Senate Bill 227 (SB227) was heard this afternoon by the Senate Judiciary Committee, sponsored by Democratic legislators Senator Pat Spearman and Assemblywoman Cecilia Gonzaléz. Senator Spearman revisited her unfortunate experiences in 1969 as a young black girl growing up in Alabama in order to make the case for this ambiguous and subjective legislation that loosely defines hate symbols and hate speech that may cause someone to feel “intimidated.” In her opening remarks, Sen. Spearman noted that “this bill creates the crime of intimidation.”
Per the Legislative Counsel’s Digest:
Section 1 of this bill defines the term “symbol of hate” to mean a symbol, image or object that expresses animus on the basis of race, color, religion, ancestry, disability, sex, sexual orientation, national origin or gender identity or expression. Section 1 provides that a person who etches, paints, draws or otherwise places or displays a symbol of hate on public property or in plain view of the public with the intent to cause a person to feel threatened or intimidated, deprive a person of any constitutional right or retaliate against a person for exercising any such right is guilty of the crime of intimidation. Section 1 makes the crime of intimidation punishable as a misdemeanor for the first offense, a category E felony for the second offense and a category D felony for any subsequent offense.
Section 10 of SB227 specifically targets juveniles. Senator Spearman noted that, with the help of this bill, “we must teach children not to hate.”
Section 10 of this bill requires a juvenile court to:
(1) order the suspension of the driver’s license of the 19 child; or (2) if the child does not possess a driver’s license, prohibit the child from applying for a driver’s license for a period of time. With limited exception, section 10 also requires the juvenile court to order the child to participate in a program designed to reduce prejudice and promote empathy and respect for diversity.
Senator Spearman revealed in her testimony that the reeducation program the child would be forced to participate in is designed by the disgraced Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC).
The SPLC has a long and sordid history of classifying Christian organizations, conservative authors, speakers, non profits, and anyone who disagrees with them as “hate groups,” conveniently aligning these groups with the KKK on a slick “hate map” published on their website.
While deploring bigotry, the SPLC often engages in it as seen in the few (of many) examples listed below:
- In 2012, the SPLC classified the Family Research Council (FRC) as a “hate group.” That designation led to an attempted mass shooting by Floyd Lee Corkins at their DC headquarters. After his arrest, Corkins noted in an FBI interview that he chose their headquarters due to SPLC’s classification of the FRC as an “anti-gay” organization. The SPLC had also labeled the Traditional Values Coalition as a hate group and that group was Corkins second target out of the four he had planned to attack.
- In 2016, the SPLC labeled Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a black muslim women, as a white nationalist and Maajid Nawaz, a muslim man, as an “anti-muslim extremist.” This unfounded charge against Nawaz cost the SPLC $3.4 million in a defamation lawsuit and the SPLC issued a retraction and apology to Nawaz.
- In 2021, they designated the Pacific Justice Institute, a law firm with an office in Reno, NV, as a hate group for defending traditional marriage.
- In February 2023, the SPLC provided the FBI with a list of Catholic churches allegedly engaged in white supremacy and extremism for offering traditional Latin mass.
- In March 2023, a lawyer for the SPLC was charged with domestic terrorism in the firebombing of a police facility in Atlanta, GA. He was moonlighting as a member of Antifa.
Due to the ambiguity and subjective interpretations of this bill, many Senators on the committee asked a variety of questions highlighting symbols that could be perceived as intimidating. Republican Senators Jeff Stone and Ira Hanson mentioned that displaying an American flag or Israeli lapel pin could be intimidating to some and therefore subject to a lawsuit. Senator Hanson also noted that his belief in traditional marriage is intimidating to some and his values could be targeted by the passage of this legislation. (See above).
Senator Spearman, an ordained minister, promised future amendments working with their “partners” in order to “tighten up the language.” One constituent, who testified in opposition to the legislation, keenly observed that there weren’t any Christian organizations listed as partners.
This is a developing story.
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