It is hard to understand how Richard Cohen does not see the significance of the reasons for an attack when considering the severity of the punishment (“Hate crime laws penalize speech and thought,” Aug. 22).
His assertion that “making hate a crime reflects the political power of the injured groups — gays, Jews, women, blacks, etc.” is offensive to any group who has been through a period in which they lived with continuous fear because they were attacked based on only ignorance and hate.
Genocides such as the Holocaust and the ones in Bosnia and Rwanda are so frightening because those killed were killed due to one fact only: that they were of a certain religious, ethnic or racial background.
Yes, it is a crime to commit any assault or murder. But just as an accused is able to use the defense of extenuating circumstances to receive a less severe punishment, there must be hate crime laws that require greater punishment when the main reason for the crime is hatred toward a certain group. Only then will a punishment not only fit the thought behind a crime, but also the crime itself.