Statement of Organizational Support for the Passage of an Indiana Bias Crimes Statute

Statement of Organizational Support for the Passage of an Indiana Bias Crimes Statute

Bias crimes damage the fabric of our society and fragment communities. When criminals target victims on the basis of certain immutable characteristics they not only harm their victims, they threaten and traumatize the larger community of which the victim is a part. Unfortunately, the urgent need to confront violent bigotry has only increased in recent years. Despite a multitude of efforts by election officials, law enforcement officials, the faith community, and others, recent examples of bias motivated violence – such as the recent shootings at the Emanuel A.M.E. Church in Charleston, Oak Creek Sikh Temple in Wisconsin and the Overland Park Jewish Community Center outside of Kansas City as well as the targeting and violent assault of a Delaware man with intellectual disabilities – reminds us that the scourge of prejudice and violent hatred has not been eliminated from American society.

The vast majority of bias crimes are effectively addressed at the state and local level. Although the federal Hate Crimes Prevention Act (HCPA) was enacted in 2009 by Congress, the Department of Justice has limited ability to investigate and prosecute local bias crimes. That is why over the past two and a half decades, 45 states and the District of Columbia have enacted their own bias crime laws. These statutes have been constitutionally upheld by a unanimous Supreme Court ruling in the 1993 case Wisconsin v. Mitchell.

Provisions of the legislation that will come before the Indiana General Assembly in 2016 include:
• Updating the legal definition of a “bias crime”;
• Increasing education and reporting requirements; and
• Creates a “sentence aggravator” that will allow a judge to properly weigh any bias motivation to a crime when the offender is sentenced.

This statute will provide Indiana’s law enforcement and legal communities the training, tools and ability to better protect our communities and effectively address these types of crimes directly and justly.

The proposed legislation will in no way “cool” or limit free and constitutionally-protected speech, or any type of legal religious practice or belief. We must recognize that certain segments of our society are subject to significantly greater incidences of bias crimes and that this type of legislation simply speaks to our collective disdain for criminal behavior motivated by hatred and bigotry.

A nation’s laws are a reflection of its social contract with all of its citizens. The existence and effective enforcement of laws addressing crimes based on prejudice sends a strong message that hate-based violence is anathema to the principles of freedom and equality that form the cornerstone of American democracy.

We are therefore calling on our State’s Legislators to make the passage of a strong Bias Crimes Statute a high priority, because it’s time that Indiana joins the 45 other states in making clear we will not tolerate criminal behavior that terrorizes entire communities.

We, the undersigned, show our support as of February 3, 2016:

accessABILITY, Center for Independent Living
Indianapolis, IN

Association of Mexicans in Indiana Generating Opportunities, Inc. (AMIGOS)
Indianapolis, IN

The Arc of Indiana
Indianapolis, IN

Bloomington Human Rights Council
Bloomington, IN

Brothers United
Indianapolis, IN

Citizens Action Coalition
Indianapolis, IN

Community Relations Committee
Jewish Federation of St. Joseph Valley
South Bend, IN

The Concerned Clergy of Indianapolis
Indianapolis, IN

Congress Street United Methodist Church
Lafayette, IN

Covering Kids and Families Indiana
Indianapolis, IN

East Washington Street Partnership Englewood Community Development Corporation
Indianapolis, IN

The Exchange – Indianapolis Urban League Young Professionals
Indianapolis, IN

Fair Housing Center of Central Indiana
Indianapolis, IN

Fort Wayne Jewish Federation
Fort Wayne, IN

Helping Others Prosper Economically TEAM (H.O.P.E. TEAM)
Indianapolis, IN

Indiana Association of Rehabilitation Facilities, Inc.
Indianapolis, IN

Indianapolis Urban League
Indianapolis, IN

Indy Chamber
Indianapolis, IN

Islamic Society of North America
Plainfield, IN

Jewish Community Relations Council
Indianapolis, IN

John H. Boner Community Center
Indianapolis, IN

King Park Development Corporation
Indianapolis, IN

La Plaza
Indianapolis, IN

Mapleton-Fall Creek Development Corporation
Indianapolis, IN

Marion County Commission on Youth
Indianapolis, IN

Office of the Marion County Prosecutor
Indianapolis, IN

Muslim Alliance of Indiana
Indianapolis, IN

National Association of Social Workers
Indiana Chapter
Indianapolis, IN

Near East Area Renewal (NEAR)
Indianapolis, IN

Northwest Indiana Reinvestment Alliance
Hammond, IN

Purpose of Life Ministries
Indianapolis, IN

Westside Community Development Corporation
Indianapolis, IN

The WILL Center
Terre Haute, IN

United North East Community Development Corporation
Indianapolis, IN

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