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EDITORIAL: War against hate

They came to the home turf of the one of the few politicians in Queens to pressure state Sen. Frank Padavan (R-Bellerose) into supporting the hate crimes bill. At a meeting in Glen Oaks, they came with a host of local politicians all ready to speak out in favor of this ill-fated bill. And they came with nothing new to say.

One after another, the politicians stood up to call for an end to hatred. City Comptroller Alan Hevesi argued that "the last place that bigotry should be allowed to flourish is New York City." A representative of the Queens Chapter of the Parents, Friends and Families of Lesbians and Gays said "our task for the 21st century is to stop the hate and stop the violence."

But no one could explain how the hate crimes bill was going to stop people from hating and no one could cite a single act of hatred in the borough of Queens that was not already punishable under existing law.

In part, the real purpose of the hate crimes bill is to make a statement against intolerance. That is indeed a worthy goal, but it cannot be achieved through legislation. Such hatred is rooted in ignorance and fear. The state cannot outlaw the darkness in the human heart. This is the challenge of our schools, churches and synagogues, not the mandate of our courts.

To make their case, the proponents of this legislation like to trot out the families of people who were violently assaulted because of their race, religion or sexual orientation. In almost every case, the people responsible for the assault were arrested, tried and convicted. The hate crimes bill would do nothing to stem the stupid thinking that led to these assaults, because thoughts, however vile, are not criminal acts.

In recent weeks, we have seen scattered acts of hatred. These include racist graffiti and an occasional swastika, like the one painted on the walls of the Whitestone Ambulance squad. Is this the work of serious neo-Nazis or the foolish act of a troubled teenager who only partly understands the meaning of this hateful symbol? If the people responsible are arrested, do we really want the courts to waste valuable time trying to decide if the people doing this acted out of hate?

While his fellow politicians pander to the hate crimes crowd, we applaud Senator Padavan for standing on principle. Padavan has never hesitated to tell the emperor that he is buck naked even while others pretend to enjoy the parade.

Worth the risk

The Board of Education had the best of intentions when it placed a filter on the computers at Cardozo High School that restricted Internet access. The purpose was to protect the students from exposure to hate groups, chat room perverts and pornographic images. But these filters also blocked access to a host of valuable websites.

Students found themselves unable to enter sites such as Planned Parenthood and the National Rifle Association. As a research tool, the Internet was neutered. We don't relish the thought of adolescents using Cardozo computers to access the rantings of the skin heads or endless pages of porn. But we also know that the Internet can also provide access to a nearly infinite supply of information on almost any subject.

The value of the Internet as an educational tool outweighs the considerable risks - at least for students at the high school level.

We hope that the Board of Education will come to agree with us and will remove the filters from high school computers. This does not mean that the schools have no right to monitor the use of its computers. Students found abusing the privilege could be barred from using the computers.

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