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Hoosier State Lacking Hate-Crime Laws

Indiana is one of five states without hate-crime laws in place. (in.gov)
Indiana is one of five states without hate-crime laws in place. (in.gov)
August 18, 2017

INDIANAPOLIS – The push to get hate-crime laws on the books in Indiana has been vigorously renewed because of the white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, that turned deadly.

A 32-year-old woman died when a car plowed into a crowd of people, and two state troopers were killed when their chopper went down on the way to last weekend's rally.

David Sklar, director of government affairs for the Indianapolis Jewish Community Relations Council, says although making hate crimes illegal won't stop racism, it does give prosecutors the legal tools they need and thinks not having laws in place gives the state a black eye.

"That last paragraph of every article is 'and Indiana is one of only five states in the country without hate-crime statutes,'" he says. "And as Hoosiers, where we say 'Indianapolis and Indiana welcomes all,' and 'Hoosier Hospitality,' there is very much an emotional sense where we want to remove that last paragraph."

Legislation targeting hate crimes failed to win approval. It would have allowed judges to impose tougher sentences for crimes motivated by race, religion, sex, disability, gender identity or sexual orientation.

Similar measures proposed in past years also failed. Opponents say hate-crime laws create specially protected classes, which leads to victims of similar crimes being treated differently.

Lindsey Mintz is executive director of the council and says there's been an increase in hate crimes directed against Jewish people and Muslims, and adds people are feeling less secure now than they have in decades.

"The events bring it to the surface once again in a very disturbing, violent, unsettling way, but unfortunately we've been watching the trend over the last several years continue to move upward," she laments.

In a report released last year, the Southern Poverty Law Center listed 26 active hate groups in Indiana. That's more than two-dozen of the nearly 1,000 organizations across the U.S. meeting the group's criteria for being recognized as a hate group.

Veronica Carter, Public News Service - IN