A blog by the magazine's editors and contributors


Is hate a crime? Is bad history hate?

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 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.



Commenting Guidelines

  • All

I wonder if anyone has every considered criminalizing the denial that Herod the Great--so called--massacred countless innocent children in his attempt to kill a potneital rival.Seriously, I think that legislation of this sort would never be adopted in the U.S. Well, I hope not. What if some historian should try to prove that antebellum slavery was beneficial to slaves?The problem is that it is impossible to draw the line between the merely horrendous and the quite unspeakable.

I'm not sure of the precise legal consequences but it's criminal (or at least dangerous) to affirm the Armenian genocide in Turkey and at the same time it's equally dangerous to deny it in France.I believe there's a small island in the Rhine where you can move from Switzerland to Germany to France in a matter of steps and thus be bound by different laws. Perhaps Global Positioning Systems can indicate the precise boundaries where "hateful" views are unacceptable.

Add new comment

You may login with your assigned e-mail address.
The password field is case sensitive.

Or log in with...

Add new comment