Update: Iowa Man Who Burned LGBT Flag Sentenced to 16 Years for Hate Crime

The Washington Times reports that an Iowa man who stole an LGBT flag from a church and set the flag on fire has been sentenced to 16 years in jail.

Fifteen years of that sentence are due to the fact that prosecutors deemed stealing and burning a gay pride flag as a hate crime.

If this man had stolen and burned an American flag, he would not have been convicted of a hate crime, and he probably would not have been sentenced to 16 years in jail.

He might have been charged with theft, reckless use of fire, or even harassment, but not a hate crime.

The sentence for those crimes likely would be a year or two in jail — not 16.

Stories like these underscore how hate crimes laws create unequal penalties for crimes.

Hate crimes laws encourage courts to punish criminals for their beliefs rather than simply for their actions. They also fail to guarantee everyone equal protection under the law.

All of this simply goes to show why Arkansas does not need a hate crimes law.

You can read more about this story here.

Updated 2:50 PM December 20, 2019: Other news outlets indicate the man’s prior offenses may have played a role in his enhanced sentence as well.

Hate Crimes Legislation is Not the Answer

Tuesday, December 17, 2019

On Tuesday Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson released a statement renewing calls for Arkansas to pass hate crimes legislation.

In response, Family Council President Jerry Cox released a statement, saying, “Hate crimes laws don’t work. New Jersey has a hate crimes law like the one the governor is proposing, but it didn’t stop anti-Semitic violence from happening in that state last week. The FBI tracks hate crimes committed nationwide. According to the FBI, the five states with the highest number of hate crimes in 2018 were Washington, New Jersey, New York, Texas, and Michigan. Every one of these states has a hate crimes law. Arkansas, on the other hand, has some of the fewest hate crimes of any state in America. Passing a hate crimes law isn’t going to do anything here.”

Cox said besides being ineffective, hate crimes laws give government the power to punish speech and beliefs. “Hate crimes laws give the government the power to punish thoughts as well as actions. When police investigate a possible hate crime, questions come up about what the suspect wrote or said. People ask questions about his religious beliefs or his friends and associates. These investigations stray into thought-policing and end up punishing criminals for what they believe in addition to what they did. Free countries don’t criminalize beliefs or thoughts.”

Cox said hate crimes laws promote unequal justice. “Hate crimes laws treat crimes and their victims unequally. Targeting anyone and committing a crime is wrong and currently illegal. When hate crimes laws levy harsher penalties for targeting some people but not others, the punishments can differ even if the crimes are the same. The penalty for murder or armed robbery should be the same no matter the victim’s race, religion, or sexual-orientation.”

Cox said Family Council will oppose any effort to pass hate crimes legislation in Arkansas. “We have opposed hate crimes laws every time they have been proposed at the Arkansas Legislature since the 1990s. This legislation was a bad idea 25 years ago, and it’s still a bad idea today.”