Anti-lynching bill should stay as is

Published 10:57 pm Thursday, January 31, 2019

By Kenya Smith

Sens. Corey Booker, Kamala Harris and Tim Scott introduced the “Justice for Victims of Lynching Act of 2018,” which classifies lynching as a federal hate crime and defines it 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 are conducted in various forms.

While the Senate unanimously passed the bill, not everyone was happy. Mat Staver, founder of Liberty Counsel advocated to remove the terms “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” because he felt that protecting lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer individuals under the bill would further push the LGBTQ “agenda.”

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When media outlets reported on Staver’s statements, he responded by saying, “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.”

Nonetheless, the bill does apply to everyone, because categories such as race and sexual orientation are broad categories.

The bill itself doesn’t provide “special treatment” for specific groups because protecting all lives is not special treatment but an unalienable and equal right.

Staver 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.”

Can he provide historical examples of lynchings not motivated by prejudice?

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

The Scottsboro Boys, Lena Baker and Emmett Till were lynched because they were black. Even white people such as Viola Luizzo, Michael Schwerner and Andrew Goodman were lynched because they advocated for civil rights. Matthew Shepard, Gwen Auarjo and Blaze Bernstein were lynched because they were LGBTQ individuals.

This House needs to pass this bill in order to atone for the past and to practice justice in the future. As hate crimes are rising in this country, it is time for us to unite and combat bigotry. Saying that all lives matter but at the same time excluding certain lives in an anti-lynching bill is contradictory.

As for my brothers and sisters in Christ, the Bible says that if we say that we love God, but hate people, we’re lying. Furthermore, if we say we that we love everybody but aren’t willing to protect everyone’s right to live and to be safe, that’s not love. That’s hate. If we say we value all lives but celebrate or remain silent about tragedies such as the ones in Charleston, Orlando and Charlottesville, that’s not valuing. That’s 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 apathy.

Kenya Smith is a Suffolk native. Email her at