Stronger Provisions Needed in Hate Crimes Bill (Rep. Steve Cohen)

I support the hate crimes bill and I was a sponsor of the bill that has gone through Congress. I also was a sponsor of the hate crimes legislation in Tennessee that was passed as well, when I was a Senator. In addition, as a Senator in Tennessee, I passed a bill in 1989 which dealt specifically with symbols of hate, religious and racial intimidation.

Right now, I am looking into a federal law that would be stronger than what we have, concerning the burning of crosses, or the use of nooses and swastikas as a means of intimidation. I am also looking into the possibility of adding in such symbols as nooses, crosses and swastikas, to the existing bill, but there has to be an attempt to intimidate. You cannot outlaw such acts unless they are used as an act of  intimidation.

We need to educate. There are programs on the national level that try to get involved in our school systems. In Tennessee, we have a Holocaust Commission which was established and has been around for 20 years. The Holocaust Commission of Tennessee has a program that trains teachers to teach about racial prejudices, the Holocaust and crimes against humanity of all sorts. This particular program has been going into schools for years helping to teach teachers about this type of conduct, generally in regards to the Holocaust and Civil Rights.

Tennessee is way ahead of the curve and the federal government should do some things similar to it, by funding programs that teach about people working together and avoiding those types of hate crimes while at the same time understanding the applications of the crime itself.

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