New York, NY, March 6, 2014 … The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) today filed a friend-of-the-court brief on behalf of 40 prominent civil rights, human rights, religious, educational and law enforcement organizations urging the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to uphold the constitutionality of the federal Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act (HCPA).
The brief in United States v. Miller, the first coalition brief filed in any challenge to the constitutionality of the HCPA, also calls on the court to affirm that the act applies to cases in which religiously motivated violence involves victims and perpetrators who share the same faith.
The appellants in the case targeted their victims, members of the Old Order Amish faith, because they had “strayed from the true path and needed to be chastened or corrected.” The appellants were convicted for forcibly cutting off their victims’ beards and hair, fully understanding the religious symbolism of that act.
“The perpetrators of this vicious assault definitely should not get a free pass under the federal hate crimes act because they claim to belong to the same faith tradition as their victims,” said Barry Curtiss-Lusher, ADL National Chair, and Abraham H. Foxman, ADL National Director. “The significance of this case transcends its specific facts. It is important for the Sixth Circuit Court to recognize that the HCPA is built on the foundation of the U.S. Supreme Court’s unanimous 1993 decision upholding the constitutionality of hate crime laws.”
The HCPA was enacted in 2009 to fill gaps in existing federal and state hate crime laws. In passing the new federal hate crime law, Congress recognized that bias crimes cause unique harm, fragmenting communities and damaging the fabric of society.
“Support for such laws in this nation is broad and strong, and the law has been applied effectively without infringing on anyone’s First Amendment rights,” said Mr. Curtiss-Lusher and Mr. Foxman. “The 40 organizations that have joined together to file this brief all understand -- in the best tradition of America -- that there can be no place in our diverse and pluralistic society for bias-motivated criminal acts.”
As the brief points out, by its terms, the HCPA does not create any exception for intra-religious hate crimes. It certainly applies to cases in which a perpetrator targets a victim for a violent crime because of religion, regardless of whether the perpetrator is of the same religion.
The coalition brief argues that exempting intra-faith crimes would ignore many acts of bias-motivated violence. The trial court in this case specifically noted that history is, “…replete with examples of internecine violence.”
The full list of 40 organizations joining ADL and the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights in signing on to the brief in United States v. Miller is available on the League’s web site.
The brief was prepared by David M. Raim, Joy L. Langford and Kate McSweeny of the Washington, D.C. office of Chadbourne & Parke LLP.
Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights
American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee
American Association of People with Disabilities
American Association of University Women
American Federation of Teachers
American Jewish Committee
Asian Americans Advancing Justice
Bend the Arc: A Jewish Partnership for Justice
B’nai B’rith International
Central Conference of American Rabbis
Hindu American Foundation
Human Rights Campaign
Human Rights First
Interfaith Alliance Foundation
Japanese American Citizens League
Jewish Council for Public Affairs
Jewish Women International
National Association for the Advancement of Colored People
National Center for Transgender Equality
National Council of Jewish Women
National Disability Rights Network
National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives
National Organization for Women Foundation
National Urban League
OCA – Asian Pacific American Advocates
People For the American Way Foundation
Police Executive Research Forum
Sikh American Legal Defense and Education Fund
Society for Humanistic Judaism
South Asian Americans Leading Together
Southern Poverty Law Center
Union of Reform Judaism
Women of Reform Judaism
Women’s League for Conservative Judaism.