A pattern of hate against individuals of any religion, race, creed or lifestyle can be detected, as can its sources.
Concerned citizens can support and encourage the passage of legislation to broaden definitions of hate crimes, increase the power of law enforcement to investigate and prosecute offenders, and strengthen penalties.
Illinois is in the forefront of state legislation efforts in 2000, with the House passing a bill in February that increases the scope of and penalty for hate crimes. House Bill 3430 also creates a new crime called “conspiracy against civil rights,” which would be applied to hate group leaders who advocate violence in general against minorities. Current law allows prosecution only if the leader directs someone to commit a specific crime.
In California, a 44-member Civil Rights Commission on Hate Crimes focuses on means of increasing reporting of hate crimes. “Consciousness needs to be raised throughout the state,” said Joseph McNamara, former San Jose police chief and commission co-chairman in a Los Angeles Times report. “One of our objectives is to impress on people that hate crimes do occur, and they need to be reported.”
The Jewish Anti-Defamation League and other organizations track hate crimes legislation and initiatives across the country and provide information on laws already on the books in different states.
A myriad of individual groups combating hate crime and violence are also strengthening alliances and increasing their presence on the Internet.
Whenever and wherever bigotry threatens to create violence, citizens must be willing to speak out and demand an end to the hate. When this is done, and perpetrators are thwarted by an attentive and vigilant citizenry who know their rights, the result is a legacy of safety for generations to come.
* The Cult Awareness Network, after collapsing under a $4.85 million judgment against the group, its executive director and several affiliated individuals, was taken over by an inter-religious board in 1997 and its mandates changed to conform with constitutional principles of religious freedom and tolerance. CAN today provides a hotline, educational services and referral to accredited scholars and authorities throughout the world on minority and new religions.