious grounds – had ulti­mately been rejected by the Court.

ADL hailed the Court’s two deci­sions, while rec­og­niz­ing that much work remains to be done to pro­mote LGBT equal­ity.  Now that DOMA has been ruled uncon­sti­tu­tional, legal ana­lysts – and gov­ern­ment offi­cials – will be sort­ing out the range of fed­eral ben­e­fits that can now be accorded to legally-married same-sex cou­ples.  Same-sex cou­ples in Cal­i­for­nia can pre­pare for full recog­ni­tion and rights in their state. It is clear, how­ever, that, for now, the full range of ben­e­fits, priv­i­leges, and respon­si­bil­i­ties of mar­riage will con­tinue to be denied cou­ples in 37 other states.

More­over, at a time when it is still legal to fire employ­ees solely because they are les­bian, gay, or bisex­ual in 29 states – and in 33 states it is legal to fire some­one solely for being trans­gen­der — it is nec­es­sary to com­ple­ment this week’s for­ward progress with work­place dis­crim­i­na­tion pro­tec­tions, ini­tia­tives to pre­vent bias-motivated vio­lence, and pro­grams to pro­mote safe learn­ing envi­ron­ments for LGBT students.

To these ends, ADL sup­ports the Employ­ment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), which would expand exist­ing fed­eral employ­ment dis­crim­i­na­tion cov­er­age to include pro­tec­tion for those who are dis­crim­i­nated against based on their sex­ual ori­en­ta­tion and/or gen­der iden­tity.  ADL is a national leader in con­fronting hate vio­lence, hav­ing played a lead role in coali­tion work to enact and imple­ment the Matthew Shep­ard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Pre­ven­tion Act (HCPA). And the League has also been in the fore­front of efforts to ensure safe school envi­ron­ments for all stu­dents, regard­less of their reli­gion, sex­ual ori­en­ta­tion, or gen­der iden­tity, through the devel­op­ment of edu­ca­tion and train­ing pro­grams  and bul­ly­ing pre­ven­tion initiatives.

While we cel­e­brate the great step for­ward in mar­riage equal­ity, we must not lose sight of the fact that   our nation has suf­fered a major set­back to civil rights when the Supreme Court struck down a crit­i­cal part of the 1965 Vot­ing Rights Act, In this, ADL’s  100th anniver­sary year, we reded­i­cate our­selves to secur­ing, in the words of our found­ing Char­ter, “jus­tice and fair treat­ment for all.”

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