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Hate Crimes Need a Counterbalance

April 27th, 2022 by dk

I’m on record opposing both hate and crimes. (You can look it up.) But I also oppose the invented category of “hate crimes.” You can blame this on my white-male-hetero entitlement and you wouldn’t be wrong. Or you can blame my undergraduate degree in psychology and my years with Mennonites that has left me seeing every hate crime as inherently redundant.

Redundancy is both criminal and hated by writers, but let’s not get distracted from the point here. We already have aggravated assault and degrees of murder to rank their heinousness and the appropriate punishments. “Hate crimes” delve into peoples’ minds — a place where the state ought not to go.

It’s too late to warn our culture about the dangers of regulating intentions. “Thought police” already patrol faculty meetings, Twitter feeds, and executive boardrooms. Those places are far removed from everyday life, but warped conversations are heading this way.

Once hate becomes illegal, we all become criminals, whether we know it or not. I taught my children to “hate only the devil.” Hate can’t resolve a problem on the schoolyard or in life. Hate is never heroic.

The American Experiment mixes democratic governance with free speech protections. So-called “hate crimes” will poison this unique cocktail if we don’t change the recipe quickly. The United States Supreme Court has that opportunity. They heard a case last month — Ruan v. United States — that could signal a necessary counterbalance.

Xiulu Ruan prescribed opioids to all his patients who reported pain. Some of those patients he had never met. Many lived in other states. His practice did not guard against enabling addictions, as his profession recommends. But recommendations are not requirements. Was Ruan running a “pill mill?” Or did he genuinely want to help his patients?

If his actions and intent fall within the second category, we should categorize his violation as a “love crime.” The court system should then be able to give him a slap on the wrist, a warning not to repeat, and a referral to his credentialing profession for internal discipline. 

I’m not saying it should be easy for Ruan to prove that his compassion dictated his actions. I’m saying it should be possible.

If we must cede territory to the state under thought crimes, can we at least counteract “hate crime” severity with “love crime” leniency? You know, just for symmetry? If the ratchet on thought crimes tightens in only one direction, none of us will be happy when it tightens around us.

There is some precedent for rewarding good intentions with leniency or outright legal protection. We call them “Good Samaritan laws.” Australia in 1961 indemnified passersby who try to help a stranger in distress. The law protects those who help even if they accidentally make things worse.

Has Australia become a nation of paraplegics, lacking recourse for botched medical treatments from strangers? No, quite the opposite. They have grown a culture where residents have developed a reflex to help one another. Good for them.

We have some “Good Samaritan laws” in the United States, but the states write them. Oregon is not at the forefront of this movement, but not a laggard either. Oregon Statute 30.800 protects impromptu medical care “unless it is alleged and proved by the complaining party that the person was grossly negligent in rendering the emergency medical assistance.” 

The Supreme Court could this summer signal that states should offer more protections against lawsuits between strangers when benevolent intent can be demonstrated. If we must get tough on “hate crimes,” can we also show mercy for “love crimes?” Our laws should address the full range of human intent, if they must measure intentions at all.


Don Kahle ( writes a column each Friday for The Register-Guard and archives past columns at

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