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Associated Press, Published January 05 2011

UPDATED: ND lawmakers dubious about vandalism as hate crime

BISMARCK (AP) — North Dakota lawmakers are doubtful about a proposal to treat vandalism as a hate crime if it's motivated by racism.

The North Dakota Senate's Judiciary Committee considered the bill Wednesday. It says it's a felony to damage property if the vandalism indicates bias based on race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, age, disability or national origin.

The proposals were drafted after vandals destroyed a Bismarck park sculpture by American Indian art students. The bill's critics say criminal punishments for vandalism should be strong enough.

Another bill would expand North Dakota's hate crimes law on assaults against people. One provision applies hate-crime reasoning to speech that harasses or frightens people.

North Dakota Catholic Conference spokesman Christopher Dodson says the provision could be used to suppress religious speech.

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press.