Hate Crime Renews Legal Debate

Regarding your article "Do Homosexuals Need More Legal Protections" (Oct. 14): Unfortunately, long before young Matthew Shepard was murdered in Wyoming, conservative groups around the country had mobilized against hate crime laws. They base their opposition on a number of myths:

1. "Hate-crime laws apply only to 'special groups.'" Every American potentially receives protection. Hate-crime statutes criminalize acts that are committed because the victim is different from the perpetrator.

2. "Hate-crime laws violate the First Amendment." Hate-crime laws don't punish constitutionally protected free speech, only acts. Moreover, using the words of a perpetrator to establish motive is nothing new or irregular. Criminal law has always taken into account the motivation of an offender.

3. "There is no reason to increase the penalty on crimes which are already punished." Crimes motivated by hate are significantly different from other offenses, and they are far more violent.

4. "You can't legislate tolerance. Prejudice is part of human nature." Hate-crime laws send back an important message of hope and support to the victim, and a strong message to potential perpetrators that hatemongering will not be tolerated.

John Anthony Melson

Bettendorf, Iowa

I just wanted to thank you for some balanced [reporting] in "Do Homosexuals Need More Legal Protection." At a time when so much rhetoric seems to incite more polarization and violence, it is important to see that each one of us deserves respect and compassion as we learn to live our lives productively for the good of all.

Alan Colley


Feeding a famine

The article "To Feed 2.6 Million People Takes Skill in the Field, PR Back Home" (Oct. 9) [implies] Mdecins Sans Frontires/Doctors Without Borders (MSF) tries to keep other charities away from Ajiep, the village at the "epicenter" of the Sudan Famine. MSF has never denied access to other organizations that would fight the famine; nor does it have such power.

In the article an executive of UNICEF, the leading agency within Operation Lifeline Sudan, suggested that MSF would use its financial power to elbow other NGOs [nongovernmental organizations] out of Ajiep. It is medical, not monetary, vigor that drives MSF's work. MSF has advocated for more agencies to provide aid over a wider region within the Bahr el Ghazal province. We believe there are sound medical reasons for limiting the number of aid agencies working in Ajiep.

The primary reason is that starving families now walk for two to three days to Ajiep. An even larger relief hub in Ajiep will pull more people creating a greater security risk within a war zone. In addition, there is a severe shortage of both water and qualified local staff in Ajiep, making it impractical for large numbers of NGOs to congregate there. It is ironic that we are being accused of being the only medical NGO working in Ajiep, when NGOs are increasingly under scrutiny for wasteful duplication of efforts.

Antoine Gerard

New York

Program Director, Doctors Without Borders/Mdecins Sans Frontires

Breakfast with Godfrey Sperling

While I've had a basic understanding of the purpose of the Monitor's breakfast group, I'll admit I wondered who organized, scheduled, and financed those 3,000 meetings mentioned in Godfrey Sperling's column "Bacon, Eggs, and Fresh Ideas" (Oct. 13). So now I have no more questions! Thanks to Mr. Sperling for an excellent column, among many others through the years.

Richard N. Kosman

Oviedo, Fla.

The Monitor welcomes your letters and opinion articles. Because of the volume of mail, only a selection can be published, and we can neither acknowledge nor return unpublished submissions. Mail letters to 'Readers Write,' and opinion articles to Opinion Page, One Norway St., Boston, MA 02115, or fax to 617-450-2317, or e-mail to oped@csps.com

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