Gallagher’s arguments got even weaker from there. Several callers challenged him on this notion and Gallagher would ask questions like (paraphrasing) “Should we consider it free speech when someone paints swastikas on a Jewish person’s home?” and “What about burning a cross in the lawn of an African American, is that free speech?” Perhaps his most absurd example was whether or not a person dressed in Nazi uniform goose stepping in a Jewish neighborhood should be protected by the First Amendment.Was what the man did disrespectful? Sure, but certainly far less disrespectful than flying a plane into a building.
All of these questions can be easily answered if only we go back to the basic idea that each individual has the natural rights of life, liberty, and property (“your freedom ends where my nose begins”); nowhere in our Constitution is there a right to not be offended. Painting swastikas on a Jewish person’s home or burning a cross in an African American’s yard are both violations of these individuals’ right to property, and therefore, the perpetrator should be prosecuted on those grounds.
So, what about the racist bastard goose stepping in a Jewish neighborhood? Assuming the idiot does so on public property, s/he is protected by the First Amendment. Being an anti-Semitic moron, while infuriating to most sensible people, is not a crime nor should it be.
One could argue that these above acts would be acts of intimidation and could warrant criminal prosecution (certainly in the first two examples would be prosecutable without “hate crimes” laws, the last example would still be a bit of a stretch) but I fail to see how desecrating a book which some people deem as “holy” even rises to this standard. There’s no question that desecrating a holy book is offensive to a great majority of people, but a crime? Thomas Jefferson found fault with much of the Bible and therefore proceeded to physically cut and paste the portions of the Bible that he found to be authentic to create his own interpretation of the Bible and discarded the rest. References to the virgin birth, the resurrection, angels, and other miracles were all omitted from the Jefferson Bible. Clearly, if someone like Gallagher knew of someone doing something like this today, he would regard this person as a hate criminal.
The whole problem with "hate crimes" is that the the politically correct seek to punish those with thoughts that are wrong. The strange thing is that most hate crimes can be prosecuted as regular crimes as Littau pointed out.
To me what is interesting about the Pace incident is that the news stories I have seen on teh incident don't say who owned the copy of the Koran. Was the book stolen from someone? If so that is petty theft and vandalism. In a civil court, the man can be tried for the tort of conversion (converting another person's property for your own use). The crime being perpetrated in "hate crimes" prosecutions is committed against the defendant for exacerbating the nature of his crime because his victim happened to be a member of a "protected class" or special group. Ask yourself this question, if the perpetrator had thrown a Bible or a Torah or the Book of Mormon in teh toilet, would he be charged with theft and vandalism or a hate crime? Chances are the former and that is what is wrong with hate crimes--a double standard.
But speech cannot be a hate crime. Words are just that, words. Actions may be criminal--theft and vandalism are criminal acts. But speaking out and take actions with one's own property (a possiblity in teh Pace case) is not criminal. Your speech may reveal you to be a naive at best or stupid at worst bigot, but being a bigot and an idiot are not crimes.