Currently, South Carolina is one of three states with no hate crime law. In 2020, the Sikh Coalition sent a letter of support for House Bill 4680, which would enforce penalty enhancements for certain crimes, including hate crimes. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the legislative session and this bill did not move forward.
In 2021, the Sikh Coalition joined Stamp Out Hate, a coalition of organizations working to build support for a hate crime bill in South Carolina. The coalition asked for a bill containing criminal penalty enhancement, sentencing increase guidelines, institutional vandalism statutes, a statewide data collection system, mandatory hate crime reporting to the FBI, law enforcement training mandates, and inclusion of explicit protected classes.
Stamp Out Hate supported House Bill 3620, the Clementa C. Pinckney Hate Crimes Act. This critical piece of legislation provides more penalties for crimes committed because of an individual’s belief or perception of the victim’s race, color, religion, sex, gender, national origin, sexual orientation, physical or mental disability, age, political opinion, or individual’s political opinion. While the bill did not pass in the Senate, the Stamp Out Hate coalition is planning a strategy for the next legislative session.
Hate crimes have deep, lasting effects on Sikhs and other targeted groups. As members of a religious minority who have been frequently targeted in violent attacks, often motivated by bias, we remain deeply concerned about how bias, bigotry and the resulting backlash impact all of our communities.
The Sikh Coalition has advocated for better hate crime reporting and victim support services since our founding in the aftermath of 9/11. To address these long standing challenges that Sikhs and other vulnerable communities face, the Sikh Coalition will continue working with coalition partners and lawmakers to bring forward a hate crime law in South Carolina.
Why It Matters
It has now been more than four years since the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church shooting in Charleston, South Carolina. The Clementa C. Pinckney Hate Crimes Act, House Bill 3620, was named in honor of State Senator and pastor Clementa C. Pinckney who was killed in the shooting where a white supremacist killed nine Black people in a prayer meeting. For vulnerable communities to be adequately protected, it is essential for each state to have comprehensive hate crime legislation.
This legislation will have an immediate impact for vulnerable communities and serves as a milestone for South Carolina after many years of effort and many versions of hate crime legislation that languished. The Sikh Coalition will continue to work with South Carolina lawmakers and coalition partners to bring forward solutions and legislation to address hate.