Giving Atheists a Bad Name

Your July 12 news story "Path of California Hate Crimes Led to Strictly Reared Brothers" described the World Church of the Creator as an "atheist" group.

This is an insult to the more than 25 million Americans who are atheists. There is nothing remotely similar between atheism and this goofy outfit. Not only does this group describe itself as a "church"; its leader, Matthew Hale, uses the title "Pontifex Maximum." Although the group claims to reject the Christian religion, much of its ideology is remarkably similar to Christian Identity, a theological system that teaches racial hatred and a fantasy version of human history.

Rejection of Christianity is not tantamount to being an atheist. Atheists have labored for the separation of church and state, defended other important civil liberties and human rights and work to promulgate a rational view of the universe and humanity's role in it.

-- Ellen Johnson

The writer is president of American Atheists Inc.

Case Crusader

The front-page saga "Verdict: The Defense Doesn't Rest On" [July 3] about attorney Michelle Roberts disturbed me. A sober jury convicted her client of murder on the evidence -- the victim was shot in back of head -- notwithstanding the attorney's flamboyant legal strutting.

A jury free to deliver justice and not hung up by intimidation or manipulation tactics played out daily by attorney and thug alike in the District was good news. Yet the article paints the attorney as a crusader for those murderers who don't get treated right by the legal system.

-- Cheryl Ashton

A Wee Eire

Ireland is small enough without your editors making it five times smaller, as the map scale on Page A17 of your July 3 edition does. Surely some of your proofreaders took geography in school.

-- John Hickey

Pop Quiz

In the July 8 Style section, Sharon Waxman describes Ricky Martin as a "salsa-swinger." Ricky Martin does not have any "salsa" on his album; his music is mostly pop.

Before throwing around terms, reporters may want to research the differences among salsa, merengue, mambo, cha-cha, etc. Ricky Martin and Jennifer Lopez are not "Latin Sensations," only decent singers. Be aware that you are offending the soon-to-be largest ethnic group on the planet.

-- Jennifer Speulstra

Taiwan Machine

John Pomfret's July 3 news story on James Soong ["Democratic Reformer Jolts Taiwanese Politics"] tarnished your paper's reputation on Taiwan, where I live. Soong has never been a supporter of democratic reform. During his tenure in the cabinet, he headed the ministry responsible for control of information. Soong shut down opposition newspapers, harassed individuals who criticized the government, smeared dissidents and in general suppressed free thought and dissent in every form.

His recent criticism of the Taiwan government is tactical, related to his desire to become president. He has never spoken out in favor of democratic reform here in either the society or within the ruling party, and is not known as a reformer. His reputation here is one of a tireless greaser of palms, a typical, if highly successful, machine politician.

-- Michael A. Turton

Male Stats, Please

It seems that we are still playing the blame game. I found an example in the article titled "For Better or Worse, Marriage Hits a Low" on the front page of your July 2 issue. How many times do alert readers see articles about virgin women and teenage girls who have a child out of wedlock that fail to include statistics for fathers? Such incomplete stories suggest that virgin males and the (mostly) older men who are impregnating underage girls are not newsworthy. Your paper should report the sexual activity among males.

-- Kristen L. Mosbaek

Girls in Trouble

Laura Sessions Stepp's otherwise eye-opening piece on oral sex in middle schools [front page, July 8] leaves out an important piece of information that is critical for understanding this behavior: To what extent is the gratification mutual?

If -- as I strongly suspect -- the fad primarily involves girls performing oral sex on boys, and not vice versa, then one would have to look at the girls' self-image as a motivating factor. Girls who perform oral sex without expecting anything in return (witness the Monica Lewinsky saga) are not simply looking for ways to enjoy sex without worrying about pregnancy. They are seeking male affirmation and approval by degrading and debasing themselves -- and it is this low self-esteem, not just the physical and emotional dangers of sex at a young age -- that demands attention.

-- Diana Lynn