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Representative Sheila Jackson Lee has introduced legislation that would make advocates of “white supremacy” guilty of conspiracy if someone commits a “hate crime” that supposedly is inspired by them.
The legislation, H.R.61 “Leading Against White Supremacy Act of 2023,” introduced last Monday by Democratic congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee of Texas, seeks to “prevent and prosecute white supremacy inspired hate crime and conspiracy to commit white supremacy inspired hate crime.”
The congressional bill, which was referred to the Committee on the Judiciary, states that someone engages in a white supremacy inspired hate crime “when white supremacy ideology has motivated the planning, development, preparation, or perpetration of actions that constituted a crime or were undertaken in furtherance of activity that, if effectuated, would have constituted a crime.”
Accordingly, “conspiracy” to engage in white supremacy inspired hate crime entails the publishing of material “advancing white supremacy, white supremacist ideology, antagonism based on ‘replacement theory’, or hate speech that vilifies or is otherwise directed against any non-White person or group.”
You can read the text of the bill here. It is, on its face, ridiculous.
* It does not define “white supremacy.” Having never met a white supremacist, I am still waiting to learn what it is all about.
* It does not require a causal link between any “white supremacist” speech and a subsequent crime, nor, of course, any knowledge of the crime by the speaker. If a jury finds that the speech “could motivate actions” by “predisposed” persons, and the criminal was exposed to the speech, the speaker is a co-conspirator.
* The bill is obviously unconstitutional. It attempts to criminalize “hate speech” by making the speaker a co-conspirator. But “hate speech,” as such, is constitutionally protected, as the Supreme Court ruled 9-0 not long ago. I am not sure exactly what “replacement theory,” for example, refers to, but talking about it cannot be made a crime, no matter how much Democrats don’t like it.
* I suppose the bill fails on equal protection grounds, too. It doesn’t touch “black supremacy” or any other type of “hate speech,” even though vastly more crimes are committed by blacks against whites than by whites against blacks.
* The statute attempts to chill criticism of black politicians like Shirley Jackson Lee (but not white politicians). If you engage in “hate speech [undefined] that vilifies or is otherwise directed against any non-White person” and someone else hears your speech and thereafter commits a “hate crime,” and a jury thinks such a person “could” have been motivated by your speech, you are guilty.
Such things can happen, of course. Chuck Schumer and many other Democrats vilified Justice Brett Kavanaugh and other Supreme Court justices, and threatened them with violence. Sure enough, an armed man showed up outside Kavanaugh’s house, intending to kill him. But that wouldn’t have been covered by Lee’s statute: Kavanaugh is white.
I assume Lee’s bill won’t go far, but it illustrates how crazy things can get when you have a political party that is hostile to free speech.