Come Monday, certain crimes committed at religious sites are hate crimes

Come Monday, certain crimes committed at religious sites are hate crimes

Starting Monday, certain crimes committed upon or on the surrounding grounds of religious facilities in Illinois will be elevated to the level of hate crimes.

The state's Criminal Code of 2012 will be amended to say hate crimes are Class 3 felonies, for a first offense, or Class 2 felonies, for a second or subsequent offense, if they're "committed in or upon the exterior or grounds of a church, synagogue, mosque or other building, structure or place identified or associated with a particular religion — or used for religious worship or other religious purpose."

This change comes about two months after Nicholas Gustafson, 18, and Jacob R. Bassler, 18, were captured on camera vandalizing a menorah outside the Chabad Center for Jewish Life on the University of Illinois campus. It was the fourth time in three years that damage was done to the menorah, which has since been replaced with a larger, sturdier version.

Two area clergy members applauded the legislation, which was co-sponsored by state Rep. Carol Ammons, D-Urbana.

The Rev. Mark Wilkerson, pastor of Rantoul's Maranatha Baptist Church, said he heard about the campus menorah incident and thinks the new amendment is reasonable.

"It sounds like it's trying to protect the freedom of religion ... put more teeth into it," Wilkerson said. "Protecting people to present their views in a peaceful way — not hateful or discriminatory."

Incidents like those at the Chabad Center are rare at local churches. But when even one house of worship is victimized, it disturbs clergy members throughout the area.

"Some groups are the focus of hate crimes, such as our Jewish and Muslim brothers," said the Rev. Bruce Weiman, pastor at Arthur United Methodist. "It's a very serious and scary thing for them to have their property damaged."

Weiman said the new amendment makes sense, and "it will be interesting to see how it actually works its way out."

The amendment also removes the $1,000 cap on restitution paid to victims. In addition, a condition of probation or conditional discharge for offenders will be to perform at least 200 hours of public or community service and take an educational program discouraging hate crimes.

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rsp wrote on December 29, 2017 at 10:12 am

I'd like to hear more input on this. It appears to remove intent, meaning it doesn't matter what happened, just where. And it extends out 1,000 feet from any property, includes parks, cemetaries. Criminal trespass is mentioned, like if someone is mentally ill, confused and ends up with the police removing them. Sometimes they are issued a no trespassing order. Now it's a hate crime.

Mr Dreamy wrote on December 29, 2017 at 6:12 pm

The way this story is written the new law includes, while being on the buildings grounds, underage possession of alcohol, possession of pot, or possession of a fake ID to get into a bar later on, would be a hate crime.

Either the law is insanely unconstitutional or the story was very poorly written.

Natalie Wickman wrote on December 29, 2017 at 7:12 pm

Sorry for the confusion and I'll clarify the story. This will only apply to Class 3 felonies for a first offense and Class 2 felonies for a second or subsequent offense, according to the full text of the bill: http://www.ilga.gov/legislation/fulltext.asp?DocName=&SessionId=91&GA=100&DocTypeId=HB&DocNum=2390&GAID=14&LegID=103069&SpecSess=&Session=

 

Natalie Wickman wrote on December 29, 2017 at 7:12 pm

Sorry for the confusion and I'll clarify the story. This will only apply to Class 3 felonies for a first offense and Class 2 felonies for a second or subsequent offense, according to the full text of the bill: http://www.ilga.gov/legislation/fulltext.asp?DocName=&SessionId=91&GA=100&DocTypeId=HB&DocNum=2390&GAID=14&LegID=103069&SpecSess=&Session=