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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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