Scott Tibbs
Bloomington Herald-Times
August 1st, 2005

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Punish the crimes, not the thought

To the editor:

While I am angry with the terrorists who attempted to burn down a Bloomington mosque, I am uncomfortable with the label "hate crime." Is the crime somehow worse if it was done because of animosity toward a minority group, instead of some other motive?

Many in this community feel that there should be harsher punishments for crimes committed because of "hate" than for some other reason. This comes dangerously close to criminalizing thoughts rather than actions. Will "hate speech" be punished next? This is a dangerous road to travel.

When identical crimes are punished differently depending on motivation (as opposed to intent), we send the message that some victims of crime are more important than others. This is an inappropriate message. Doesn't all violent crime involve some level of hate? When eco-terrorists burned down the homes of Vince Scott and Steve Smith, did they commit a "hate crime"? Would those arsons have been less destructive if the motivation was different?

The terrorists who set fire to the mosque must be hunted down, prosecuted and punished to the fullest extent of the law. This should happen because of the crime they committed, not because they have thoughts and beliefs we dislike.

Scott Tibbs