Covering property with swastikas may not be hate crime in city north of Atlanta

| Mon Aug. 29, 2005 4:02 PM EDT

Law enforcement officials in Lawrenceville, Georgia say they are not sure whether to classify the burning of a swastika into the lawn of a Jewish family as a hate crime.

Two swastikas were spray-painted onto the road in front of the house, a swastika was burned onto the lawn--along with some obscenities--the trees were wrapped with toilet paper, and someone had urinated and defecated on the porch.

Ginger Ragans, who lives in the vandalized house, says she thinks some adolescents were retaliating against her because of her position as a liason to a community watch program.

If the teens were indeed retaliating out of anger because Ragans had caught them violating their curfew, it doesn't make the painting and burning of swastikas any less an expression of bigotry than if the vandals had created the swastikas strictly out of hatred for Jews. To exempt the behavior from a hate crime category because there was a motive for retaliation would be like saying there is nothing racist about a cut-off driver yelling "That black son-of-a-bitch almost hit my car." Any time race, gender, or ethnicity is brought into play, it is bigotry, plain and simple.

A couple was recently driven from their Long Island community because of a barrage of anti-Jewish and anti-African American messages sent to them. A former dean at Southeastern Louisiana University has filed a lawsuit against the school, alleging--among many other things--that she was treated with scorn because she is Jewish. Last year, a synagogue in Denver was defaced by anti-Semitic vandals. Recently, there have been numerous reports of vandalized mosques.

Though hate crimes continue to be perpetrated against Jewish and Muslim citizens, it is the Christian majority that complains about persecution. However, the only churches harmed have been black churches, and they were not bombed, burned down, and vandalized because their members were Christian. The "persecution" felt by conservative Christians has been in the form of government enforcement of the Constitution. No paint has been sprayed, no windows broken, no fires put out, no rubble swept away, no lives lost.