Rising hate crime calls for new legislation


Photo used with permission of Tribune News Service.

Star of David memorials surround The Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh following the killing of 11 worshipers on Oct. 27.

Alarming changes were found in the FBI’s annual “Hate Crime Statistics” Report released on Nov. 13. Hate crime has increased in the past year by 17 percent in the U.S.

Thousands of crimes motivated by bias towards a victim’s race, religion, ethnicity, sexuality or gender identity were reported in 2017. The most recent major case took place in Pittsburgh on Oct. 27 when Robert D Bowers entered a synagogue and killed 11 people participating in Sabbath worship services.

The suspect was charged with 29 counts, 13 of which were based upon hate crime charges. In this instance, justice was swiftly served, but for many crimes believed to have motives based on discrimination, this is not often the case.

In June of this year, when anti-Semitic graffiti was found at a Carmel synagogue, Governor Eric Holcomb pushed for stricter hate crime legislation. Five months later, no such law has been passed and Indiana is one of the only five states in the U.S. without such legislation to protect the minorities targeted.

This is not enough. To combat the levels of hate crime we see today, it is vital for it to be clearly defined. In an article by IndyStar, Marion County Prosecutor Terry Curry explained that a harsher punishment would further discourage these crimes in Indiana.

Clear laws would not only help decrease hate crime, but also protect freedom of speech by distinctly marking what is within someone’s rights and what is not. The American Civil Liberties Union elaborates in their policy regarding speech on campuses that, while protecting minorities is crucial, “more speech – not less – is the answer most consistent with our constitutional values.”

If Indiana wishes to take a firm stance, the current statistics should encourage them to no longer put off what should have been changed years ago. Not all hate crime is preventable, but inaction will do nothing but allow this current trend to continue.