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Thought & Crime

Spectrum contributor Michael Peabody sent over this article he wrote for Liberty.

On July 1, 2007, Satendar Singh, a 26-year-old Sikh American was attacked by a group of six men while enjoying an early Independence Day picnic with friends at a park in Folsom, California. According to news reports, the attackers noticed that Singh was dancing with both men and women and did not appear to have a female date. The attackers began hurling racist and anti-gay invectives.

When Singh and his group attempted to leave, the attackers blocked Singh’s path and one of them struck Singh in the head. Singh fell to the ground unconscious, his head bleeding profusely. On July 5 his life support was removed. Two men with alleged ties to an extremist “Christian” group are standing trial, and some believe that they were spurred on to an act of violence by the rhetoric of the group.

The U.S. Department of Justice defines a “hate crime” as “an offense motivated by hatred against a victim based on his or her race, religion, sexual orientation, handicap, ethnicity, or national origin.” The definition may be simple, but it is difficult to determine whether the evidence of hatred is actually related to the crime or is instead a protected form of expression.


There is no question that violent criminals, acting against anybody,should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law. We must strive for asafe and secure society. However, in the midst of the fight for security, the freedom to think must be vigorously protected.

Read the rest at Liberty Magazine.

Michael D. Peabody is a practicing attorney and the executive director of the North American Religious Liberty Association-West. He writes from Sacramento, California.

Question for discussion:

How far we should go in punishing thought crime separately and apart from a physical crime?

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