Hate Crime Legislation Needed To Protect Oregonians
The National Coalition for the Homeless (NCH) released a report this week - Hate Crimes Against The Homeless America’s Growing Tide of Violence - showing a troubling increase in hate crimes directed at people experiencing homelessness. Their report (with data from 1999 - 2009) shows that Oregon ranks 3rd in the nation for the number of reported acts of violence. Ten deaths in Oregon were recorded over the period and 27 non-lethal (though violent) attacks were reported.
The reported brutal deaths included that of Herbert "Pac-Man" Taylor Bishop, 56, who was killed in 2009. Michael Andrew Baughman, 22, and Ryan Eugene Casch, 22, were arrested in the murder. "The men viciously beat Pac-Man to death with blunt objects. According to witness accounts the duo went into the park 'looking for someone to beat up.' Both men testified to attacking the Pac-Man in a drunken rage. Each man received a twenty-five year sentence," states NCH's report.
This new data argues that Oregon needs a hate crimes provision in state law to further protect those that are homeless. Florida, Rhode Island, Maine and Maryland have such laws and legislation has been introduced in the U.S. Senate that would direct the FBI to track such crimes. The report notes: "Violent, often fatal, attacks on homeless Americans now outnumber all other categories of hate crimes combined."
Oregon's budget crisis, combined with our national economic crisis, will likely force more people - children, families, women and men - into the streets where they are vulnerable. Every great economic crisis is in reality a great moral crisis, once said William Jennings Bryan.
As a minister in the United Church of Christ, I remember the words of Jesus: "Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me (Matthew 25:40 NRSV)." How we respond to this report will be a test of our moral character as a state and a test of the strength of our relationship with God.