Written Testimony of Rev. Dr. C. Welton Gaddy, President of Interfaith Alliance
The Senate Committee on the Judiciary,
Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Human Rights
for the Hearing Record on “Hate Crimes & the Threat of Domestic Extremism.”
September 19, 2012
As a Baptist minister, a patriotic American and the President of Interfaith Alliance, a national, non-partisan organization that celebrates religious freedom and is dedicated to protecting faith and freedom and whose members nationwide belong to 75 faith traditions as well as those without a faith tradition, I submit this testimony to the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Human Rights for the record of the hearing on “Hate Crimes & the Threat of Domestic Extremism.”
With dramatic unanimity, the sacred scriptures of diverse religious traditions vehemently condemn hate; it is neither a religious nor an American value. These are among the reasons why Interfaith Alliance has been a staunch supporter of laws such as the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act and of efforts to prevent such crimes from occurring in the first place.
At its most fundamental level, hate violence is an aggressive expression of prejudice against another person or group of people simply because of who they are, or who they are perceived to be. All crimes are not equal. We see this not only in how our legal framework metes out punishments based on the crimes committed, but in how we as individuals are affected by some crimes more or less than others. Any crime committed by one human being against another is a tragedy, but a crime that is motivated by hatred and prejudice tears apart the lives not only of the individuals who are targeted, but of the larger group they represent.
This hearing comes at a time in which it seems hatred of minority religious groups in the United States is pervasive—we see it manifested in acts of violence against individuals, in vandalism of houses of worship, and in the rhetoric of pundits and even elected officials on television. In recent months alone, six worshipers at a Sikh gurdwara in Wisconsin were brutally murdered, at least 10 Islamic institutions have faced attacks including vandalism, and attacks on the Jewish community continue to account for a majority of all religiously motivated hate crimes, as documented by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Of course, crimes of hate are committed against far too many groups for far too many reasons. Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Americans, persons with disabilities, and racial minorities continue to be targets of hate crimes as well. My sorrow related to all of these tragedies is deepened by the reality of how much still must be done to eliminate violence spawned by hate, often religion-based.
Not only is it clear that we as a nation must do more to prevent hate crimes from occurring in the first place, it is also clear that our government and local law enforcement must step up statistics collection efforts. Too often, hate crimes go unreported not only because the victim is afraid to report them – understandably – but also because reporting hate crimes is voluntary for law enforcement agencies. We must do more to find ways to motivate local law enforcement to actually report this data. Furthermore, I urge Congress (and the Administration) to support efforts to collect and break down additional data under the Hate Crimes Statistics Act, including crimes directed against Sikhs, Arabs and Hindus. This data is not currently collected or reported, but it is clear that members of these religious and ethnic groups are targets of hate crimes that are going under- or un-reported. Every story should be heard, every incident should be counted, and every victim deserves justice
Interfaith Alliance is a network of people of diverse faiths and beliefs from across the country working together to build a resilient democracy and fulfill America’s promise of religious freedom and civil rights not just for some, but for all. We mobilize powerful coalitions to challenge Christian nationalism and religious extremism, while fostering a better understanding of the healthy boundaries between religion and government. We advocate at all levels of government for an equitable and just America where the freedoms of belief and religious practice are protected, and where all persons are treated with dignity and have the opportunity to thrive. For more information visit interfaithalliance.org.