JCRC — Business leaders push for hate crime law in Indiana

Mary Mills, WTHR November 15 2018

INDIANAPOLIS (WTHR) – Indiana is one of just five states without a hate crime law. There’s a growing push to change that in the new year.

The Indy Chamber, United Way of Central Indiana and the Jewish Community Relations Council of Indianapolis are among the groups leading the effort, saying it’s not just the right thing to do, it’s also right for economic development.

Part of the effort involves community outreach. Thursday afternoon, the Indy Chamber oversaw a panel discussion hosted by the Kiwanis Club. Panelists talked about what a hate crime law is and why they say it’s needed in Indiana.

David Sklar with the JCRC noted that anti-Jewish hate crimes across the country rose 37% last year. He said the vandalism of a Carmel synagogue last summer the massacre at the Pittsburgh synagogue has “the Jewish community here on edge…we believe a law sill absolutely have tangible effects,” but he said even if it’s only symbolic, “As Jewish Hoosiers we need our state to stand up and make a statement.”

He told the roughly 150 people gathered at the Columbia Club that a hate crime is “a crime committed for no other reason than a person is Jewish or African American, or Christian or Native American…that’s the sole motivating factor behind the crime.”

Indy Chamber President Michael Huber who moderated the discussion said getting a law passed “isn’t just the right thing to do but the right thing for economic development.”

Michael O’Connor, senior director of government affairs for Eli Lilly said his company will lobby hard for a law. He told the crowd opponents “are going to tell you it’s a special protection. It’s not. In the words of our CEO David Ricks, when not everyone is protected than no one is protected.”

Ann Murtlow, president and CEO of United Way of Central Indiana was also part of the panel. While she said United Way is often seen as neutral on most issues, it’s not on this one and in fact, has become a key player in getting a hate crime law passed.

“It’s a human issue, an economic development issue and we all need to worry about that,” she said. “We all have to work on behalf of our community. When we exclude people we weaken the community and when we have disincentives, we limit economic opportunity.”

Huber said he’s encouraged by Governor Eric Holcomb’s repeated calls for a hate crime law. While bills have been proposed over the past few years, they’ve never gone anywhere.

“The governor’s supportive words mean a lot and many different business organizations have come out in support of it,” he said.

Still, Huber and other proponents know getting a law passed won’t easy.

He said the debate isn’t about whether hate crimes are wrong. It’s about whether enhanced penalties for a crime motivated by hate are necessary. Huber and the growing coalition he’s part of will be working to convince lawmakers those enhanced penalties are necessary… As Sklar said to send a message that “hate and bigotry are not welcome.”

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JCRC — DespiteEven as Indiana lawmakers from both parties continue to echo Gov. Eric Holcomb’s call for hate crime legislation, the deep divisions that foiled previous attempts to pass a bias-motivated crime bill appear to still be entrenched.  Monday, Holcomb announced his intention to get a hate crime bill through the Statehouse during the 2019 General Assembly session. He said he would be meeting with legislators, corporate leaders and citizens to find consensus so Indiana can join the 45 other states that have statutes regarding crimes motived by hate or bias.  “No law can stop evil,” Holcomb said, “but we should be clear that our state stands with the victims and their voices will not be silenced.”  Holcomb made his public statement of support for hate crime legislation following an act of vandalism at a Carmel synagogue over the weekend. An outbuilding at the Congregation Shaarey Tefilla was spray-painted with Nazi symbols.  Republicans and Democrats in the Legislature have since issued statements reiterating the governor’s view. But Democrats noted that while they have proposed and supported hate crime measures, their colleagues across the aisle have resisted and failed to take action in getting a bill passed.  “(The Democrats) have persistently pursued bias-motivated crime legislation in the Indiana Senate, and each year our legislation is ignored by the majority party with promises of future consideration,” said Senate Minority Leader Tim Lanane, D-Anderson.  Incoming Senate president Rodric Bray, R-Martinsville, said he is pleased to collaborate with Holcomb and the House of Representatives to continue the work of crafting “legislation that mirrors our Hoosier hospitality.”  Conversely, House Speaker Brian Bosma, R-Indianapolis, voiced support for the victims but was noncommittal about passing a law.  “This summer, the Interim Study Committee on Corrections and Criminal Code will take another look at the issue of bias-motivated crimes and identify opportunities for legislative consensus,” Bosma said. “Indiana Judges already have the ability to enhance sentences based on a criminal’s motivation when presented with evidence of bias, but perhaps more needs to be done to clarify and highlight this existing provision.”  Also Monday, Indiana Attorney General Curtis Hill released a 761-word op-ed also calling for the Legislature to pass a law that “criminalizes hateful conduct.”  However, his position mirrors the opposition to hate crime bills that these measures carve out special protections for select groups. The list of protected classes often included in the proposed legislation is seen as excluding individuals who are part of a majority.  “My proposal differs from many other so-called hate-crimes proposals in that it avoids entirely the exercise of separating ‘protected groups’ from ‘non-protected,’” Hill wrote. “Why should some groups receive greater protection from hateful conduct than others?”  For community organizations pushing for a bias-motivated crime bill, the removal of the specific protected groups would be unacceptable. David Sklar, director of government affairs for the Indianapolis Jewish Community Relations Council, called it a non-starter.  Hate crime bills that have been introduced in the Indiana Legislature in the past have included a list of characteristics identifying the protected classes. The bills specify that individuals or groups could have their sentences enhanced if they commit a criminal act that targets others because of their religion, race, gender and ethnicity. Holcomb’s support, hate crimes bill lacks unity

JCRC — DespiteEven as Indiana lawmakers from both parties continue to echo Gov. Eric Holcomb’s call for hate crime legislation, the deep divisions that foiled previous attempts to pass a bias-motivated crime bill appear to still be entrenched. Monday, Holcomb announced his intention to get a hate crime bill through the Statehouse during the 2019 General Assembly session. He said he would be meeting with legislators, corporate leaders and citizens to find consensus so Indiana can join the 45 other states that have statutes regarding crimes motived by hate or bias. “No law can stop evil,” Holcomb said, “but we should be clear that our state stands with the victims and their voices will not be silenced.” Holcomb made his public statement of support for hate crime legislation following an act of vandalism at a Carmel synagogue over the weekend. An outbuilding at the Congregation Shaarey Tefilla was spray-painted with Nazi symbols. Republicans and Democrats in the Legislature have since issued statements reiterating the governor’s view. But Democrats noted that while they have proposed and supported hate crime measures, their colleagues across the aisle have resisted and failed to take action in getting a bill passed. “(The Democrats) have persistently pursued bias-motivated crime legislation in the Indiana Senate, and each year our legislation is ignored by the majority party with promises of future consideration,” said Senate Minority Leader Tim Lanane, D-Anderson. Incoming Senate president Rodric Bray, R-Martinsville, said he is pleased to collaborate with Holcomb and the House of Representatives to continue the work of crafting “legislation that mirrors our Hoosier hospitality.” Conversely, House Speaker Brian Bosma, R-Indianapolis, voiced support for the victims but was noncommittal about passing a law. “This summer, the Interim Study Committee on Corrections and Criminal Code will take another look at the issue of bias-motivated crimes and identify opportunities for legislative consensus,” Bosma said. “Indiana Judges already have the ability to enhance sentences based on a criminal’s motivation when presented with evidence of bias, but perhaps more needs to be done to clarify and highlight this existing provision.” Also Monday, Indiana Attorney General Curtis Hill released a 761-word op-ed also calling for the Legislature to pass a law that “criminalizes hateful conduct.” However, his position mirrors the opposition to hate crime bills that these measures carve out special protections for select groups. The list of protected classes often included in the proposed legislation is seen as excluding individuals who are part of a majority. “My proposal differs from many other so-called hate-crimes proposals in that it avoids entirely the exercise of separating ‘protected groups’ from ‘non-protected,’” Hill wrote. “Why should some groups receive greater protection from hateful conduct than others?” For community organizations pushing for a bias-motivated crime bill, the removal of the specific protected groups would be unacceptable. David Sklar, director of government affairs for the Indianapolis Jewish Community Relations Council, called it a non-starter. Hate crime bills that have been introduced in the Indiana Legislature in the past have included a list of characteristics identifying the protected classes. The bills specify that individuals or groups could have their sentences enhanced if they commit a criminal act that targets others because of their religion, race, gender and ethnicity. Holcomb’s support, hate crimes bill lacks unity

For community organizations pushing for a bias-motivated crime bill, the removal of the specific protected groups would be unacceptable. David Sklar, director of government affairs for the Indianapolis Jewish Community Relations Council, called it a non-starter.