Committee: House Judiciary
The Maryland Catholic Conference offers this testimony in SUPPORT of House Bill 240. The Catholic Conference represents the public policy interests of the three (arch)dioceses serving Maryland, including the Archdioceses of Baltimore and Washington and the Diocese of Wilmington, which together encompass over one million Marylanders.
House Bill 240 would expand Maryland hate crimes laws to include threats and attempts to damage, deface or destroy property based on race, religion, gender, ethnic identification, sexual orientation, disability, homelessness or nationality. The bill would increase penalties for such actions. It would also allow for judicial discretion in sentencing penalties to allow educational classes or community service projects benefiting groups targeted by these crimes.
A 2017 Maryland State Police report showed a 40% increase in hate crime activity annually over a two-year period. In response to such increases in hate crime activity in our society, the Church, both in Maryland and nationally, has created committees to address racism and hate, spur dialogue, and develop action plans to address the issue. Moreover, Pope Francis has stated that the “problem of intolerance must be confronted in all its forms: wherever any minority is persecuted and marginalized because of its religious convictions or ethnic identity, the wellbeing of society as a whole is endangered and each one of us must feel affected.” (Pope Francis, Address to a Delegation from the Simon Wiesenthal Center, 2013)
While the Conference does not generally support measures to increase legal penalties, we believe the reasonable penalties offered by House Bill 240 to be a deterrent to those seeking to threaten or intimidate others. Additionally, there is an important restorative or rehabilitative justice aspect to this legislative proposal. It is for all of these reasons, we urge a favorable report on House Bill 240.