Hate crime laws could be coming to South Carolina and Georgia

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Friday, November 22, 2019
News 12 at 11 o'clock

AUGUSTA, GA (WRDW/WAGT) -- South Carolina and Georgia are two of only four states in the country without a hate crime law, but that could be changing.

Georgia used to have a hate crime law, but it was removed in 2004 for being "unconstitutionally vague." An increase in hate crime across the country has both states taking a second look.

"It's something that we need to work to correct," said Dr. Andy Reese, President of the Unitarian Universalist Church in Augusta. Last week, the church was vandalized with spray paint reading "God will not be mocked." The vandal also sprayed a Star of David with a circle and a line through it.

Reese doesn't call it a hate crime himself, but said members of the community do. He said hate comes from fear.

"Fear is uncomfortable," he said. "How do you relieve that discomfort? Well, you get angry about it. And anger carried to the extreme becomes hate."

46 states have hate crime laws on the books. South Carolina and Georgia join Wyoming and Arkansas as the only states that do not.

"We need to change that," said Rep. Bill Clyburn (D-Aiken). "To hate someone and to harm them because of the color of their skin or because their eyes are blue or brown or because you're Catholic or Jewish, you know this is ridiculous."

South Carolina's State House has a bill sitting in committee that would add extra penalties for hate crimes.

"It's a priority," said Rep. Clyburn.

The bill was pre-filed, meaning it will be read on the first day of session. It's also available for you to read now.

"Before we finish this session, we will have a hate crime bill in South Carolina," said Rep. Clyburn.

In the meantime, Reese's church will fight hate with love. He said in a random act of kindness, someone planted flowers in front of the graffiti.

"She wanted to bring some beauty to a place of ugliness," he said.
State legislature goes back into session in January. Rep. Clyburn said he's sure the bill will pass, and called it a priority on both sides of the aisle.

On the Georgia side, a bill for hate crime laws has passed the House, and is now on its way to the Senate. The hate crime laws make existing punishments even tougher.

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