With dramatic unanimity, the sacred scriptures of diverse religious traditions vehemently condemn hate. Any crime committed by one human being against another is a tragedy, but a crime that is motivated by hatred and prejudice tears apart the lives of those targeted, their loved ones, and the larger group they represent.
As an organization committed to combating religious discrimination and bigotry, we are acutely aware that hate groups are becoming more vocal, visible, and violent. Interfaith Alliance joins in solidarity with our community members and neighbors who face hatred and discrimination, with the knowledge that our freedoms are inextricably bound together.
What makes hate crimes different?
Hate crimes escalate prejudice, often against minority groups, into violence. A criminal act can be classified as a hate crime when the perpetrator targets the victim because of the victim’s race, religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, or disability. Forty-five states and the District of Columbia punish these crimes more harshly because the perpetrator intentionally chose to harm someone because of their actual or perceived characteristics. Often, victims may be afraid to come forward for fear of increased stigma or retraumatization by law enforcement.
In times of crisis, our elected officials must set aside partisanship and lead with compassion.
The coronavirus pandemic has precipitated a sharp increase in hate incidents and hate crimes targeting Asian Americans and people of color, immigrants, the LGBTQ+ community, Muslims, Jews, and people with disabilities – only making a meaningful federal response more urgent. On March 11, 2020, we joined over 260 civil rights organizations in urging Congress to call for unity and take action against xenophobic responses to this public health emergency. Led by the National Council of Asian Pacific Americans, read the letters to House and Senate leadership.
On January 26, 2021, President Biden issued a presidential memorandum acknowledging the harassment and discrimination faced by Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders related to the COVID-19 pandemic. This document outlines much-needed first steps in addressing the racism, xenophobia, and intolerance directed at AAPI communities. It is our hope that justice, security, and equity for all people will continue to be a core component of the Biden Administration’s agenda.
The Shepard-Byrd Act
Interfaith Alliance pressed for a federal hate crimes law for over 10 years. The Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2009 ultimately passed with the support of nearly three hundred civil rights, religious, educational, professional, and civic organizations and virtually every major law enforcement organization in the country.
The Act allows the federal government to assist in the investigation and prosecution of hate crimes or, in some circumstances, to do so when a locality is unable or unwilling.
The NO HATE Act
Khalid Jabara and Heather Heyer were killed on the same day – August 12th – one year apart. Named in their honor, the Khalid Jabara and Heather Heyer National Opposition to Hate, Assault, and Threats to Equality (NO HATE) Act would promote more accurate hate crime data collection and assist hate crime victims and their communities.
On April 26, 2021, the Senate passed the NO HATE alongside legislation to specifically address the rise in anti-Asian hate crimes. Interfaith Alliance welcomed the bipartisan vote.