Hadassah, The Women’s Zionist Organization of America, Inc., applauds President Bill Clinton and Vice President Al Gore for convening the recent "White House Conference on Hate Crimes" highlighting the problem of bigotry and violence.
As Jews and as women, the members of Hadassah cannot help but have special understanding of the dangers of bigotry. Hate crimes are an extreme manifestation of bigotry and, historically, Jews and women alike have been targets. Hadassah believes that hate crimes threaten the viability of our community and that the federal government has an obligation to protect all of its citizens from such violence.
Despite the important attempts made to address hate crimes since the “Civil Rights Act” in 1964, further federal hate crimes legislation is being sought by groups that find additional protections necessary. Many states are passing legislation providing such protections for additional groups and stiffer penalties for hate crime offenders which indicate the need to strengthen and expand current federal law.
One recognized shortcoming of existing hate crimes law is its failure to specify hate crimes for all groups of people. Although crimes against many of these groups have been documented under the “Hate Crimes Statistics Act,” they are not currently prosecuted as federal offenses. Moreover, it has become increasingly clear that attacks made on these groups demand stiffer penalties and must provide for criminal as well as civil penalties.
Hadassah calls for federal legislation detailing bias attacks or hate crimes as those crimes against victims based on their race, ethnicity, religion, color, sexual orientation, gender, national origin or disability. Such federal legislation is needed to send a strong message that hate crimes against any groups will not be tolerated.