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Forum, April 7: Freedom of religion often threatened


Saturday, April 06, 2019
Freedom of religion often threatened

In Steve Nelson’s recent op-ed column (“Freedom of — or from — Religion?” March 17), he claims to be “unaware of any law in American history that prohibited or inhibited any American from the expression or practice of the Christian faith. Freedom of religion has never been in question.”

I’m going to give him the benefit of the doubt and say I don’t believe he’s trying to be intentionally disingenuous, but the only alternative is that he is ignoring numerous occasions in recent history when that has been the case. The First Amendment states, in part: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,” but that pertains only to federal laws, not to state or local legislation or policies that have that effect.

In the aftermath of the Obergefell v. Hodges decision, a county clerk in Kentucky, Kim Davis, was jailed for contempt when she attempted to follow her religious convictions in declining to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. If she’d sought her office after the decision it could be said she knew what she was getting into, but this was sprung on her.

In a 6-2 decision, the Supreme Court decided in Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission that the commission acted with excessive hostility toward religion.

There are dozens of instances of high school and college students being officially harassed and prevented from the free exercise of their faith on campus, and of teachers and professors being disciplined or dismissed for their faith.

It appears that institutions and government agencies tend to err on the side of “separation of church and state,” aided by such organizations as ACLU, the American Atheist Association and the Freedom from Religion Foundation. The renowned atheist Madalyn Murray O’Hair stated that she wanted to be able to walk down any street in America and not see a cross or other sign of religion.

Clearly it would appear that the deck is stacked in favor of freedom from religion. So freedom of religion is in question.

WILLIAM A. WITTIK

Hartford

Shoppers will adjust to bag bans

There is a movement in New England by merchants to eliminate single-use plastic bags at their check-out stations. As consumers, we accepted the handy convenience of plastic bags, learning later that many will end up in the landfill, or worse, in our oceans and forests. Some merchants are eliminating plastic bags because they know it will be mandated and some because it’s the right thing to do.

It comes as no surprise that there is pushback to this change. The suggestion that paper bags be offered at a cost of 10 cents per bag is viewed as an outrage and inconvenience.

In years past, during vacations on the island of Maui, we would volunteer for the Pacific Whale Foundation to clean up a beach, documenting each item picked up. In addition to cigarette butts, plastic bottles and beer caps, we counted plastic bag after plastic bag. We saw plastic bags hanging in trees, blowing in the wind and stuck in bushes — soon to land in the Pacific Ocean. In 2011, we learned that plastic bags were no longer permitted and that there was a charge of 10 cents per paper bag. We got it. That was the year we added to our reusable bags at home and purchased reusable shopping bags embellished with Hawaiian designs. Our souvenirs were shopping totes. It was also the year we added reusable bags to our packing list for vacations. They take up little space, weigh practically nothing and we are happy to do the right thing.

I suspect that shoppers will adjust quickly by keeping reusable bags in their cars, or in a convenient place at home, and decline any bag for small purchases. The environment will be better off when they do.

JANE TAYLOR

Grantham

Democrat men should step aside

If liberal men really believe in gender equity, if Democrat men truly believe in gender equity, then they will all stop running for political office. All of them. They will step back and shut up.

Seriously. Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders and Beto O’Rourke and all other men who claim a belief in gender equality need to defer. I mean, haven’t we men messed things up quite enough? Amazingly, patriarchy has been internalized to such a degree that men like Joe Biden somehow still believe they need to be in charge, that Elizabeth Warren or Kamala Harris somehow couldn’t do the job. You want to make a real difference, Bernie? You want to be a true progressive, Beto? You want to do something actually meaningful, Joe? Step back and shut up.

DAN WEINTRAUB

Quechee

What kind of country are we?

Just when you thought that Betsy DeVos, President Donald Trump’s smirking, condescending, destroy-public-schools-at-every-opportunity education secretary was the clear winner of the “Cruella de Vil Award” for trying for the third time to eliminate more than $17 million in federal support for the Special Olympics, comes the Trump administration’s latest proposal to institute a work requirement for Medicaid recipients. That’s right. Let’s make the oldest, sickest, poorest and least able work for their pittance.

I’m picturing my terminally ill mother, a Medicaid recipient at the end of her life, looking through the Help Wanted ads in the local paper. I would encourage everyone to read, re-read and save Ann McFeatters recent op-ed column in the Valley News (“America, it’s time to correct our mistakes,” March 25), which asks us to “figure out what kind of country we want the United States to be.”

Leadership starts at the top. How about a work requirement for the president?

CURT ALBEE

South Strafford