Hate Crime in Indiana
What is Hate Crime?
The FBI defines a hate crime as, “A traditional offense like murder, arson, or vandalism with an added element of bias. For the purposes of collecting statistics, the FBI has defined a hate crime as a “criminal offense against a person or property motivated in whole or in part by an offender’s bias against a race, religion, disability, sexual orientation, ethnicity, gender, or gender identity.””
Hate Crimes Rising
Since the election, hate crimes have been on the rise all around the United States. According to the South Poverty Law Center (SPLC), the amount of anti-muslim hate groups has nearly tripled last year, and the FBI reports that hate crimes against muslims have risen to 67%. in 2015. In addition, in the 10 days after the election, the SPLC reported 867 – biased related incidents. Cities like Chicago and New York City are already reporting far more hate crimes in the first three months of 2017 than there was at the same time in 2016. Although the cause of the rise in hate crime is still disputed, it is clear that hate crimes are rising in the United States.
What does this have to do with Indiana?
Under Reporting of Hate Crimes
According to reports from the FBI, between 2009 and 2014, 281 of Indiana’s 535 police agencies did not report any hate crimes, over 52%! This lack of reporting is frightening as hate crimes already are one of the most unreported crimes due to intimidation and fear, and although some might say that this lack of reporting might be because of a lack of hate crimes, it is clear that in not the case. For example, in South Carolina over 95% of agencies reported hate crimes due to the significant spotlight put on them after the recent mass shooting at a historic black church in Charleston. Furthermore, almost all 350 agencies in Tennessee reported after they were threatened to lose funding if they did not report.
As you can see in the graph above, the few agencies that are reporting hate crimes are reporting large amount of incident, making it questionable when the other agencies said they had none.
Hate Crime Law
While Indiana has the same problems as all the other states, they do not have the same laws in place to protect those who are targeted by hate crimes or to send a message that Indiana does not tolerate hate crimes.
Indiana is one of only five states to not have a law that creates a hate crime statute. This law would allow judges to give higher penalties for bias – motivated crimes than for regular crimes.
Supreme Court ruled unanimously 20 YEARS ago that bias crime statutes were constitutional and did not legislate thought process or cool free speech. The last bias statute was passed 15 years ago.
Proponents of the law say that the law will protect everyone from bias-related crimes, discourage bias behavior and send a message to the rest of the country that Indiana is moving closer to inclusivity, a much needed message after RFRA was passed, a law which ultimately allowed discrimination to gays on the basis of religion.
The bill was stopped in the State Senate for the second time on March 15. Opponents of the bill claim that it the government should not say a crime is more or less wrong due to the intentions behind them and that it creates a “special class” of victims even though both these claims are not true.
The distinguished Dr. Jeanine Bell at Indiana University Maurer School of law, who has written much about the topic, countered the point about by motives, by saying that existing law considers criminal motives in cases such as murder for hire or the killing of a witness to prevent testimony.
In order to learn more about the topic, I reached out to Dr. Bell and asked her a series of questions.
What do you say to the opponents of the bill who claim that the law would create a “special class” of victims?
“These individuals misunderstand how hate crime legislation works. Hate crime legislation punishes crimes done because of a particular motivation, based on categories like race, religion, sexual orientations etc. All individual who have a race—i.e. everyone—are “protected” by anti-race hate crime legislation.”
Moreover, it is not only minorities that will be protected, it is everyone. To illustrate, the FBI reported in 2013, that 20.2% of hate-crimes based on race were because of an anti-white bias.
Reasons the Bill is Not Being Passed
It is clear that the opponents of the bill’s reasons for opposing it are not legitimate so the question arises, why is it so challenging for Indiana to pass the bill. One reason for this has to do with aforementioned issue of under reporting. Because of the under reporting, it seems that hate crimes are not a large issue in Indiana. The problem with this is that it creates a perpetual cycle. Legislation is not put in place to make police agencies report hate crimes which leads to more under reporting, which then contributes to the idea that hate crime legislature in not necessary.
Another reason that some people believe is why the bill is not being passed is that Indiana is simply too biased. The author of the bill, Republican senator Sue Glick says, “is that lawmakers “aren’t willing to go the extra step” to prove they believe in fairness for all Hoosiers. “If anything,” she said, “Hoosiers don’t believe we’re biased or prejudiced, so they’re reluctant to put it in statute that maybe we are.” Democratic representative Greg Porter said that he believes that“There are just real strong philosophical differences about inclusion in our state right now,” and that many lawmakers have an “unconscious bias.”
I asked Dr. Bell what she thinks the future of this law might be and she said,
“That [passing the law] would be possible if the Indiana legislature cares about increasing hate crimes in this state.”
Call to Action
So if you are reading this and are a citizen of Indiana, I encourage you to help us gain support by going straight to the most powerful man in Indiana, and taking a couple minutes write an email to Governor Holcomb himself. This may seem like a rather idealistic request, but in order to gain support to get this hate crime passed, the importance of this cause must be outlined. To make this easier, I have written a draft of an email below that you can just copy and paste to an email along with two or three bullet points to persuade our governor to help push this bill into law. Also feel free to write your own comment and ideas in the email as well.
The following link will allow you send your message to the governor although you will need to put in your information: http://www.in.gov/gov/2752.htm
For topic, click Civil Rights Commission, Indiana
Dear Governor Holcomb,
The issue of hate crime has recently come to my attention. Hate crime is on the rise in our country – for example the rate of hate crimes against Muslims has risen 67% in the last year. Furthermore, locally even in Indianapolis there have been bomb threats to Jewish Community Centers and there have been other hate crimes happening almost weekly all across the state. I am also concerned that Indiana has an estimated 26 different hate-groups, and that we do not have the same laws that 45 other states have had for over 15 years. I encourage you to support the hate crime bill that will allow judges to give higher sentences for hate crimes. Here are some reasons why:
- 52% of police agencies did not report hate crimes between 2009 and 2014 according to the FBI proving that the hate crime situation is worse than has been reported, and many hate crime victims are not receiving the help they need.
- This law will discourage hate crimes and will send a message to the rest of the nation that Indiana is just as inclusive as other states and that the phrase, “Hoosier Hospitality,” still holds true.
- The supreme court ruled unanimously 20 years ago that this law was constitutional.
- This law protects all people, not only minorities. The law will help protect the 20.2% of hate crime victims who are white as well as everyone else.
A concerned hoosier