Last week I attended a Hilton Head Island Town Council meeting which took up the issue of a resolution on hate crimes for the purpose of setting the stage down the road for South Carolina to adopt its own statewide legislation.
South Carolina is one of five remaining states in America who have chosen not to enact legislation to support law enforcement to prosecute individuals who perpetrate crimes against people because of race, religion and gender.
How is this good for South Carolina’s national reputation? It certainly sends the wrong message against hate in our society which is percolating in unprecedented ways.
This resolution is being spearheaded by the Lowcountry Coalition Against Hate which is a bipartisan and ecumenical group representing diverse perspectives from conservatives to liberals, Jews and Christians, whites and blacks and everyone else in between.
Here we were discussing the proposed text for the resolution and at the same time the nation was commemorating 75th anniversary of the D-Day invasion when the Allies delivered the ultimate blow against hatred that infected Germany and the world.
We also recalled 2018, when our community woke up from its slumber of living the good life to the reality that Hilton Head had a Holocaust denier running for mayor. This community defeated him decisively, even with a few hundred votes which he garnered. We exhaled and moved on with our lives.
Yet, outside the cocoon of Council Chambers in Hilton Head, as it is all around this country, life is not the same.
Shootings occur on a daily basis and mass shootings against religious institutions, public schools and the business community. These are not occasional outbreaks of violence but happen regularly today. Synagogues and churches bear the financial burden of hiring armed guards and coping with the fear generated from this insanity of terror in America.
Terrorism and those hate crimes perpetrated against other communities, including the Muslim and LGBTQ communities, just to name a few. This nonstop wave of hate crimes has succeed at instilling fear into the body politic of American society.
Combating hatred should be the business of the Town Council because preserving the public’s welfare and safety is their responsibility. For this reason I urged them to vote unanimously in favor of the current resolution before the council. That day the Town Council had the opportunity to demonstrate their solidarity for a righteous cause. Would Hilton Head’s political leadership be in the forefront or hide from their own shadow in persuading Columbia to step up to the plate and finally pass a hate crimes bill to assist law enforcement to capture and prosecute those who spurn the Judaeo-Christian heritage which has sustained this great land?
I appealed to the council to make statement that day to protect our children in churches and synagogues and co-workers in government offices in addition to our pubic schools including teachers and students so that each person shall be able, in the words of Jeremiah, “to sit under their vine and fig tree and none shall make them afraid.” Is this not the promise of America?
So what did the Town Council ultimately do? They, in fact, turned out, thankfully, to be unanimously committed toward passing the resolution.
Thanks to the leadership of Mayor John McCann and the council, we have our own D-Day of sorts to establish a beachhead to fulfill that goal of marching toward Columbia. We hope we will have the support of our local state assemblyman Jeff Bradley and Sen. Tom Davis.
We pray that our surrounding communities such as Bluffton will join us. We especially hope that the mayors of Beaufort and Port Royal will join us in this campaign to offset hate in our society.
No resolution or even a law guarantees the end of criminal behavior. Such a resolution, however, sends the message about what we as a state stand for and what we value.