It doesn’t take long watching world-wide news outlets these days to know that we live in very volatile times. The ongoing war in the Gaza Strip is more than enough reminder of that.
The passions ignited by that ancient struggle have unfortunately reached our own shores.
Due in part to that, the Pennsylvania House introduced three bills to help with statewide efforts to combat intolerance.
The package, consisting of measures HB1024, HB1025 and HB1027, has been embraced by the Philadelphia Human Rights Commission.
“At PHRC, we strongly believe each person has an inherent right to live and be treated with dignity without fear of violence, discrimination or hate,” PHRC chairman M. Joel Bolstein said. “Hate is unacceptable. PHRC supports this package of anti-hate legislation and is proud to continue working with others to eliminate hate in Pennsylvania. No one in Pennsylvania should be subjected to racism, xenophobia, homophobia, religious intolerance, gender inequality, discrimination or hate.”
Each of the three measures included is designed to combat intimidation based on intolerance.
HB1025 empowers law enforcement in their efforts to identify, report and investigate hate crimes. The measure includes training to be conducted annually by the attorney general’s office in concert with the PHRC.
Schools and educational institutions are the focus of HB1025, allowing anonymous reporting of hate crimes for students and educators. Training for school district employees is encouraged by the measure.
The Pennsylvania Ethnic Intimidation Statute will be strengthened by HB1027. The legislation amends the existing law to better protect victims targeted because of their race, religion, nationality, ancestry, gender identity or mental health. It strengthens victims’ recourse against repeat violators and those who solicit or aid offenders.
“This is much-needed legislation in Pennsylvania,” PHRC Executive Director Chad Dion Lassiter said. “We live in volatile times where hate-related crimes are increasing. No one should be afraid to go to their place of worship, school or even the grocery store. At PHRC, we support this legislation, and we will continue working with civic and activist organizations to explain the protections currently available to people who may be fearful of coming forward after experiencing hate.”
While combating hate crimes is an ongoing concern, continued vigilance and strengthened tools to lessen its impact is always helpful.
“We must adopt a zero tolerance for hate in Pennsylvania and this package of legislation is a step in the right direction,” Lassiter said. “We look forward to seeing what happens next. Hopefully, it will pass the Senate and make its way to Gov. Shapiro’s desk.” ••