crimes of the heart

By Diogenes ( articles ) | Nov 05, 2007

Today, from Indiana, come two news stories pertinent to hate-crimes legislation. The first concerns a noose found on the campus of Indiana State University:

Indiana State University President Lloyd Benjamin is promising to help students upset by the discovery of a rope resembling a noose in a campus tree push hate crimes legislation in the General Assembly next session. ...

Officials are investigating the noose incident as a possible hate crime. The rope was reported hanging in a tree near Hines Hall in the center of the Terre Haute campus about noon on Oct. 25. ISU officials notified police and the FBI about the discovery.

The incident led to a town hall meeting attended by about 400 people, primarily black ISU students. Benjamin said in his letter that ISU must "address with renewed effort" the underlying issues raised by the incident.

"Our university community was disgraced by the placement of a noose, one of the most offensive symbols of racial hatred and ignorance, in a tree on our campus. I have no tolerance for this disturbing act," he wrote.

Nota bene: No human being was lynched. There was not a human effigy hanging from the "rope resembling a noose" -- or even a note indicating a target group. It may have been a Halloween prank wholly devoid of racial overtones. Yet the FBI is notified. 400 indignant persons assemble. The President, in over-the-top histrionics, claims the incident "disgraced" the university community.

Switch to the second story. This one concerns the vandalism of a Catholic church:

Vandals who broke into a northeastern Indiana church damaged classrooms and set a fire on its marble altar, causing between $5,000 and $10,000 in damage, police said. Authorities were called Saturday morning to the Immaculate Conception Catholic Church in Auburn, about 20 miles north of Fort Wayne.

Police said one or more intruder broke into the church between Friday night and Saturday morning by smashing a glass door. Several classrooms and an office were vandalized an undetermined amount of cash was stolen.

The intruders then entered the church's main sanctuary and set a fire on the altar using artificial plants covered in an accelerant, but the fire burned out before spreading, police said.

Police do not believe the break-in was a hate-related crime, but are investigating all possibilities.

OK, there may be good reason to think the damage was done by juveniles out to wreak mischief rather than to express hatred. But any way you look at it, smashing doors and setting a fire on an altar is not a compliment. If a mosque or a synagogue or the office of a Leftist professor were roughed up in this fashion, could the police get away with attributing it to hooliganism?

The innovation of hate crimes is a bad business. It makes particular passions iniquitous instead of particular acts, and that puts the state's coercive power into the hands of those persons most adept at manipulating bureaucratic timidity and fashionable resentments for their own ends -- not those most concerned with justice. As Catholic teaching comes to clash more and more blatantly with the ethos that animates the organs of public life (the courts, the media, the universities), the asymmetrical indignation seen in these Indiana episodes is not going to get better.

Sound Off! CatholicCulture.org supporters weigh in.

All comments are moderated. To lighten our editing burden, only current donors are allowed to Sound Off. If you are a current donor, log in to see the comment form; otherwise please support our work, and Sound Off!

Show 4 Comments? (Hidden)Hide Comments
  • Posted by: - Dec. 11, 2009 5:26 PM ET USA

    Excellent! I love the word,'gay'. I've used it as an adjective all my life..merry,bright,lively. I feel happy and gay. It's a good word, however made licentious later on, it became laughable and embarrassing. Sorry creatures seem to usurp the goodness out of something so innocent. Look at our poor language today...made innately phobic with time.

  • Posted by: - Dec. 11, 2009 2:53 PM ET USA

    i have always rejected the use of the word "gay" as a general reference to anyone gay. I think the correct use of gay is as a reference to a subject's attitude and demeanor in life, which, until recently, could be used to a man or a woman. I respect the historical development of the use of the word gay and also respect the use of it. But I maintain that the word gay has become a trap for homosexuals and that in fact not all homosexuals behave as gay people. A correction in semantics is due.

  • Posted by: - Dec. 11, 2009 7:47 AM ET USA

    The retort: "That's so Emma & Julia!" is off the mark: the girls used the word "gay" based on a widespread understanding of moral judgment - "gay" = bad. No such exists for "Emma & Julia". Only if Emma & Julia did something BAD, would a moral judgment ever be attached to their names. What really bugs gays is that a widespread moral judgment STILL clings to their name, IN SPITE of all their social machinations to obliterate it. They can suppress it, but they can't get rid of it.

  • Posted by: - Dec. 11, 2009 12:48 AM ET USA

    Breathtaking insight. Baedling, gay, fairy, whatever — he's bent. Now what is the etymology of that word?