Saperstein: Today's Senate vote is a critical step in the long struggle to protect the safety and physical wellbeing of all Americans and we look forward to its swift enactment by President Obama.
Washington DC October 22, 2009 - In response to today's Senate passage of the Department of Defense Authorization Conference Report which includes the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crime Prevention Act, Rabbi David Saperstein, Director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, issued the following statement:
We celebrate today's long-overdue Senate passage of hate crimes legislation. Coming on the heels of the House bill's passage earlier this month, we are now just a presidential signature away from enactment of landmark anti-hate crimes law. Bias-motivated violent crimes have terrorized families and communities for far too long, and the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crime Prevention Act is a celebration of tolerance and respect that will give law enforcement the tools necessary to battle hate-motivated violence.
As the quintessential victims of religious persecution in the history of Western civilization, the Jewish community knows all too well that hate crimes are more than mere acts of violence. They are nothing less than attacks on those values that are the pillars of our republic and the guarantors of our freedom. They are a betrayal of the promise of America.
This carefully crafted law will not infringe on any individual's First Amendment rights: It addresses violent acts and no person, whether a faith leader or otherwise, will be prosecuted for their thoughts, words, or beliefs. At the same time, the hate crimes act will hold accountable those who perpetrate hate crimes, targeting and terrorizing entire communities.
Today's Senate vote is a critical step in the long struggle to protect the safety and physical wellbeing of all Americans and we look forward to its swift enactment by President Obama.