Friday, December 27, 2019

No wonder people doubt the justice of the justice system. . .

A month or so ago a man was sentenced to more than 15 years in prison for burning an LGBTQ flag that was flying at a church in central Iowa.  Note this.  He burned a flag.  It happened in Iowa (not in California).  As far as the story goes, the flag was certainly wounded by his actions but no people were.  Because it was not just your ordinary rainbow flag, because it was the LGBTQ flag, the act rose to a hate crime (which has always been confusing to me since nearly every crime committed is committed in hate!).  And the sentenced meted out by the halls of justice was more than many have received for committing bodily harm, physical assault, and even murder.

Adolfo Martinez, 30, of Ames, was sentenced Wednesday to 15 years for the hate crime of arson, as well as a year for the reckless use of explosives or fire, and 30 days for harassment. The sentences are to be served consecutively, Story County court records show.  A jury convicted Martinez in November. He was arrested in June. Martinez said he tore down the flag that had been hanging from the United Church of Christ in Ames and burned it because he opposes homosexuality.

Now if he had burned an American flag, it would have been protected free speech.  If he had burned a Christian flag, it would have been within his right according to the freedom of religion.  But it appears that certain groups and certain rights trump all others.  His crime of hate is deserving of only the stiffest of sentences the law allows.

Let me be clear.  I do not condone his actions.  I never condone violence and burning anything in anger is, well, violent.  But what I do not get and what seems entirely disproportionate is the sentence he received for his violent act that, apparently, did not directly threaten anyone.

Both congregations I have served have been broken into and damage done but police cautioned that it was hard to convict, the criminals probably had other arrests and warrants out on them, and we would not recover anything from the criminal anyway so. . . forgive and forget.   But it would seem that this church got other advice and did not drop it.  I don't wish anyone harm but I wonder about what qualifies as justice in this whole thing.  I also wonder how this happened in Iowa, in the heart of the Midwest, once known for its even handed temperament, its willingness to let bygones be bygones, and its conservative values.  Perhaps the Missouri River has grown wider and divides more than land since I grew up just west of the great aquatic border in Nebraska.

I did not post this right away because, to be honest, I thought it was fake news.

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