Friday, March 23, 2012

What is a hate crime?

Suicide of Tyler Clementi
Suicide of Tyler Clementi (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Late last week, former Rutgers student, Dharun Ravi, was convicted of a hate crime in setting up a webcam to spy on his gay roommate who was seen kissing on webcam.  The gay roommate committed suicide soon after discovering that he had been watched. What's interesting to note is that the only evidence that was presented to prove this was a hate crime was the fact that the victim was gay. The prosecution and jury presumed to know what was inside Ravi's head. That is scary for our justice system.

In fact, presuming to know what's inside the defendant's head is the basis for most hate crime legislation. The Matthew Shephard act, federal legislation added to existing hate crimes laws to cover those of homosexual persuasion, is perhaps one of the worst pieces of legislation out there with regard to hate crimes laws. I say that because it appears years later that Matthew Shephard most likely was not killed because of his sexual orientation. 

It does not appear that Tyler Clementi was being viewed by his roommate because he was gay. The webcam was setup before Ravi even knew that. Ravi was a prankster as kids will be and he discovered via the webcam that his roommate was gay.  Why do people commit suicide to begin with? To be honest, it's basically because they feel that they have no one to turn to. Ravi had apparently tried to reach out to Clementi soon after the webcam incident, but Clementi was already in the middle of killing himself.

No one ever deserves to be bullied, but no one ever deserves to have their thoughts assumed to be that of hate. Hate is such a strong word and it is tossed around so much as if it's the end-all. The recent spat over Kirk Cameron's words over his stance on homosexual marriage proves such. He is now branded a gay hater because he takes such a Biblical view. Rosanne Barr (as if her opinion matters anymore) accused Cameron of being an associate to murder. Not much was said when Pastor Mark Driscoll basically affirmed what Cameron said to the same interviewer, Piers Morgan. Why? He's a pastor. He's supposed to say that.

The guy in Florida who shot and killed the unarmed black teenager? I'd say he was more motivated out of hate and fear that Ravi was. What if Ravi's roommate had been heterosexual and had gone out and killed himself after finding he had been watched while making out with his girlfriend? Would Ravi even had been charged with anything? Highly doubtful. What if a pastor preaches a sermon in which he touts the Biblical standpoint that homosexuality is sinful and a young man who has homosexual tendencies goes out and kills himself? Is the pastor responsible for this young man's death? Even if the pastor had offered counseling for those who might struggle with homosexuality?

There's a fine line with defining exactly what a hate crime is. I believe this case with the Rutgers student proves that hate crimes will and are being used as thought crimes. Christians are in the cross-hairs of those who advocate such laws and will be targeted at some point in the future. That's not to say that there are not professing Christians who do express hate toward gays and others, such as those who picket military funerals because of homosexuality. Those people are not expressing Christianity. As Christians, we must be sensitive to all people, while also standing firm on the truth. My viewpoint from the Bible is not hate. If anything, it is love that people would accept Jesus Christ and repent of their sin, whether that is homosexuality, lying, murder, etc.

What Ravi did to his roommate was not right, but does it qualify as a hate crime?
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