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The Effects of Hate Crime Law on Democracy

A hate crime is a type of crime motivated by discriminatory behavior towards particular social groups’ representatives. In 1968, Congress first passed the law on giving specific penalties to those who committed hate crimes (The United States Department of Justice, 2019). Reese describes the negative aspects of this law in his article. He explains it poses a potential risk to democratic notions of the country as it restricts human freedom. Despite this, the hate crime law ensures equality and safety for all, regardless of their differences, which is one of the critical factors of democracy.

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On the one hand, the author of the article is right about the role of freedom of speech in the country’s administration that promotes liberty. Reese mentions the First Amendment, which covers the aspect of freedom of people to convey their thoughts without the government penalizing them (Reese, 2006). Freedom of speech is believed to be the foundation of a democratic country. As a result, hate crime philosophy contradicts the amendment and becomes a potential threat to democracy. The author proposes that totalitarianism will emerge in the state where people are jailed because of their words that are perceived as offensive by the government. He further illustrates historical situations in the Soviet Union, Germany, and Canada as examples of totalitarian states in the past, which introduced hate speech laws that restricted their people’s human rights to share their opinions and express themselves openly (Reese, 2016). Thus, the hate crime law can endanger the freedom of the population leading to a dictatorship rule.

On the other hand, the author of the article does not consider the benefits of hate crime jurisdiction, such as the providence of equality and tolerance for all regardless of ethnicity, sex, religion, or gender identity. Reese solely focuses on the influence of the law on freedom of speech. The crime’s degree depends on the criminal’s motive, and it should always be taken into account. If a criminal’s purpose is not considered during the trial, the punishment’s fairness becomes questionable. For instance, the murders committed due to self-defense and the premeditated plan are different in severity. Similarly, crimes that are bias-motivated and motivated by the individual’s hatred for a certain person should be treated differently.

The hate crime law tries to minimize aggressive behavior towards minorities and provide security for all social groups. Equality is the crucial building brick of democracy to the same extent as liberty. Furthermore, it is critical to differentiate hate crime law from hate speech law to evaluate the article. The distinction is that the first one comes to power only in case of another crime committed under other regulation such as threat, violence, or damage to a property of a victim, whereas hate speech law considers a particular speech as a crime by itself (The United States Department of Justice, 2019). Therefore, the government should focus on the direct criminal act

To conclude, the hate crime law effectively protects people from different social groups and their freedom in spite of its potential risk to an individual’s right to express himself and his ideas. Hate speech should be distinct from hate crime, which is a bias-motivated felony. In this case, the government will maintain a stable social infrastructure that is both liberated and fair.


Reese, C. (2006). Hate crimes laws are a bad idea. In W. Vesterman (Ed.), Reading and Writing Short Arguments (5th ed., pp. 137–138). The McGraw-Hill Companies.

The United States Department of Justice. Hate Crime Laws. (2019). Web.

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