In their stand to fight bigotry, the United States government and 47 states have passed hate crime laws. Having a hate crime law on the books protects citizens who are targeted because of their religion, race, sex, gender identity, nationality, disability, ethnicity or political affiliation.

Why do we need a hate crime law? Those who lived in South Carolina in June 2015 remember the shooting at the Mother Emmanuel Church in Charleston that killed nine parishioners. These murders were committed by a man who espoused a white supremacist ideology. He had been invited to join a Bible study group at Mother Emanuel that day; then, solely because they were Black, he later admitted, he murdered nine of the people who had welcomed him.

This is a shocking example of a hate crime.

South Carolina saw a 400% rise in hate crimes from 2016 to 2018.

As Risa Prince, president of the Lowcountry Coalition Against Hate, has said, “Those were only the reported hate crimes. We know there are many others, but without law enforcement training to identify them and a prosecutor’s ability to bring charges, they are not being investigated or reported. South Carolina needs a comprehensive law to charge individuals who commit crimes motivated by bias.”

Sadly, South Carolina remains one of three states without such a law. For more than two years, the Lowcountry Coalition Against Hate (LCAH), a non-partisan, nonprofit organization, has been working to combat hate speech and actions and promote acceptance, compassion and justice for all people.

Our coalition was founded in 2018 in response to hate speech identified during a Hilton Head Island mayoral election. Hate speech makes a community feel unsafe. It can lead to dangerous behaviors.

The coalition saw a clear need to advocate for a hate crime law. To that end, we worked hard to lobby municipalities to pass resolutions in support of such a law. The town councils of Hilton Head, Beaufort, Bluffton, Hardeeville and Port Royal did just that. Charleston and other communities across the state passed similar resolutions and local laws.

At the state level, Sen. Tom Davis and Rep. Weston Newton co-sponsored bills in 2020. Additionally, LCAH is a part of a new statewide initiative called Stamp Out Hate South Carolina. Believing in the power of numbers, this group has been encouraging individuals, organizations and faith communities, to show their support. Bills have a better chance of passing with strong citizen support.

Therefore, the Lowcountry Coalition Against Hate is urging individuals, church groups and organizations who believe that hate crimes are unacceptable, to visit the website and add their name to the call for our legislators to pass a state hate crime law in 2021.

Barbara Meyer


Lowcountry Coalition Against Hate