NOBLESVILLE, Ind. – Indiana is one of five states that doesn't have a hate crime law. A bill to impose harsher penalties for hate crimes went before a state senate committee Tuesday, and it was met with mixed reviews. Opponents say Senate bill 418 excludes groups like police officers.
This is the third year Indiana lawmakers have pushed to get a hate crime law on the books. With no success in the past, they say the time is still now.
“If you look at the language of the bill, it doesn’t denominate any one race or any one religion or any one national origin,” said state Sen. Sue Glick (R-Angola). “It talks about everyone and that’s what we wanted to do throughout the bill.”
Marion County Prosecutor Terry Curry testified to show support for the bill that will impose harsher penalties for hate crimes.
"If one among us is attacked, or victimized, or terrorized because of their race, their religion, their sexual orientation, that in my mind having the biased crime is basically saying we collectively stand behind our fellow citizen," Curry said.
Noblesville High School Principal Jeff Bryant echoed that stance with a letter sent to parents following a video showing a student spewing racial slurs, holding a Nazi flag.
Principal Bryant said in part: I’m asking for you to have serious conversations with your child, your neighbors, family, and friends about the type of hate shared in the original social media post and others like it that we see or hear far too often. Make it a priority to help your children understand empathy, not as a word, but as a feeling that deeply relates to the person sitting next to them on the bus, in the cafeteria, in a classroom, at a ballgame, or in the community.
FOX59 spoke with one Noblesville parent who says she welcomed the principal's message.
"I was glad that he addressed it with the parents because apparently parents have also been saying things. Oh, it was a joke, it's no big deal. Well it is a big deal when it comes to anything racial, same sex," Suzette Kinslow said.
As it relates to the proposed legislation bill, authors say this bill does not restrict religious freedom or right to free speech.