- March 6 - In light of the recent 1999 Hate Crimes Statistics report released by the Department of Justice, interfaith religious leaders are calling on U.S. senators to support passage of the Local Law Enforcement Enhancement Act of 2001, more commonly known as the Hate Crimes Prevention Act.
In a letter sent to all members of the U.S. Senate on Feb. 26, The Interfaith Alliance executive director, the Rev. Dr. C. Welton Gaddy, stated, "When true to the prophetic core of our religions, we cannot condemn hate and then refuse to act to stop the hate and violence fomented upon us. Religion and government must work together to create a society in which diverse people are safe as well as free." (To view the letter, please go to www.interfaithalliance.org)
The U.S. Department of Justice's 1999 Hate Crimes Statistics report offers a snapshot of the growing number of hate crimes committed against individuals based on race, religion, sexual orientation, ethnicity and disability. According to the report, there were 9,301 hate crime offenses reported, of which 5,240 were motivated by racial bias; 1,532 by religious bias; 1,487 by sexual-orientation bias; 1,011 by ethnicity/national origin bias; and 21 by disability bias.
"As we review the disturbing findings of the Justice Department, it is clear that hate-motivated acts of violence against targeted groups continue to plague communities and undermine the civil rights of Americans," said Gaddy. "Passage of the Hate Crimes Prevention Act is a critical step that we must take as a society to discourage hate-motivated crimes and protect the civil rights of all Americans, including gays and lesbians."
Challenging the claim by some leaders of the Religious Right that the hate crimes legislation would infringe upon their personal, religious rights, Gaddy said, "Simply put, it is incomprehensible for this bill to be considered in any way a limitation on the rights and practices of religious people."
The Hate Crimes Prevention Act has received broad, bipartisan support both in Congress and the religious community. When this bill was introduced in the 106th Congress, it passed the Senate with 57 votes and the House of Representatives with 232 votes.
With members drawn from over 50 religious traditions, TIA has worked to mobilize people of faith to call for hate crimes legislation. When the Hate Crimes Prevention Act was introduced to the 106th Congress, TIA organized two National Call to Congress days, held press conferences with religious leaders and members of Congress, engaged local activists in 38 states in an educational letter writing campaign and worked in coalition with many other civil rights organizations in the United Against Hate movement to bring awareness to the importance of this legislation.