Jeff Jacoby has an excellent piece in the Boston Globe regarding the terminology being used to describe the disturbing cases of the Baptists churches that have been burned in Alabama – in comparison with the terminology that has been used to describe other incidents of a similar nature in the past. He writes:
SUPPOSE THAT in 2005 unknown hoodlums had firebombed 10 gay bookstores and bars in San Francisco, reducing several of them to smoking rubble. It takes no effort to imagine the alarm that would have spread through the Bay Area’s gay community or the manhunt that would have been launched to find the attackers. The blasts would have been described everywhere as ”hate crimes,” editorial pages would have thundered with condemnation, and public officials would have vowed to crack down on crimes against gays with unprecedented severity.
In the past two weeks, 10 Baptist churches have been burned in rural Alabama. Five churches in Bibb County — Ashby Baptist, Rehobeth Baptist, Antioch Baptist, Old Union Baptist, and Pleasant Sabine — were torched between midnight and 3 a.m. on Feb. 3. Four days later, arsonists destroyed or badly damaged Morning Star Missionary Baptist Church in Greene County, Dancy First Baptist Church in Pickens County, and two churches in Sumter County, Galilee Baptist and Spring Valley Baptist. On Saturday, Beaverton Freewill Baptist Church in northwest Alabama became the 10th house of worship to go up in flames.
Ten arson attacks against 10 churches — all of them Baptist, all in small Alabama towns, all in the space of eight days: If anything is a hate crime, obviously this is.
Or is it? ”We’re looking to make sure this is not a hate crime and that we do everything that we need to do,” FBI Special Agent Charles Regan told reporters in Birmingham. Make sure this is not a hate crime? If 10 Brooklyn synagogues went up in flames in a little over a week, wouldn’t investigators start from the assumption that the arson was motivated by hatred of Jews? If 10 Cuban-American shops and restaurants in Miami were deliberately burned to the ground, wouldn’t the obvious presumption be that anti-Cuban animus was involved?
Apparently Baptist churches are different.
He goes on to provide quotes from law ‘experts’ that indicate those folks don’t think these could be considered ‘hate crimes’. Jacoby finishes the piece and nails the misguided notions behind ‘hate crime’ laws:
In 1996, a spate of fires in the South was wildly and falsely trumpeted in the media as an eruption of racism. ”We are facing an epidemic of terror,” said Deval Patrick, the Clinton administration’s assistant attorney general for civil rights. But as it turned out, there was no racist conspiracy. More than a third of the arsonists arrested were black, and more than half the churches burned were white. So perhaps it is progress of a sort that, this time around, the media are keeping in check the urge to cry ”Racism!”
But real progress will come only when we abandon the whole misguided notion of ”hate crimes,” which deems certain crimes more deserving of outrage and punishment not because of what the criminal did, but because of the group to which the victim belonged. The burning of a church is a hateful act regardless of the congregants’ skin color. That some people bend over backward not to say so is a disgrace.
Read the whole thing.
(Hat tip: Betsy Newmark)