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Letters to the Editor

Atheist Hate Crime Indeed!
(Re: "Atheist Hate Crime?" HNN Apr. 11, 2007)

A premeditated act of violence against a person because of their creed IS a hate crime. If the same thing happened to a Muslim or a Christian it would be considered as such; why should our creed have a different weight in the minds of religious people or the law?

I've long been afraid to speak of my beliefs for fear of just such an action. I've been slowly explaining my opinions on the subject to friends slowly (who are often baffled, having never considered a viewpoint that is content with not having the answers to the universe) because I don't want to inspire the kind of snap judgments that lead to hate or violence.

I have been successful in keeping all of my friends (in a very Christian community) and I hope that this is a sign of things to come. I will keep telling others about my beliefs, because reading articles such as those from HNN has shown me how critical it is. We must tell others that we are here and that our voices must be respected if any of us wish to live in a free society.

--Linda, Holloman Air Force Base, N.M.

As I understand it, a hate crime is one in which the assailantís prime motivation is to punish an individual for some identifiable aspect of the victimís individuality (e.g., race, sex, ethnicity, sexuality, religion or lack thereof, etc.) separate from whatever other crime (e.g., robbery, rape, etc.) is committed.

While naysayers argue that "all crimes are hate crimes" and, as such, there is no real distinction, the fact is that the motivation of the assailants are different. In a hate crime the assailantís motivation, beyond the immediate gratification of the assault, robbery, rape or other crime against the victim, is not limited to just the attack on the proximate victim but is, by extension of the terror of the crime, an attack on the entire group of individuals who share that characteristic.

Thus, a hate crime is, in actuality, an act of intimidation against an entire segment of society whose shared characteristic makes them identifiable and represses them by fear of violence. It is, therefore, an attack on First Amendment freedom of speech and freedom of association, and is, in turn, an attack upon the fundamental principles of democracy.

--Rael Nidess, M.D., Marshall, TX

Personally, I think the whole concept of "hate crimes" is unnecessary. Assault is assault, murder is murder. Why add this easily abused notion on top?

Having said that, as hate crimes are defined, this attack was undeniably a hate crime.

--Mark Wilson, Rochester, N.Y.

I definitely think that this was a hate crime against an atheist. It s really quite simple; a hate crime is a hate crime.

If the same sort of thing had happened to a Black person who was putting up posters for a African American-oriented event and two White men beat him after having verbally assaulted him, even without the 20 minutes in between, it would have been labeled a hate crime instantly.

--Okomo Mba-Madja, Alexandria, VA

The Canadian Context
(Re: "Should Immigrants Have Rules...?" HNN Apr. 4, 2007)

I usually don't respond to letters prompted by my articles, but just to clarify, my article, was written in the Canadian context where women do have redress under our Charter of Rights and Freedom when they feel discriminated against. Female genital mutilation is illegal here, too. So, imperfections of enforcement notwithstanding, we don t need special local ordinances to control problems in these areas.

--Doug Thomas, Elmira, Ontario

Male Circumcision: A Method of HIV Prevention? NO!
(Re: "Male Circumcision: A Method of HIV Prevention?" HNN Apr. 11, 2007)

Ana Lita overlooks the ethical issues around infant circumcision. They are actually very similar to the issues involved in religious indoctrination of children. Indeed, the effects are more permanent. A recent study shows circumcision removes the most sensitive part of the penis (as most intact men know).

The claims of HIV prevention are still dubious. The African tests, though random and controlled, were far from double-blind and all were cut short when the results seemed promising. They offer no protection to women (the worst hit by AIDS in Africa) and by making men feel protected, may further disempower women.

--Hugh, New Zealand

This article highlights controversies surrounding this issue but misses some key points. For example:

Americans overwhelmingly agree that female "circumcision" is an atrocity. How can we expect Africans to stop mutilating female genitalia while we simultaneously advocate mutilating male genitalia?

The notion that circumcision "prevents" HIV transmission is highly controversial. In fact, scientific studies were stopped prematurely because early results were promising (an example of bad science). This article treats the issue as though there is consensus in the scientific community, which is not true.

Unprotected sex is risky behavior, whether a male is circumcised or not. At best circumcision will reduce overall mortality in a population, or will it? Might circumcision create a false sense of security, resulting in even more risky behavior and resistance to the use of condoms?

Why does civilized society still promote the bloody and painful practice of genital mutilation? (Babies unanimously oppose circumcision.) We need to overcome ideological initiatives by conservative Christians to impede the promotion and use of condoms in Africa. Letís put our money and effort into this humane non-invasive solution that is proven to work, and abandon forever the brutal Old Testament practice of male circumcision.

--Stu Tanquist, Burnsville, MN

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