Five years on, hate-crimes panel still dormant

March 2, 2011 (CHICAGO)

In this Intelligence Report: The State of Illinois is still without a hate crimes commission.

Even though the Illinois hate crimes commission is mandated by state law, it has vanished. There are no members, no meetings, no new hate crimes laws being generated, and no work with community groups or local law enforcement agencies. It exists in name only, and trying to get answers as to why was as difficult today as finding any trace of the commission itself.

Back in 2006, Illinois' hate crime commission was fully staffed and the 21-member board had been fully filled out by Governor Rod Blagojevich-- until affiliation of one Blagojevich appointee became known.

Sister Claudette Marie Muhammad was an official of the Nation of Islam, whose leader, Minister Louis Farrakhan, had given a speech in March of 2006 that critics said was anti-Semitic, including a reference to America being run by "the synagogue of Satan."

"For those who try to condemn me because of the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan's's absolutely ridiculous," Sister Claudette said in March 2006.

When Sister Claudette declined to disavow Farrakhan's comments Jewish members of the commission began quitting -- beginning with Anti-Defamation League Director Lonnie Nasatir -- five years ago today.

In short order, everyone deserted the hate crimes panel.

Earlier this week, when the I-Team checked the commission's website, it showed vacancy after vacancy. Governor Pat Quinn is now in charge of making appointments to the commission. Only after the I-Team began asking Quinn's office questions was the direct link to the hate crime commission page removed from the state's website.

A spokesman for the governor told the I-Team Wednesday that the commission has not been budgeted for 2011 and the executive director is fulfilling another state function until board members can be appointed. But it is unclear when or if that will happen.

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