Clementa C. Pinckney Hate Crimes Act

Sen. Clementa Pinckney

48 States in our country have enacted special Hate Crimes legislations.

Why is it that to this day, South Carolina is among the two remaining holdouts?

H.3620, the “Clementa C. Pinckney Hate Crimes Act” was submitted in the first days of this legislative cycle in Jan 2021. It was named for the pastor and SC State Senator who lost his life in the heinous attack at the Emanuel AME Church in 2015.

Senate Majority Leader Shane Massey has said the hate crimes bill isn’t a priority for Republicans. Some say existing federal hate crime laws already cover this need. Others worry that this bill would be used against Christians who speak out against LGBTQ issues. Many say that “a crime’s a crime” and we already have harsh penalties on the books – that it doesn’t matter why the crime was committed.

My position

Enacting a hate crimes bill is ABSOLUTELY necessary. When a violent crime is committed targeting an individual

who was intentionally selected (in whole or in part) by an offender because of the offender’s belief or perception regarding the victim’s race, color, sex, gender, national origin, sexual orientation, or physical or mental disability, regardless of whether the offender’s belief or perception is correct

has impacts far beyond the initial target. Anyone who shares that victim’s faith, color, sex, etc. also lives in fear because they could have just as easily have been targeted. The victim is now the community.

Take a simple example: Someone tears up a neighbor’s yard due to a personal beef. That’s a crime and there should be justice. But if someone burns a swastika onto the lawn of a Jewish family, then that strikes fear across the whole community of those who share that faith, expanding victimization beyond the individual homeowner. This deserves a harsher sentence.

And while some federal hate crime laws exist, they are not comprehensive. 48 other states have stepped up to enact their own definitions of hate crimes.

Finally, there is nothing in the bill’s text that could possibly be construed as enabling persecution of Christians for expressing their views. The violent crimes list has already been defined years ago and this bill only seeks to increase the penalty if the crime was committed with the intentions as described above.

H.3620 is a no-brainer. The arguments against it are too weak to withstand any scrutiny. But if it were to pass, South Carolina sends a strong message to all that violence & hate have no place here. Minority communities will feel like the law will have their back. Businesses, who have been begging for this to be passed, would feel more comfortable conducting their trade. There is nothing but upside in passing the legislation.