OUR VIEW: Senator wrong on hate crimes law
Another one of Oklahoma’s reputable, conservative state legislators has thrown his name into the ring to see whom among them can be the most outrageously conservative.
State Sen. Steve Russell, R-Oklahoma City, said he plans to propose a bill that would make Oklahoma exempt from the recently enacted federal hate crimes law (see page 1 for details).
Russell said he thinks the law, which would provide funding to Oklahoma law enforcement agencies to investigate hate crimes, would encroach on the rights of Oklahomans to express themselves.
Russell stated in a press release, “For example, if a minister, rabbi or imam preached to a congregation about immoral issues, and then someone took that message to an extreme and actually committed a crime, neither the minister nor the congregation could be charged themselves.”
We agree that if the above scenario took place, the minister should not be held accountable. But we wonder if this is actually a problem in Oklahoma?
Do ministers feel like they can’t fully express themselves for fear that they’ll be prosecuted? Highly unlikely.
Frankly, it seems as though Russell has misunderstood what a hate crime actually is. And this is unfortunate because the legislation would call for Oklahoma to refuse funding for law enforcement.
Now, we do have some reservations about enhancing the punishment somebody must endure for committing a crime based on what that person was thinking at the time of the crime.
A crime is a crime, regardless why it was committed.
But that is a debate for another day. What we are really angry about is that one of our legislators is wasting his time addressing a problem that doesn’t seem to exist.
Oklahoma has a lot of real problems, including a preponderance of people who are uninsured, a broken education system and a need to refurbish roads and bridges. Protecting the right for ministers to speak freely when that right is not being threatened is a massive waste of time.
We wonder why Russell is bringing this up, and we can’t help but believe it might be in an effort to get his name out there.
This is not his responsibility. His responsibility is addressing Oklahoma’s problems.
So we ask all state lawmakers to get to our state’s real problems, and then worry about addressing the ones that don’t exist.