Lincoln, Neb. leaders OK enhanced punishments for people’s thoughts

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Lincoln City leaders have passed an ordinance aimed at increasing penalties for people convicted of hate crimes.

Apparently existing laws in Lincoln, Neb. didn’t quite cover it: Intoxicated by media attention and dutifully wearing their COVID masks, Lincoln leaders have stepped up penalties for lawbreakers based on what is in their minds at the time.

Lincoln’s City Council voted unanimously on June 15 to pass the ordinance, which creates a new thought-offense under the city code which it is calling “hate intimidation,” according to ABC 8 Nebraska News.

Someone violating a city ordinance “with the intent to intimidate someone” based on a number of statuses including race, religion, age, and sexual orientation could face the charge.

The move to punish people extra for their thoughts had been in the works for months, said Councilwoman Tammy Ward, and isn’t a “knee-jerk” reaction to the media carnival following the death of a black man in police custody in Minneapolis.

Officials cited recent incidents in which swastikas were painted on trees in a Lincoln park and the South Street Temple.

Councilman Roy Christensen proposed an amendment to the ordinance, citing concerns about the language in it being overly broad. He says he thinks it could be challenged and fail in court.

“These are all expressions of speech that would fall under First Amendment protections in many situations,” Christensen said, referring to the swastikas, and reports of racially-charged comments being made toward members of Lincoln’s Asian community.

After voicing his concerns, however, Christensen caved in and went along with fellow council members in approving it.

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