As Muslims gathered at a football field on Staten Island, New York, on Sunday, August 19, to celebrate Eid al-Fitr, marking the end of the annual Islamic fasting period of Ramadan, they were greeted with an unwelcome sight: three packages of uncooked bacon, scattered on the ground. This incident, CBS New York reports, is being treated as a hate crime.
Six days earlier, Catholic faithful in St. Louis, Missouri, arrived at St. Mary of Victories Chapel to celebrate Mass. In a small garden outside the church stood a headless statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary. As the St. Louis Review, the publication of the Archdiocese of St. Louis, reports,
The statue, a "signature" feature of St. Mary of Victories, was vandalized sometime late Aug. 9 or early the next morning -- the head was sliced off and was missing.
But on the morning of August 13, the head was no longer missing. It had been
returned to the bottom of the pedestal, with Satanic inscriptions in red and blood drawn dripping from the corners of Our Lady's mouth to make her look like a vampire.
While St. Louis police are investigating the desecration of the statue,
A police spokesman said there is no indication of a hate crime and that right now it is being treated as a vandalism.
The difference between how the two events are being treated is remarkable. Now, of course, one event happened in New York, and the other in Missouri. still, it is hard to imagine how three packages of bacon scattered on a football field can be considered a hate crime, if chopping the head off of a statue of the Mother of God, and then covering it in satanic symbols and making it look like a vampire, is not.
The very concept of a "hate crime" is problematic at best. The entire point of criminal law is that a crime is an objective offense against a person, group, or the public order. Arrest the perpetrator, establish in court that he committed the deed, and punish him. His reasons for committing the crime are almost entirely irrelevant.
Hate-crimes legislation, however, introduces an arbitrary element into criminal justice. A man who murders another man in the course of a robbery may be guilty of first-degree murder. If the man he kills, however, is of a different race, he may be prosecuted for both first-degree murder and a hate crime. In either case, his victim is just as dead, and the additional charge won't change that fact. What it may do is stir up additional animosities within the community, and lead to the opposite of what criminal law intends: the restoration of public order.
Anyone who has followed the development of hate-crimes legislation in the United States over the past 20 years knows that the concept has been applied unevenly. Had the situations on Staten Island and in St. Louis been reversed, the results would likely have been the same: St. Louis police would probably have treated the bacon incident as a hate crime, while the NYPD would almost certainly have treated the desecration of the statue of the Blessed Virgin as an act of vandalism.
The vandalization of a Christian church is rarely treated as a hate crime; the vandalization of a mosque or a synagogue usually is. Imagine a Jewish congregation arriving at a synagogue for worship to find a portrait of a beloved former rabbi "with Satanic inscriptions in red and blood drawn dripping from the corners of [the rabbi's] mouth to make [him] look like a vampire." Is there any doubt that such an event would be treated as a hate crime, by both the NYPD and the St. Louis police?
The word hate is tossed around today like so many pennies, and it is just about as valuable. Those who stand up for the lives of unborn children are said to hate women; those who defend the traditional definition of marriage are said to hate homosexuals. And perhaps one reason why crimes against Christian churches are so rarely declared "hate crimes" is that the media and politicians so often identify Christianity and Christian moral teachings with hate.
The more the traditional teachings of the Church are declared to flow from "hate," the more likely it is that those who truly hate the traditional teachings of the Church will find justification for attacking the Church. In the name of combating hate, everything can be tolerated—even hatred against Christianity.