Nat Hentoff's "The ACLU's Forbidden Words" [op-ed, Sept. 25] rightly highlights the irony of the ACLU's Northern California chapter persuading the California Supreme Court in a recent case to authorize injunctions against forbidden racial words in the workplace. This is a ruling that provoked bitter dissents on First Amendment grounds by that court's most senior justice and its two minority women justices.

There are further ironies. John Lawrence, the employee who is the subject of the "forbidden words" injunction, is married to a Latina and was the soccer coach of the Latino employees who accused him of racially harassing comments. The harassment supposedly occurred more than seven years ago, and scarcely any of the complainants still work in Mr. Lawrence's office, yet he is forbidden in perpetuity to use any of the words outlawed by the injunction.

And the very arguments the Northern California ACLU made in support of the injunction were refuted in a brief filed with the court by the Thomas Jefferson Center for the Protection of Free Expression, which is headed by former University of Virginia president Robert O'Neil, a former member of the Northern California ACLU's own board of directors.

HANS BADER

Arlington