Thursday, July 04, 2013

10th Circuit Upholds Constitutionality Of Racial and Religious Violence Ban In Federal Hate Crimes Act

In United States v. Hatch, (10th Cir., July 3, 2013), the 10th Circuit upheld as constitutional under the 13th Amendment the provision of the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act that makes it a felony to physically attack a person because of that person’s race, color, religion, or national origin, even where the attack is solely intrastate. In this case, three white men had been charged with kidnapping a disabled Navajo man and branding a swastika into his arm.  The court held:
Congress confined the racial violence provision’s reach to aspects of race as understood in the 1860s when the Thirteenth Amendment was adopted. As to religion and national origin specifically, Congress found that “members of certain religious and national origin groups were . . . perceived to be distinct ‘races’” in the 1860s and therefore sought to protect these categories “at least to the extent such religions or national origins were regarded as races” in the 1860s.... Supreme Court precedent supports this finding.