Is hate a crime? Is bad history hate?
Joseph A. Komonchak April 20, 2007 - 1:59pm
On the Commonweal Yahoo discussion group there are periodic discussions of hate-crime legislation and on differing legal systems approaches to it. Todays "Washington Post"at http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/04/19/AR2007041902518.html reports that the European Union has approved new regulations on hate crimes and racism; they would need approval by national parliaments and definitions of the offenses would have to be supplied.
But examples were given: it would be a crime to deny that the Jewish Holocaust happened, or the slaughter in Rwanda. On the other hand, requests from former Soviet republics that denying or trivializing crimes under Stalin be included in the regulations were rejected by the E.U. officials.
According to the Post article, "human rights organizations criticized the new guidelines as too weak, citing loopholes such as one that would allow states to limit prosecutions in [perhaps "to" is meant?] cases likely to disturb public order."
All this seems quite foreign to the US constitutional and legal traditions, and people from elsewhere are critical of us for this lack. On the other hand, some of us think that actions like this resemble nothing more than those notorious "speech-codes" some colleges have embraced. One will already notice the selective outrage displayed by the EU officials as between Hitler and Stalin.
About the Author
Rev. Joseph A. Komonchak, professor emeritus of the School of Theology and Religious Studies at the Catholic University of America, is a retired priest of the Archdiocese of New York.