Stronger laws against hate crimes needed

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At a June 5 U.S. government-sponsored human rights panel discussion in Geneva, Switzerland, Wade Henderson, president and CEO of LCCR, called for the adoption of more effective hate crime laws in the United States. In his remarks, Henderson noted that in the U.S. 'the number of hate crimes reported has consistently ranged around 7,500 or more annually—that's nearly one every hour of every day.'

The number of hate crimes 'committed against Hispanics and those perceived to be immigrants has increased each of the past four years for which FBI data is available' and violence against individuals 'because of their sexual orientation has increased to its highest level in five years,' according to Henderson. With the well-documented rise in hate crime violence in Europe, especially in the former Soviet Union countries, Henderson argued, the U.S. could demonstrate international leadership by tackling the spread of hate crimes at home.

LCCR supports the passage of the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act, which would give the federal government jurisdiction over prosecuting hate crimes in states where the current law is inadequate. It would also facilitate federal investigations and prosecutions when local authorities are unwilling or do not have the resources to do so themselves. The bill passed in the House of Representatives in April, but the Senate has yet to vote on it.

Henderson's impassioned plea for stronger hate crime laws came just five days before James W. von Brunn, a white supremacist and prolific writer of anti-Semitic materials, opened fire at the Holocaust museum in Washington, D.C., killing Stephen T. Johns, an African-American museum guard.