ADL CEO Tells U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee: Every Hate Crime Deserves A Response

Data From ADL's Annual Audit of Anti-Semitic Incidents: 2015-2016 Comparison

Washington, DC, May 2, 2017 ... The most effective response to the recent increase in anti-Semitic and other hate crimes across the U.S. is to “call out bigotry whenever it happens” and to strengthen federal hate crime prevention and response, the head of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) said in testimony today to the Senate Judiciary Committee.

“All of us are deeply concerned about the ongoing harassment of Jews, Muslims, Sikhs and others who are being targeted because of their religion,” Jonathan A. Greenblatt, ADL CEO and National Director, told members of the committee. “The federal government has an essential leadership role to play in confronting hate crimes and in alleviating intolerance. And we need to make sure that we call out bigotry whenever it happens.”

Mr. Greenblatt’s testimony to the Judiciary Committee Hearing on Responses to Increase in Religious Hate Crimes surveyed the problem of anti-Semitism and other hate crimes and provided committee members with a comprehensive set of legal, legislative and programmatic recommendations and to strengthen federal hate crime prevention and response.

ADL’s policy recommendations include:

  • Establishing a Task Force to coordinate Hate Crime responses across the Executive Branch.  ADL applauded the U.S. Justice Department for creating a Hate Crime Subcommittee within the Attorney General’s Task Force on Crime Reduction and Public Safety. A federal task force is the next needed and logical step;
  • Helping law enforcement agencies to improve data collection and training around how to handle hate crimes and their victims;
  • Moving forward on legislative strategies, including enacting into law the NO HATE Act; passing an amendment to the Church Arson Prevention Act; securing congressional passage of the Anti-Semitism Awareness Act, and strengthening existing hate crimes laws;
  • Exploring approaches to address cyberhate, such as studying the connection between online hate and bias-motivated violence as well as considering new, constitutionally sound means for legal redress for victims of cyberbullying, cyberstalking, and doxxing.
  • Making sure to call out bigotry whenever it happens. ADL appreciated the president’s strong statement on Capitol Hill last month, and commended the Senate for unanimously passing a resolution condemning racial, religious and ethnic hate crimes. This trend should continue.

The FBI’s annual hate crime report is the best single national snapshot of bias-motivated criminal activity in the U.S.  But it is clearly incomplete.  In fact, 87 cities in America with more than 100,000 in population either affirmatively told the FBI that they had zero hate crimes in 2015, or did not provide any information at all. There are very real consequences to this inadequate reporting. 

ADL’s testimony noted that victims of hate crimes will not come forward to report if they do not trust the police or if they believe the police are unwilling or unable to respond effectively to a hate crime.  That’s why responding and reporting incidents, even in those in cyberspace, is so important.

Over the past three decades, ADL has been recognized as a leading resource on effective responses to violent bigotry, conducting an annual Audit of Anti-Semitic Incidents and drafting model hate crime statutes for state legislatures.  The 2016-17 Audit, issued last week, found that anti-Semitic incidents in the U.S. surged by more than one-third in 2016 and have jumped 86 percent in the first quarter of 2017, with a massive increase in the amount of harassment of American Jews.

ADL crafted the first model hate crime legislation in America, and 45 states plus the District of Columbia now have laws based on or similar to that model. ADL led the broad coalition of civil rights, religious, educational, professional, law enforcement, and civic organizations that worked for more than a decade to enact the 2009 Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act (HCPA).

After the heinous Charleston church shooting in 2015, ADL launched #50StatesAgainstHate, designed to make certain that minority groups are protected with comprehensive hate crimes laws in every state.

More from this Section