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A Hate crime is a sub-classification of criminal activity that involves another level of antisocial activity beyond the initial action, namely intimidation, fear and impending persecution of people by class, race, or some other status.
Motivation is important. Hate crimes are aimed not at a single person, but at a community. A person who commits a hate crime is hoping to ...influence an entire community. For example, when KKK lynched black people, they hoped to drive them out and to keep them meek and suppressed if they didn't leave. Hate crime legislation put an extra weight on this kind of crime, because it wasn't a crime against an individual. The individual was an example to the entire community with a message like "See what happens when you're black? You could be next."
To most sane and rational people, motivations definitely matter. Someone who plans to assassinate someone is not in the same league as someone who accidentally pushes the wrong button on some machine and ends up killing a person. This is why manslaughter is not the same as murder. Crimes are not just functional. Crimes have a moral dimension. If the person was morally straight when producing a bad result, it's seen as an accident and is punished less severely.
Now, what is and is not moral, that's really a separate question. Should religions dictate morality? Absolutely not! I consider Abrahamic religions specifically to be highly immoral. But when you reject religion, you must not throw away the baby with the bathwater. Morality matters. Intention matters hugely.
And hate crimes are very different from ordinary crimes. In an ordinary crime, you want to harm an individual. In a hate crime, your intended victim is a certain type of people and the individual is just an example of that type.
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