tv Hearing Focuses on Hate Crimes Targeting Religious Groups CSPAN May 27, 2017 5:27am-8:01am EDT
admirals who won the war at sea. elliot carlson with his book the odd ditsy of a code breaker who outi witnessediama moto. shattered sword, the untold story, and timothy over, coauthor of never call me a hero air legendary dive bomber pilot remembers the batful midway. watch the battle of midway 75th anniversary beginning at 9:30 on june 2nd on c-span 3. up next a senate judiciary committee hearing on hate crimes motivated by religious bias. officials with the civil justice division the antidefamation league and the association of police chiefs testified.
welcome, everybody, to a very important hearing that we have. thank you for being patient while we get started here. i'll have an opening statement, senator feinstein will, and then we'll go -- i'll introduce our first panel and then when we're done there go to the second panel and introduce that at that time. the senate judiciary committee today is holding a hearing that we entitle responses to the i crease in religious hate crimes. this is the subject of great bipartisan interest in the committee. religious hate crimes harm victims and also have a great impact on communities. many of these crimes would never have been committed but for hatred.
they run counter to america's values such as religious freedom and tolerance. americans have the right to be safe against those who would treat them as members of religious groups rather than as individuals. religious hate drooimz crimcrime rise. crimes against jewish people are the most common religious hate crimes and they have i creased. relimbous hate crimes against muslims are the fastest growing category. these crimes increase by 67% between 2014 and 2015, the last year in which the fbi has records available. i have been contacted by fearful iowans. fear for practicing one's religion should never happen in this country. this problem has been growing for some time and it's not new. last week president trump
stated, quote, this is my pledge to you, we will confront anti-semitism. we will stamp out prejudice. we will condemn hatred. we will bear witness and we will act, end of quote. with these statements, the president followed a tradition for government action dating back to george washington who, in 1790, wrote to a sin going in rhode island that, quote, the government of the united states gives to bigotry no sanctions, to persecution no assistance, end of quote. government action to enforce the first amendment guarantee of free exercise of religion is necessary if these rights are to be protected against those who commit these awful hate crimes. law enforcement resources will need to be deployed to houses of
worship if necessary. law enforcement may need to create specific task forces and provide special assistance to religious groups to enhance security or for other purposes. that reality may, i people who read the first amendment establishment clause so broadly as to prohibit any governmentent city that aids a religious entity to read those views. i have this for instance. the supreme court recently considered the constitutionality of a missouri state constitution provision prohibiting government financial assistance to religious institutions and whether the state could prohibit a religious institution from receiving government grants in a program that would be available to secular entities. at oral arguments, justice sa lito asked the lawyer from
missouri about a grant program skuch an existing federal program to enhance, to quote, harden nonprofit organization facilities that are deemed to be at high risk for terrorists attacks. continuing the quote. so if you have a sin going that's at high risk of an attack by an anti-semitic group or a mosque that's considered to be at high risk for attack by an anti-muslim group, would the missouri constitution permit the erection of balance lards like we have around the court here? end of quote from alito. astonishing to me, the lawyer responded no, the missouri constitution would not permit the state even on a neutral basis to administer a security grant program to protect houses
of worship. the safety of build gsds is porp in itself, but we cannot lose sight of the fact that people are so often in those build gds and being targeted. the establishment clause should not be read to forbid government from safiving the lives of peop practicing their religion. i believe religious hate crimes, i governmental response. our response is financial assistance to facilities that are targets. i hope that the supreme court does not issue a ruling that allows government to forbid religious entities from receiving assistance against attacks that is available to other organizations. our witnesses today will shed light on this topic. we will hear from the just department about efforts under way to combat religious hate crimes. we will then hear from civil rights and law enforcement organizations on the nature of the problems and thousand
address it. we will also hear from a victim of religious hate crime. >> i look forward to their testimony. senator feinstein. >> thanks very much, mr. chairman. and thank you very much for calling this hearing. i think it's a very important topic and i think it goes to one of our core values as a country. and that's religious freedom and tolerance. we pride ourselves on being a unique and diverse society, which means we've got to the accept many differences, different creeds, different colors, different ethnicities. and that's important to the concept of america, to be a united country than respects these differences. and into this creeps this suspicion and creeps hate. so the topic today is religious hate crimes and i think it
doesn't matter if it's a hate crime based on one's religion, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender, or any other element of our shared values in humanity as a country. we've got to condemn every form of it no matter who is targeted. and i believe that to the depth of my being. i'm hopeful that this committee can begin and continue to work on this. even if we focus on one part of it, which is religious hate today. while the federal government has an important role to play in helping state and local governments address hate crimes, i want to make clear that change needs, in my view, to take place on the local level. each community faces its own unique challenge when it comes to racial and religious bias. and i think back as my time in
local government for some 18 years, nine as a county supervisor and nine as a mayor, and i remember when swats stick kas were pointed on significant goings. i got on the phone, i called the chief of police, i said you go down there, you look at it, you have your people do something about it and i made a strong public statement that this was not going to be tolerated in my city. same thing happened with other kinds of crimes designated as people because of who they are, their religion, their race, whether they're straight or gay. so my view is it's very important to address it, it's very important to say we're not going to allow it, and it's very important for leaders not to shrink from this but to lead in it. and so in a sense, this is a
start and i think everybody on this dious understands and wants to really create a different society that does not kont nens this kind of hate. according to antidefamation league, there have been reports of 541 anti-semitic incidents in the first four months of this year. that's an increase of 86% compared to the number of incidents recorded over the same period the year before. there therehave been 380 harassment incidents, 161 bomb threats. that's ann crease of 127% over 2016. bomb threats were called into more than 80 jewish community centers and children's day
skoold schools located in 33 states and two canadian provinces. one day, february 27th of this year, there were 31 threats called in to 23 jewish community centers and eight jewish day schools. that's 31 bomb threats in a single day. these crimes sparked tremendous fear and thankfully the justice department has arrested the men responsible. and no one was injured or killed. hate crimes against muse limbs and those perceived to be muslim have also increased at an alarming rate. and these crimes include horrific murders. i'd like to draw your attention to a map which shows recent incidents of anti-muslim hate crimes tracked by muslim
advocates, an organization that's a leader on this topic. and you can see where they are concentrated. and i find that very interesting as well. it counts for 2-54 separate incidents since november the 15th to the present. in twechlt alone, the southern poverty law center also found the number of anti-muslim eight groups tripled in 2016 going from 34 in 2015 to 101 muslim hate groups last year. similarly, the fbi's hate crimes data also captures this sharp increase during that same period. in my home state of california, according to researchers from cal state san bernardino, hate
crimes against american muslims increased 78% in 2015. attacks on perceived muslims also rose sharply. so what can be done? first, it's incumbent, as i said, on all leaders to loudly condemn these crimes. that includes race as well as religion. in my view, the rise in hate crimes is due, in part, to the perception that people in positions of power are indifferent to what's happening. don't prioritize the protection of the rights of all americans, and don't speak out. so we've got to stand together and we have to make clear that hate has no place in our country. and these crimes will be investigated and the seriousness will be taken into consideration in the sentencing.
second, we need to ensure that communities and law enforcement have the support and resources they need to prevent and investigate these crimes. where state and local agencies and victims need federal support, the justice department needs to provide it. and third, the federal government must improve the reporting of hate crimes and reporting's key because it increases awareness and accountability. but it's inadequate today. so if we don't have an accurate picture of what's happening, it's much harder for justice and fbi to address the problem. the hate crime statistics act of 1990 required the fbi to collect hate crimes data and develop reporting guidelines for state and local law enforcement. now, the quality of that data has improved over time. the justice department revised its incident report to collect
data on hate crimes against sikh, hindu, buddhist, mormon, gentleman hoef va's witness and orthodoxed christian individuals. 26 of us requested that change. but we can and must do better. many states and local jurisdictions still don't report hate crimes to the fbi. while the fbi typically reports 5,000 to 10,000 hate crimes, the true number it's said may approach 300,000 which is 30 times the fbi estimation. senator hatch and i just introduced a bill to update the church arson prevention act of 1996 to prevent the intentionally making of threats to religious property.
now that's a big deal. if someone goes to another's church and defaces it or puts a bomb there or writes a threatening graffiti on it, it has an impact on a wide range of people. and so it has to be taken very seriously. let me end by quoting noble laureate and holocauster is riefr ellie. sometimes we must interfere. when mooum human lives are in dang, he when hooum human dignity is in jeopardy borders become irrelevant. whenever men or women are persecuted because of their race, religion, or political views, that place must at that moment become the center of the universe. so with that before us, mr. chairman grassley i want to thank you very much for working
with us. >> you bet. >> and for also holding this hearing. thank you. >> that's nice of you. thank you. i will now introduce our first witness. eric treene. he is special counsel for religious discrimination in the civil rights division of the department of justice. he has an undergraduate degree from amherst college and a law degree from harvard. i recognize you for five minutes but if you have a longer statement to put in the record, and i never cut anybody off at just the exact five minutes, but will that happens kind of summarize the rest of your statement. thank you, go ahead, eric. >> yes, thank you and good morning, chairman grassley, ranking member feinstein and respected members of the committee. i want to thank you for holding this hearing this morning to discuss the important topic of enforcing federal hate crime laws with a focus on religious based hate crimes. i'm sorry that acting assistant attorney general tom wheerl cannot be here today due to a family emergency. the attorney general has made
fighting violent crime one of his to top priorities. hate crimes air serious problem that the attorney general believes must be part of our national effort to reduce violent dprooim crime. this is the case for two basic reasons. first, hate crimes make up about 4% of violent crime in america. it's thus part of the picture of violent crime in our country. second, these are crimes that are meant to intimidate and tear rise communities. we're all concerned about ourselves or our families becoming victims of crimes, but when people are targeted for hate crimes, they experience something on top of this. the concern -- they experience the concern that they'll be attacked because they stand out in some way, because of their race, their religion, or their national origin. president trump in his first address to congress spoke about the threats against jewish community centers around the country as well as the shooting of two indian men in kansas city, one fatally.
he stated we are a country that stands united in condemning hate and evil in all its forms. attorney general sessions has stregsed the porp answer of combating hate crimes against people of all religious backgrounds. while race-based hate crimes remain the largest category of hate crimes, relij jis based hate crimes are the second largest and there's some concerning trends. fbi un norm crime report date show a 23% rise in religious hate crimes from 2014 to '15 include a 67% rise in anti-muslim hate crime and a 9% rise in anti-jewish hate crimes. the department of justice is committed to aggressively prosecuting these cases. on april 21st, charge a man arrested in israel with making threats to jewish community centers in the u.s. we obtained a conviction of a tennessee man for soliciting another man to help him burn down a mosque in new york.
and on january 10 lk the department obtained the death penalty against dyllan roof at a bible study in emmanuel ame church in charleston, south carolina. my written testimony details the various federal hate crime laws question use if these situations. these are powerful laws that we can bring to bear to our state and local law enforcement partners and ensure that serious crimes have serious consequences. congress has provided us with strong resources for fighting hate crimes. with arsons of houses of worship, for example, we're able to bring in the resources of the atf and the fbi to find and pursue the perpetrators and we do think we have good processes in place for working with our state and local law enforcement partners in an efficient and effective manner. but we can always get better. and we must do better in reducing these deplorable hate crimes. that's why the attorney general
has made the hate crime subcommittee of his violent crimes task force one of the pillars of this effort. in the first week of june, the violent crime task force will hold a summit on vooinlt violent crime. the following week, they will hold an additional one-day summit focusing solely on identifying, prosecuting and preventing hate crimes. the summit will allow doj officials to discuss with exports, community groups and state and local law enforcement partners how to best reduce the incidents of hate crime in america. the summit and the subcommittee are also focused on the problem of incomplete hate crime data. we know that the ucr data undercount hate crimes and weapon need to do better. this will be part of the conversation at the summit and with the subcommittee going forward. we can fully address the problem of hate crimes only when we fully understand it. the subcommittee and the summit will also work on ways to
improve training and outreach, many members of minority communities due to language or cultural barriers are reluctant to come forward when they are victims of hate crimes. outreach is critical to the success of any program to combat hate crimes. since he joined the civil rights division three months ago tom wheerl and i have met with muslim, jewish, sick sikh and hindu organizations. for us as the government to hear what's going on and ha we can do better and to let the community know the areas where we need me from them such as helping to ensure that hate crimes are reported. i thank you for yt dialogue you're facilitating here today and i look forward to your questions. >> we'll will have five-minute rounds. i think you covered my first question some, but because it's the summit is to important in the work of the department and a major effort of the attorney general sessions, i guess i'd
ask you to elaborate further, if you want to, on what the department's plans are for the summit and the hate crime subcommittee. >> yes, thank you, senator. the idea is to not just bring our expertise from the components of doj working on this for fbi, civil rights division, u.s. attorney's offices, community relations service, but also to bring in diverse communities, religious communities, racial communities, communities representing the lgbt persons, and hear about really the totality of the problem, things that we're doing well, things we're not doing well. things with data collection, what we can do to make that better. i know director comey has testified about the long term plan to my great to a national institute -- incident-based reporting system. but also what we can do in the several years before that program is fully implemented.
so there's lots to do. i don't want to say it's just a listening session because we have some ideas going in, but we want to be hear from experts from local law enforcement, from communities about what we should be doing. >> okay. my second question is asking you for examples of religious hate crime investigation dollars an prosecutions that the new administration's pursuing some of those could probably be carried over from the previous administration, maybe you don't have to -- i don't expect to you give us a long list now, you can supplement it, with what you tell us now with some written material if you want to. >> sure. those -- those are outlined in the wrib testimony. i just highlight a few. >> i know we have two senators here from minnesota. on march 8th we sentenced -- we -- a judge sentenced in a case that we brought a minnesota man to 12 months in prison for a threat to blow up a mosque.
bakersfield, california, senator feinstein's state april 10th we obtained a 15-year sentence for a man who fired a shotgun towards a latino family then went down the street and fired his shotgun at a middle eastern man's convenience store. i mention this when we're talking about religious hate crimes because one thing we've found is the people who hate aren't terribly discriminating in their victims. someone it angry at muslims are they'll attack sikh, middle easterners, people who look different so that we always look at those as a general problem that we need to address wholistically. we had a case in february 8th we received guilty pleas from a man who threatened two grocery store owners in orlando, florida, who were muslim and he told them
they had 30 days to close their stores or be attacked. that's the kind of violence that we're aimed at. where people are not only attacking people because of their race but attacking them for exercising their civil rights, their civil rights to have a job, to start a business, to move into the neighborhood of their choice. the hate crimes laws protect those underlying civil rights of people to live freely in our society. >> my last question deals with the fact that you've been doj lawyer in religious freedom cases for many years, the most vent statistics on religious hate crimes that we will hear about today date from i think 2014 and 2015 and -- and is it -- is it your experience that religious hate crime instances have been on the rise for quite a few years now, not just since
the presidential election? were there failures to combat religious hate crimes at the justice department that you witnessed in previous administrations? >> well, your honor, fighting hate, whether -- i mean senator, i'm more used to being in court, senator. hate crimes are a perpetual problem in society. hatred is nothing new now our society or unique to america and so it's a problem we've been battling for many years. we have seen a trend in the fbi data that we have 2014 to '15 we saw a rise. the year before that like an anti-muslim crime we saw a more modest rise. we don't have the data since then. i can say that we have many referrals that are coming in from community groups, from u.s. attorney's offices and we're taking this problem very seriously. we are throwing our resources at it and the attorney general
believes this is a major part of his anticrime initiative and we will continue to aggressively pursue hate crimes. >> senator feinstein. >> one of the things that i'm bothered by is that the statistics don't really give the right situation, it seems to me. hate crimes, for example, the fbi typically reports 7,000 to 10,000 hate crimes had burrow of the justice statistics estimate the true number may approach 300,000, which is 30 times the fbi estimation. the percentage of religiously motivated hate crimes nearly tripled between '04 and 2012. how do you acourt for these discrepancies? >> senator, they're based on two different methodologies and agree that the fbi data undercounts. but we have to remember the fbi
data is counting actual instances. so each of those instances is one where a police officer in the field has received a reported case, maybe prosecuting it, maybe not, but is coding that in the data system as a hate crime. so it's an actual crime that the police have been involved in. we know that some states are better than others in report, we're getting better at that, year training every year about 1400 new police departments locally. we're expecting about 1400 more trainings, agencies trained this year. the -- so those are our actual cases. when you look at the bureau of justice statistics, that's done by a polling methodology. so you -- >> i can interrupt you for a second? >> yes, ma'am. >> how many cities don't report at all? >> there are some states that don't report at all and there are some -- a number of cities i don't have the exact number.
>> see, that might be a good thing to take a look at because if i'm right, and the local leader makes a difference in all of this, staying quiet and doing nothing isn't helpful. >> yes, senator. one thing we did last year in the summer and we expect to do again is to reach out to our 94 u.s. attorneys to -- and giving them -- we gave them a list of who -- what cities in their district are not reporting hate crimes. and get them in their normal interactions with other law enforcement officials and mayors to say, is this something that you can help us with. so we have reach with those 94 u.s. attorneys. >> tell us who is on the hate crime subcommittee of the task force on crime reeducation and -- yeah, re-education and public safety? who is on this and what is that committee supposed to accomplish? >> i can skagenly it's chaired by tom wheerl the acting assistant attorney general or
human rights. it has the fbi hate crimes unit, other components of fbi, community relations service. wide -- >> it's all government. >> it's all doj. again, it's doj coming together and talking about what barriers we have and then going out at the summit to hear from the community from experts and so forth. >> well, maybe that's a good place to start. to really try to see if this can't be infused nationally with local people who are there, who know their population, who when they stand up hopefully people license listen as opposed to some remote source from the federal bureaucracy. so i mean that's what i would hope this committee would take a look at doing, and that's involving local leaders and encourage them to take a position. i have found that where local leaders step up and we're not going to tolerate this, it does make a difference.
>> senator, i think that's a very good idea and i will take that back to the department of leadership. >> thanks. thanks, mr. chairman. >> okay. senator hatch. >> thank you, mr. chairman. thank you for holding this important hearing today. religious liberty and the protection of the right of people to believe the way they want to and exercise religion are some of the nation's foundational and fundamental principles. that said, i'm troubled by some of the recent reports of increases in religious hate crimes not only in the united states but also throughout the world. some of the recent examples include the more than 100 bomb threats made at jewish community centers throughout this country as well as the vandalism of jewish cemeteries in st. louis, philadelphia, and other cities. in response to these and other religiously motivated hate crimes, the president addressed this issue during a joint session of congress when he said, quote, we may be a nation
divided on policies, but we are a country that stands united in condemning hate and evil in all of its very ugly forms, unquote. the vice president had the vice president also denounced these acts of religious intolerance when he said there's no place in america for hatred or acts of president or violence or anti-semitism.
>> welcome to real america on c-span3's american history tv. in eight minutes a discussion from 50 minutes ago with then california governor ronald reagan, republican and new york senator, robert kennedy. the topic, vietnam and questions via satellite of students in london. here is an excerpt from that cbs news program. >> i believe the war in vietnam is illegal, immoral, unjustifiable and economically motivated. would either of you agree with this? >> who wants to start, senator kennedy? >> i do not agree with that, i have some reservations, as a stated before with aspects of the war. i think the united states is making every effort