Salt Lake Mayor Deedee Corradini and Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, co-starred in the Senate Tuesday with Oscar-winning filmmaker Steven Spiel-berg.
With all the cameras, reporters and crowds of a Hollywood premiere, they joined forces at a Senate Judiciary subcommittee hearing to promote ways to reduce hate crimes against racial, ethnic, religious and other groups.Spielberg provided drama (and crowds) with tales about results of his holocaust movie, "Schindler's List"; Corradini told how mayors nationwide are fighting hate crimes; and Hatch asked for more help in collecting statistics about them.
Spielberg said hate crimes worldwide are escalating not just because of misunderstandings between cultures but because the media provide more information about other cultures than ever.
"What's missing, I believe, is a moral force: the innate ability to tell the difference between right and wrong," he said.
He said a way to restore that is to help people empathize with victims of hate crime by seeing them personally and up close through tools such as "Schindler's List" - which he first felt few people would be willing to see because of the pain it projects.
"How would I have felt standing naked in front of an armed SS officer being forced to dig a pit that I knew would be my grave?" he said. "Empathy is a required element of morality. . . . That emotion needs to be cultivated among our children and ourselves."
He said numerous letters from students show they are receiving the message that crimes against any minority are wrong, "and their pain is our pain."
Hatch said a necessary part of building awareness is collecting accurate information on hate crimes in America. A bill he and Sen. Paul Simon, D-Ill., passed in 1990 has the FBI collect such information - if states and cities voluntarily submit it.
Simon complained that 10 states - including California - do not yet provide it, and he implored for more cooperation. The FBI testified that even incomplete information shows 7,684 hate crimes were committed last year.
Hatch said crimes are being committed against almost all groups imaginable and even said members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are no exception.
"To members of my church, who yesterday marked the 150th anniversary of the assassination of our Prophet Joseph Smith, an assassination born of fanatical hatred and bigotry - desecration of our temples is a continuing reminder of that hatred," he said.
Corradini, representing the U.S. Conference of Mayors, said cities are trying to help. She said a study two years ago showed 71 percent of the nation's cities had begun to report hate crime data to the FBI, and about half had adopted policies to make response to hate crimes a high priority.
She added, "The Conference of Mayors believes that mayors and other government officials should actively oppose, in word and deed, expressions of racism, anti-Catholicism, anti-Semitism, homo-pho-bia and other forms of bigotry."
Corradini said the group also has said candidates for public offices should not make any appeals to such prejudice and should immediately repudiate any group "which appeals to prejudice based on race, religion, gender, national origin or sexual preference."