(This is Part 2. Read Part 1 here.)

Once again, the South Carolina State legislature is close to passing a bill to create a state “hate crimes” law, raising concerns that it could be used down the road by the government to curb free speech. The Clementa C. Pinckney Hate Crimes Act H.3014 passed through a vote in the SC House on March 8, 2023 but has stalled in the Senate. However, it could still be revisited this legislative year in a recently-called special session to deal with several outstanding items, so this topic deserves a closer look. 

4. The South Carolina Chamber of Commerce Is “Spearheading” Hate Crimes legislation.

Arguably, the most organized force behind passing so-called hate crimes laws comes from big business interests, led by the SC Chamber of Commerce. A now-removed (but archived) page from the Chamber’s website proclaimed that “The SC Chamber is spearheading efforts to support the passage of a hate crimes bill in South Carolina” and listed 80 businesses in South Carolina backing them up. 

To gain support for hate crimes legislation, the Chamber necessarily applies pressure on our elected officials. Perhaps as a consequence, many elected Republicans comply when voting affirmatively, although many likely remain concerned about voter backlash, unwilling to go on the record in support of a stand-alone bill. In what may be a work-around, the Chamber of Commerce has indicated that it will now lobby for hate crimes laws by embedding legislation within its initiatives for “economic competitiveness.” According to reporting by the State:

The Chamber has removed support for hate crime legislation as a direct item on its legislative agenda this year, although having strongly advocated for the measure in recent years.

Instead, Chamber officials have consolidated the organization’s drive for hate crime legislation under a new legislative priority: economic competitiveness.

“We still support the hate crimes bill,” said Bob Morgan, president and CEO of the S.C. Chamber of Commerce. “But as we look at its prospects, you have to determine what is a point of emphasis, and the opportunity for us is best as it relates to workforce and tax reform.”

Repackaging hate crimes legislation as “economic competitiveness” could give plausible cover to House and Senate GOP who hope to stay under the radar of voters expecting them to defend the Constitution. Hate crimes legislation is in line with the Chamber’s statewide diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) ambitions which are coyly framed as creating a business environment allegedly necessary for our state to attract business. In reality, DEI is destroying business from within through racially insensitive bias training which incorporates elements of Critical Race Theory (CRT), segregates personnel into racial or other “identity” groups, and reinforces ideological conformity and group think on progressive political and social issues.

The Chamber website’s DEI page lists “Passing Hate Crimes Legislation” among the “Policies and Projects We Support,” explaining that “[o]rganizations that build inclusive cultures become sought-after places to work together.” Another page advises businesses to engage in “incorporating DEI into your strategic planning,” claiming it is “necessary for companies to remain competitive in today’s business environment,” and adding that it creates “competitive advantages.” “Hate Crime Laws” were included in the Chamber’s 2022 Competitiveness Agenda, stating that “the General Assembly has the opportunity to unleash our state’s full potential by embracing these proposals.”

Palmetto State Watch reported recently on the Chamber’s high-powered lobbying and aggressive DEI stance.

Apart from business enterprises, well-intended but misinformed members of our community also represent a body of support for hate crimes legislation. Officials, community groups, and religious organizations have gathered as Stamp Out Hate SC led by a Steering Committee which includes the Anti-Defamation League (ADL).  Offering statements of support, these officials, community leaders, and businesses appeal to raw emotion but fail to address the unintended consequences and dangers to free speech.

For example, North Charleston Mayor Keith Summey appears to be under the impression that passage of legislation could “stamp out hate forever.” Chief Luther Reynolds, City of Charleston Police Department, “stand[s] united with a very loud voice against hate” and wants to use the law to “track, document, and codify” incidents of bias. Sheriff Leon Lott, Richland County Sheriff’s Department, finds the absence of such laws “an absolute shame.” Rep. Wendell Gillard (D), SC House of Representatives, 111th District hopes to apply stiffer penalties to send “a bold message.” Carlos Phillips, CEO, Greenville Chamber of Commerce, notes ominously and vaguely, “We may never know the true impact of which businesses never considered locating to South Carolina because of it.” Scarlett A. Wilson of the South Carolina 9th Judicial Circuit indicated that a hate crimes law would “shape attitudes,” perhaps indicating that they are intended as a form of proactive behavior modification more than anything else. According to Wilson “[h]ate crimes are message crimes” and through legislation “we must have a message of our own.” Nowhere is there evidence that additional penalties would have deterred hate crimes or that current penalties fail to suitably punish criminals.

5. Constitutional rights could be impacted. Which GOP elected officials voted for it?

Why might South Carolina’s representatives, among them elected, supposedly-conservative, GOP vote for hate crimes laws and potentially open the door to future attacks on citizens’ rights? There are myriad reasons, among them that citizens are mistaken when assuming that office holders are well-informed about the U.S. Constitution and are prepared to vigorously defend those rights while maintaining limits on governmental powers. State voting records reveal that, far too often, conservative values may not be adhered to. Citizens have forgotten their own responsibility to know their rights and then ensure that elected representatives remain opposed to government overreach. In the absence of sufficient citizen oversight, alleged conservatives remain mostly free to vote in ways that serve their own interests, even at the expense of The People.

Perhaps foremost among the reasons elected GOP vote against conservative values is that our officials are not immune to the social pressures from funders and from their own elite social circle, especially at re-election time. Citizens may imagine that, once a “conservative” or “Republican” is elected to office, he or she then acts in accordance with the generally-accepted principles and values associated with the party platform. But, generally speaking, from the moment campaign financers begin backing a candidate, a grooming process ensues, one that informs the candidate of the funders’ positions, including “correct” views that will win widespread backing and advance business and political interests. The candidate or elected official becomes part of an elite milieu in which friendships and alliances develop and a foundation for future voting is laid. Monied special interest groups train these officials through policy briefings and educational seminars, and by hosting social events which bring together up-and-coming future leaders. Through this process they may forge a consensus on issues and personal or professional alliances. Not all of these special interest groups concern themselves with the values of the voters and their families.

Here is a link to the March 8, 2023 SC House Roll Call voting record for the H3014 Clementa C. Pinckney Hate Crimes Act. 

Of the 84 “yeas,” 51 were SC House Republicans. All of the 31 “nays” were Republicans

The following GOP voted in favor of the hate crimes bill.

Yeas – 51 RepublicansExcused Absence (Republicans)Not Voting (Republicans)
Baily, William H.Johnson, Jeffrey E.Caskey, Micajah P., IV
Ballentine, NathanWhitmire, William R.Leber, Matthew W.
Bannister, Bruce W.Yow, Richard L.Thayer, Anne J.
Blackwell, Bart T.
Bradley, Jeffrey A. 
Brewer, Gary S., Jr.
Brittain, Thomas C., Jr. 
Bustos, Joseph M. 
Carter, Jerry T.
Collins, Neal A.
Connell, J. Benjamin 
Cox, Bobby J.
Cox, Brandon L.
Crawford, Heather Ammons 
Davis, Sylleste H. 
Elliott, Jason
Erickson, Shannon S. 
Gatch, Gil
Guest, Thomas Duval, Jr. 
Hager, William Winston 
Hardee, Kevin
Hartnett, Thomas F., Jr. 
Herbkersman, William G. 
Hewitt, Lee
Hixon, William M. 
Hyde, Max T., Jr.
Jordan, Wallace H., Jr. 
Landing, Kathy 
Ligon, Thomas R. 
Lowe, Phillip D. 
McGinnis, Timothy A. 
Mitchell, Cody T. 
Moore, Travis A. 
Murphy, Chris
Neese, James M. 
Newton, Brandon 
Newton, Wm. Weston J. 
Pedalino, Fawn M. 
Pope, Thomas E. 
Robbins, Robby 
Sandifer, William E., III 
Schuessler, Carla 
Sessions, Heath 
Smith, G. Murrell, Jr. 
Smith, Marvin 
Taylor, Bill
Trantham, Ashley B. 
Vaughan, David 
West, John Taliaferro, IV 
Willis, Mark N.
Wooten, Chris