Cross Burning and the right to never be offended
As I write this column, the Supreme Court is set to hear another landmark case (I say another because, for those who have not noticed, our civil rights are under a direct, sustained and protracted assault from both Democrats and Republicans) under the new cause celebre, "hate crimes". Most of us who have been victims of crime and survived can tell you that it matters very little whether the person who is assaulting or attempting to do you harm is doing so because of the color of your skin; a boot to the head is a boot to the head as the saying goes.
Let me take a moment to state the obvious, 99.99%, of Americans, including myself, don't burn crosses and don't want to burn them and don't approve of the practice because we believe it is racist, vile and unacceptable. In fact, fewer Americans burn crosses than women get abortions for reasons of incest or rape. I have never met a single person who burned crosses and not coincidentally I have never met a woman who had an abortion because of incest or rape, both of these sub-groups are in fact so small that were it not for media histrionics and special interest propaganda, we would not even know of these things.
Cross burning is no doubt offensive and vile and rightly must incense the feelings of many people because of what they believe it stands for, no argument from me on that one. Cross burning is also protected under free speech just like a lot of other expression and speech mainly because it causes no direct harm to others. The only harm that cross burning does is that it offends certain people and frankly I don't blame them for feeling that way.
But, there is no Constitutionally guaranteed, God given right to protect us from being offended and frankly speaking, that can be a good thing. Defining what is and what is not offensive can be very subjective and subject to whim, fancy and personal opinion, but this is not the biggest problem with passing laws to protect against being offended. The primary harm in passing laws that prevent being offended is that it establishes a dangerous precedent.
What we are seeing in this example before the Supreme Court is a special interest group that has learned to manipulate our elected public officials attempt to twist the law into a personal billy club that they can use to batter anyone they disagree with. The problems with such behavior are manifold but primarily deal with the fact that the law is not the personal property of any one individual or group but are the property of all citizens who are subject to these laws.
The other problem is that such law, in addition to being based upon faulty logic, i.e. my right to not be offended can never supersede the Constitutionally guaranteed, God given rights of another citizen, is that the same mechanism can and will be used to effectively silence anyone and everyone not in the position of manipulating the legislators. We have already seen how under the Clinton Administration the law was used to imprison lawful pro-life protestors and to squelch the First Amendment Rights of some citizens and if the Supreme Court rules in favor of the anti-cross burning forces, the genie will be out of the bottle.
By using a popular position, i.e. opposing cross burning, the anti-Constitutional bigots of the left are seeking to re-create the age old two class society in America, the beginnings of which we are already witnessing today. Under the two class system, one group is protected by the law or immune to any prosecution under the law and the other group has no protection but is subject to every punishment.
If this legislation is upheld it will establish a dangerous precedent and believe me, it will not stop with cross burning. Those who support this legislation need to understand that today it is cross-burning, tomorrow it will be your religious expression, your political beliefs or anything else you say that someone else might simply disagree with. While cross-burning is indeed a terrible thing, attempting to stop it by subverting the Constitution of The United States is a dangerous mistake that we should not make.
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Al Lorentz is a Fundamentalist Christian and the State Chairman of the Constitution Party of Texas
13 December 2002
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