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Letters to the Editor

Feb. 16, 2001

Humphrey failed to get facts about YCT's position in hate crimes debate before writing column

In her recent column, Helen Humphrey criticized arguments allegedly presented by Baylor Young Conservatives of Texas (YCT) in last week's hate crimes debate between YCT and Association of Black Students. As participants in the debate, we wish to restate some of our arguments in our own words and as presented in the debate, because we believe they were mischaracterized.

First, Humphrey suggested that YCT raised a generalized free speech objection to hate crime laws. Not only was this argument not made, but YCT expressly indicated that it was not making such an argument. The true argument was that hate crime legislation punishes free thought.

While a criminal act must be committed to trigger hate crime laws, the punishment is increased because of the perpetrator's thoughts. Accordingly, the thought is implicitly being punished. As repugnant as racial bigotry is, we as a nation have chosen to allow people to hold any views they wish.

Second, according to Humphrey, YCT argued that it is impossible to discern a criminal's thoughts when he commits a crime. This is also misleading. YCT indicated that in the most infamous cases (such as the James Byrd murder), motive was obvious.

YCT argued that proving someone's subjective racial bias beyond a reasonable doubt (a very high legal standard) is often very difficult (not always impossible). If the perpetrator does not express racism, evidence of motive will be weak, and enforcement will be slipshod.

Finally, Humphrey implied that YCT's opposition to hate crime legislation is based on an alleged indifference to equal protection of the laws. YCT strongly supports equal protection but rejects the presumption that hate crime legislation strengthens equal protection. Equal protection is best served by having laws that can be enforced impartially and consistently.

To those who did not see the debate, YCT unequivocally condemns all acts of racial hatred. All crimes are acts against society and should be punished to fullest extent of the law. However, hate crime laws use a dangerous means (punishing thoughts) to accomplish a noble end (eliminating racial bias).

Matt Griffing

Law student

Joseph Keillor

Political science '02

Nathan Frazier

History '03

The Baylor Lariat editorial board did not take the time to look at the facts before it leaped to an erroneous and unfair conclusion in its Thursday editorial, 'Schools, libraries need funds more than we do.'

The editorial criticized me for a bill I recently filed concerning the elimination of sales taxes on five telephone fees.

The bill eliminates only the sales tax paid on these fees -- not the fees themselves, as was mis-reported by The Lariat. The five fees themselves, and the items they pay for, are not affected by the legislation.

In fact, one of the fees singled out by The Lariat as being 'eliminated' was actually created by a bill I authored in 1995. That fee, the Telecommunications Infrastructure Fund Assessment, makes technology grants and loans to public schools, hospitals and libraries. The fund and its mission are two of my top priorities; it is a fee I would never propose to eliminate.

In the editorial, The Lariat wrote, 'The fiscal needs of Texas' schools, libraries and health care programs cannot be over-emphasized. Texas legislators should be working to free up more funding for social programs, not trying to cut the funding from them.'

I couldn't agree with you more. But I also believe it is not fair for Texans to pay taxes on a tax.

I encourage Baylor Lariat editors and reporters to call if they ever have any questions regarding my proposals.

David Sibley

Texas state senator

(Editor's note: The Lariat regrets its mis-reporting facts in Thursday's editorial and in the sidebar that accompanied the Feb. 9 article by B.J. Goergen.)