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Hate-crime legislation

August 27, 2007

Re "The Gospel and hate crimes," Opinion, Aug. 23

Opposition to the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2007 by conservative African American pastors contributes to the reality that new cases of HIV infection and AIDS are increasing most rapidly among young African American and Hispanic women. A contributor to this awful circumstance is the fact that so many black women are having sex with either intravenous drug users or with men who have sex with other men. Spewing hateful sermons about homosexuality makes it impossible for the African American community to come to terms with this latter phenomenon, thereby jeopardizing black women.

It is time for black religious leaders to act as leaders and fearlessly face the facts that such hateful talk is killing their women. They need to initiate a frank and open discussion of sexually transmitted diseases and get off the dangerous misinterpretation of Scripture.

Robert B. Harris

Lancaster

Although I define myself as a progressive, I deeply disagree with the logic and legality of hate-crime legislation. One U.S. Supreme Court decision does not resolve the issue for all time. To penalize criminal activity because we disapprove of the opinion of the perpetrator is to penalize freedom of thought, which is a right clearly protected by the 1st Amendment.

We are now straying into strange territory indeed, where we ask a jury to determine the motivation of a perpetrator and then decide that some types of hatred make a crime more heinous than others.

A man who decides to beat up his neighbor because his neighbor plays his radio too loudly is just as heinous as one who decides to do it because his neighbor is black. What was done to Matthew Shepard was horrible. It would have been horrible if the guys had done it to a young girl as well. Friends of free speech should be fighting this legislation.

Erica Hahn

Huntington Beach

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