Wednesday, May 6, 2009

NE Senator Ben Nelson's response to the "hate crimes" bill

Below is the response I received from Sen. Ben Nelson concerning the "hate crimes" bill. Does anyone else read this as saying "What my constituents want is not important. Instead I'll just tell you why I'm right and you're wrong."? Then there's the fact that he didn't actually address the issues that I have with the "hate crimes" bill - that is makes some people more important than others.

I will say that he was very polite is the only government representative that has consistently responded with more than just an auto response.

"Dear Kristy:

Thank you for contacting me regarding the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act, H.R. 1913, often referred to as the "hate crimes bill." I appreciate knowing your views on this legislation.

As you may know, the House of Representatives passed H.R. 1913 by a vote of 249-175 on April 29. A "hate crime" is defined in H.R. 1913 as an act of violence motivated by prejudice based on the actual or perceived race, color, religion, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity or disability of the victim. H.R. 1913 recognizes the responsibility of state and local authorities to prosecute hate crimes in the United States with appropriate levels of federal assistance. Specifically, this bill enables the U.S. Department of Justice to assist local law enforcement in pursuing and prosecuting perpetrators of hate crimes. The bill also establishes a system by which grant monies will be given to local law enforcement agencies for the prosecution of hate crimes and requires a sentencing commission to study the adult recruitment of juveniles to commit hate crimes.

I have supported similar legislation in the past - together with Senate colleagues from across the political party spectrum - because I do not believe anyone should be victimized, and because this bill will strengthen state and local law enforcement's ability to respond to crimes of violence. Crimes motivated by hatred and prejudice represent acts of violence and intimidation directed against entire communities; for this reason, I support providing targeted resources for law enforcement to investigate and prosecute such crimes.

As Congress continues debate on hate crimes legislation, we will need to address the potential for unintended consequences; I have heard from many concerned constituents that hate crimes legislation could lead to infringement of free speech. As a former lay minister, I understand and respect these concerns. The fact is, no current or proposed hate crimes legislation is a threat to free speech. In order for hate crimes legislation to be applied in a specific case, a criminal act, such as assault, must first be committed. In addition, no evidence of expression or associations of the defendant may be presented to support the prosecution of a hate crime in a trial unless that evidence specifically relates to the criminal offense at hand.

Thank you again for contacting me with your comments. While we may disagree on this issue, I do appreciate knowing your views and hope you will continue sharing your thoughts and ideas.


Ben Nelson
U.S. Senator"

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