Anti-lynching bill should stay as is

Published 10:19 am Monday, January 21, 2019

by Kenya Smith

Senators Corey Booker (D-NJ), Kamala Harris (D-CA) and Tim Scott (R-SC) introduced a bill called the “Justice for Victims of Lynching Act of 2018.” The bill will classify lynching as a federal hate crime and defines lynching as “an act of willfully causing bodily injury to any other person because of the actual or perceived race, color, religion or national origin,” or “acts that cause injury due to actual or perceived “gender, sexual orientation, gender identity or disability.” Most people believe that lynchings are hangings, but lynchings can be conducted in various forms.

Despite the anti-lynching bill being passed in the Senate, there are some who oppose the current bill. Mat Staver, founder and chairman of Liberty Counsel, was interviewed by OneNewsNow, and advocated to remove the mentioning of “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” before the anti-lynching bill can be passed because he felt that allowing Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgendered and Queer individuals to be protected under this particular bill would further push the LGBTQ “agenda.”

Staver and his organization became upset when media outlets did reports on the organization’s disapproval of the bill. They believe that the bill limits the application of the law because it creates a list of protected categories. As a response, Staver said, “Lynching is wrong no matter whether someone is white or black, gay or straight, disabled or able-bodied. An anti-lynching bill should apply to everyone without any categories.”

Let’s breakdown the following protected categories that are mentioned in the bill:

• Race (Black/White/Asian/Latino/Native American/etc.)

• Color (light complexion/dark complexion)

• National origin (natural born or immigrant)

• Religion (Christian/Jewish/Muslim/Buddhist/etc.)

• Sexual orientation (gay/straight/bisexual/queer/etc.)

• Gender and gender identity (man/woman/cisgender/transgender/intersex)

• Ability (able-bodied/disabled)

Therefore, without even knowing it, Staver’s response to the media outlets confirms the reason why the “Justice for Victims of Lynching Act” was passed by the Senate and why the House needs to pass it. If you read the bill thoroughly, it does apply to everyone. These protected categories are broad, and it can be broken down some more.

The bill itself is not providing “special treatment” for specific groups because protecting and valuing all lives are not considered special treatments. Instead it’s a fundamental, unalienable and equal right.

He even claimed in his editorial for the Orlando Sentinel that “Under this limited application, the federal law would not apply if the perpetrator lynched someone for reasons unrelated to one of these categories.”

However, can he give an example in American history of someone being lynched for reasons other than discrimination?

History has shown us the fact that people used lynching as a tool to disenfranchise certain categories of people as it is mentioned in Section 2 of the bill.

For example, the Scottsboro Boys, Lena Baker, Emmett Till, Michael Donald, James Byrd Jr. and so many others were lynched because they were black. Even white people such as Viola Luizzo, Michael Schwerner and Andrew Goodman were lynched because they supported the Civil Rights Movement. Individuals such as Matthew Shepard, Gwen Auarjo and Blaze Bernstein were lynched because they were LGBTQ individuals.

The House needs to pass this bill in order to atone for the past atrocities and to give justice to future victims. We are now seeing that hate crimes are rising in this country, and it is time that we as a nation become united and speak out against hatred and bigotry. Saying that all lives matter but at the same time advocating to exclude certain lives in an anti-lynching bill is contradictory. Lynching has always robbed people of their existence, and that is an issue of life and death.

As for my brothers and sisters in Christ, the Bible says that if we say that we love God, but hate people, we are lying. Furthermore, if we say we that love everybody, but we are not willing to protect everyone’s right to live and to be safe, that’s not love. That’s the definition of hate. If we say we value all lives but celebrate or remain silent when a tragedy is motivated by prejudice against a specific group of people such as the ones in Charleston, Orlando and Charlottesville, that’s not valuing. That’s the definition of degrading.

If we say we care about everybody but remain silent when those who claim to share our faith use our very same faith to incite spiritual abuse on those who are different, that’s not caring. That’s the definition of apathy.

KENYA SMITH is the intern at The Tidewater News. Contact her at 562-3187 or