Saperstein:“The Senate’s vote for the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Prevention Act is a celebration of tolerance and respect and will give law enforcement the tools necessary to battle hate-motivated violence.”
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WASHINGTON, D.C., July 17, 2009 — In response to last night’s passage of the Leahy/Collins/Kennedy/Snowe hate crimes amendment (The Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Prevention Act) to S. 1390, the FY 2010 Department of Defense Authorization bill, Rabbi David Saperstein, Director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, issued the following statement:
We welcome last night’s long-overdue Senate vote in favor of hate crimes prevention. Bias-motivated crimes have terrorized families and communities for far too long. The Senate’s vote for the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Prevention Act is a celebration of tolerance and respect and will give law enforcement the tools necessary to battle hate-motivated violence. Every life has incalculable value, regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity, gender, or disability, and this legislation will work to ensure that all of God’s children are treated with the respect and dignity they deserve.
The rights guaranteed by the First Amendment are precious; they cannot and will not be infringed by last night’s vote. The hate crime protections included in the legislation deal solely with violent conduct and no person, whether a member of the clergy or otherwise, will be prosecuted for their thoughts, words, or beliefs.
The passage of this amendment is an exciting step in the decade-long struggle to protect the safety and physical wellbeing of all Americans. It will give law enforcement the training and resources they need to combat the violence that results from hatred and intolerance and help heal affected communities. We call on both houses of Congress to move the bill swiftly through conference and to the President’s desk for enactment.
The Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism is the Washington office of the Union for Reform Judaism, whose more than 900 congregations across North America encompass 1.5 million Reform Jews, and the Central Conference of American Rabbis, whose membership includes more than 1,800 Reform rabbis.