I've been getting feverish communications from our friends on the right about the "Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Prevention Act.” The range of misinformation is staggering.
"The Bottom Line" [here up top....]"
The "Family Research Center" pushes the most common misunderstanding: the bill "establishes ,thought crimes.'"
Simply put, our criminal law has always required an "evil mind" ('mens rea') as one element of a criminal offense, and the nastier the thought, the higher the penalty - everyone has heard of "first degree" and second degree" murder, and the main distinction is the actors state of mind.
This Bill (Senate Bill 909 http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/z?c111:S.909:) Simply adds another nasty state of mind as an element to establish that a crime has occurred.
What to do: The Family Research Center advocates "flooding the offices of three Committee Democrats whose votes could make all the difference--Arkansas's Blanche Lincoln, phone: 202-224-4843; Arkansas's Mark Pryor, phone: 202-224-2353; and Alaska's Mark Begich, phone: 202-224-3004."
Feel free to add your views to "the flood."
You can call, as above, or email at
Blanche Lincoln: http://lincoln.senate.gov/contact/index.cfm
Mark Prior: http://pryor.senate.gov/contact/
Mark Begich: http://begich.senate.gov/public/index.cfm?p=EmailSenator