Friday, July 11, 2008

Has Professor Myers engaged in a hate crime?

I believe so.

Folks, as you know already from my previous post, Paul Zachary Myers, a professor at the University of Minnesota Morris, has pledged to desecrate the Eucharist in public and has solicited help openly to accomplish it. The question now is, is this criminal solicitation and attempted conspiracy to commit a hate crime across state lines? I'm no lawyer, but I can read the statutes.

Let us begin with a general definition of a hate crime. The one in the Wikipedia will serve: Hate crimes (also known as bias motivated crimes) occur when a perpetrator targets a victim because of his or her membership in a certain social group, usually defined by racial group, religion, sexual orientation, disability, ethnicity, nationality, age, gender, gender identity, or political affiliation. Now, hate crime laws in the United States (also known as bias crimes) protect against crimes motivated by enmity or animus against a protected class. Although state and federal laws vary, typical protected characteristics are race, religion, ethnicity, and nationality.

The relevant U.S. statute is 18 U.S. Code Part IChapter 13 ss 247, Damage to religious property; obstruction of persons in the free exercise of religious beliefs:

(a) Whoever, in any of the circumstances referred to in subsection (b) of this section—

(1) intentionally defaces, damages, or destroys any religious real property, because of the religious character of that property, or attempts to do so; or

(2) intentionally obstructs, by force or threat of force, any person in the enjoyment of that person’s free exercise of religious beliefs, or attempts to do so;

shall be punished as provided in subsection (d).

(b) The circumstances referred to in subsection (a) are that the offense is in or affects interstate or foreign commerce.

(c) Whoever intentionally defaces, damages, or destroys any religious real property because of the race, color, or ethnic characteristics of any individual associated with that religious property, or attempts to do so, shall be punished as provided in subsection (d).

(d) The punishment for a violation of subsection (a) of this section shall be—

(1) if death results from acts committed in violation of this section or if such acts include kidnapping or an attempt to kidnap, aggravated sexual abuse or an attempt to commit aggravated sexual abuse, or an attempt to kill, a fine in accordance with this title and imprisonment for any term of years or for life, or both, or may be sentenced to death;

(2) if bodily injury results to any person, including any public safety officer performing duties as a direct or proximate result of conduct prohibited by this section, and the violation is by means of fire or an explosive, a fine under this title or imprisonment for not more that 40 years, or both;

(3) if bodily injury to any person, including any public safety officer performing duties as a direct or proximate result of conduct prohibited by this section, results from the acts committed in violation of this section or if such acts include the use, attempted use, or threatened use of a dangerous weapon, explosives, or fire, a fine in accordance with this title and imprisonment for not more than 20 years, or both; and

(4) in any other case, a fine in accordance with this title and imprisonment for not more than one year, or both.

(e) No prosecution of any offense described in this section shall be undertaken by the United States except upon the certification in writing of the Attorney General or his designee that in his judgment a prosecution by the United States is in the public interest and necessary to secure substantial justice.

(f) As used in this section, the term “religious real property” means any church, synagogue, mosque, religious cemetery, or other religious real property, including fixtures or religious objects contained within a place of religious worship.

The condition that the offense is in or affects interstate or foreign commerce is met because Professor Myers publicly solicited, and made manifest his intent to deface, damage, or destroy any religious real property, which includes religious objects contained within a place of religious worship of which a consecrated host certainly is one.

Professor Myers also has solicited the commission of a crime across state lines by means of the Internet. As such, Federal law again may apply, the relevant statute being 18 U.S. Code Part 1 Chapter 19 ss373, Solicitation to commit a crime of violence:

(a) Whoever, with intent that another person engage in conduct constituting a felony that has as an element the use, attempted use, or threatened use of physical force against property or against the person of another in violation of the laws of the United States, and under circumstances strongly corroborative of that intent, solicits, commands, induces, or otherwise endeavors to persuade such other person to engage in such conduct, shall be imprisoned not more than one-half the maximum term of imprisonment or (notwithstanding section 3571) fined not more than one-half of the maximum fine prescribed for the punishment of the crime solicited, or both; or if the crime solicited is punishable by life imprisonment or death, shall be imprisoned for not more than twenty years.

(b) It is an affirmative defense to a prosecution under this section that, under circumstances manifesting a voluntary and complete renunciation of his criminal intent, the defendant prevented the commission of the crime solicited. A renunciation is not “voluntary and complete” if it is motivated in whole or in part by a decision to postpone the commission of the crime until another time or to substitute another victim or another but similar objective. If the defendant raises the affirmative defense at trial, the defendant has the burden of proving the defense by a preponderance of the evidence.

(c) It is not a defense to a prosecution under this section that the person solicited could not be convicted of the crime because he lacked the state of mind required for its commission, because he was incompetent or irresponsible, or because he is immune from prosecution or is not subject to prosecution.

We need to have in mind that criminal solicitation is simply an attempt to organize a conspiracy to commit a crime which again, falls under Federal jurisdiction because it transcended state lines.

Funny thing, though, that the law allows the perpetrator to defend himself by complete renunciation of his criminal intent. In others, if Professor Myers were to backpedal on his request to violate our civil rights, criminal solicitation might not attach to his crime. So all it would take is an apology of sorts.

Now, who can file a criminal complaint? As I understand it by the reading of the relevant statues,

Any injured party, any one of you who feels that his of her freedom to engage freely in religious worship, intimidated by the possibility that the person next to you in the communion line, responding to Professor Myers' criminal solicitation to intentionally obstruct, by force or threat of force, any person in the enjoyment of that person’s free exercise of religious beliefs, or attempts to do so, by damaging and / or defacing “religious real property” which includes religious objects contained within a place of religious worship, across state lines, may file a complaint.

That's you and me. I believe that Professor Myers' offending blog post meets most of the definitions of federal offenses as detailed in 18 U.S. Code. If you feel threatened, make a copy of Professor Myers' blog post to your local FBI or U.S. Marshall's office and write a complaint stating that you feel threatened by him and that the aforementioned laws gives you the right to protect your freedom to worship in a place free from intimidation. If in doubt on how to proceed, get real legal advice.

Furthermore, under Minnesota law, hate crimes must be reported. If you live in Minnesota, and feel threatened by Professor Myers threat of vandalism, you must make a copy of Professor Myers' blog post and attach it to your complaint to the appropriate Minnesota state authority.

All Americans have a stake in an effective response to violent bigotry. Hate crimes demand a priority response because of their special emotional and psychological impact on the victim and the victim's community. The damage done by hate crimes cannot be measured solely in terms of physical injury or dollars and cents. Hate crimes may effectively intimidate other members of the victim's community, leaving them feeling isolated, vulnerable and unprotected by the law. By making members of minority communities fearful, angry and suspicious of other groups -- and of the power structure that is supposed to protect them -- these incidents can damage the fabric of our society and fragment communities. This is what that other League, the Anti-Defamation League, says on its webpage and I agree with as all men and women of good will should. Also, I hope that the Catholic League takes notice of the probability that Professor Myers may have committed various Federal offenses and proceeds accordingly.