Students gathered to fight for their rights and take a stand against violence, according to a CD handed out at the Religion Week event Wednesday in the Marvin Center.
Four speakers from organizations committed to stopping hate crimes discussed a growing national trend and ways to curb the violence with about 40 students.
Michael Liberman of the Washington Council for the Anti-Defamation League spoke about the role religion plays in many hate crimes. He said Congress should pass the Hate Crimes Act, which would expand federal authority in dealing with violence associated with race, origin, religion and sexual orientation.
The bill would help to eliminate people opposing others because of their sexual orientation, Liberman said. He said he wants to halt the 14 percent increase of hate crimes during the past year that were committed because of someone’s sexual orientation.
Joe Melekui, executive director of the Philippines Association, said he wants to promote the welfare of Filipinos in the United States. He said Americans need a wake-up call, saying that Jews continue to be victims of hate crimes.
Hate kills people as much as guns do, he said.
Strengthened hate crime laws would send a message that people who commit hate crimes have no place in American society, he said.
In addition, Brady Russel, the national field director of the Interfaith Alliance, discussed his efforts to promote religion in communities. He began a program recently to bring people together to speak about hate crimes and faith.
Steven Wok of the American Civil Liberties Union said he finds hateful speeches, groups and people offensive. An advocate of the First Amendment, Wok said he believes in free speech, but only to a certain extent.
People have a right to hold opinions about others, but they do not have a right to act on these opinions, he said.