“Pastors will test Matthew Shepard Act by ‘inciting hate crimes'”

An article I recently read: “Pastors will test Matthew Shepard Act by ‘inciting hate crimes'”

Personally, I’m not sure how I feel about “hate crime” legislation. It feels too much like “thought crime”.

Case1: Al is beaten to death by a couple of thugs.
Case 2: Ben is beaten to death by a couple of thugs.

Both are horrific crimes. Both should be punished. Should one be punished more or less severely than another?

Especially if the difference between them is that the thugs in Case 1 had on their minds a hatred for Al because he was gay while the ones in Case 2 hated Ben because he owned them money? Should we base crime and punishment on what people think as opposed to only what they do?

Homophobia is stupid, no question. But at risk of making a slippery-slope fallacy, if we punish an identical crime more severely because of homophobia in one’s mind, will the next logical progression be to punish people because they believe unAmerican things? Should shoplifter 1 be punished more severely than shoplifter 2 because 1 also purused anarchist Web sites?

I don’t know. Gay-bashers are scum, ignoramuses. But I’m deeply uncomfortable with thought-crime.

That said, people who INCITE crime are themselves scummy criminals because of what they do. A preacher has a right (*shudder*) to say homophobic things. Free speech protects all, mainly the marginalized and non-majority speech. No matter how stupid the speech may be. But if a preacher knowingly says hateful things that involve suggesting or implying violence, knowing that as influential religious leaders there will be influenceable followers that hear that hate-mongering–that’s like shouting “fire” in a crowded theater (no, much worse) and is not protected speech. It’s a criminal act.

And if these scummy, hate-filled, arrogant, disgusting preachers go ahead and do what they’re planning, they should absolutely be arrested and tried for inciting violence and criminal acts.