Vandalism or Hate Crime — Father Jonathan Discusses Recent NYC Incident

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Last week, a 23-year-old man from Pace University in New York City was arrested on charges for hate crimes, for allegedly throwing a copy of the Quran into the toilet. The university originally considered the incident a simple act of vandalism but reversed its decision and reported the case to the New York City Police Department’s hate crimes unit after Muslim activists (CAIR) urged the university to crack down.

I’ve read and listened to commentary from both sides of the political spectrum about this case. As a whole, as is typical in discussions regarding social ethics (the study of morality in society), pundits have offered superficial arguments to support their essentially political viewpoints. Many conservatives have suggested the university and police department have caved in to Muslim pressure groups, but they have been remiss in offering ethical arguments about why the arrest was unjustified in the first place. Liberals have pointed to the environment of hatred and prejudice against Muslims on university campuses, but have failed to explain why this was the proper way to amend the oppressive milieu.

Let’s get it straight:

The criminalization of “hatred” is the invention of a godless society that no longer believes in divine justice and, therefore, must rely on the government to right every moral wrong. To their credit, proponents of hate crime laws recognize “intent” as one of the three essential elements for determining the moral quality of human action (object, intent, and circumstances). If the young man flushed the Quran down the toilet out of hatred for a person or his or her religion, he is arguably more culpable (from a moral perspective) than if he had done this as a stupid joke, or even in order to make a political point. But because some of the more outspoken advocates of hate crimes either don’t believe in God or don't trust him to act, they understandably fail to recognize the difference between moral and criminal culpability.

Not everything that is immoral should be illegal, and not everything that is illegal is necessarily, and in all circumstances, immoral. The government is not the ultimate criterion on right and wrong.

In other words, you may go to hell for flushing the Bible down the toilet, but this doesn’t mean the government has the right to send you first to jail.

God bless, Father Jonathan
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