Letters to the editor - Monday (3-18-2013)
Government prayer isn’t private prayer
For over a year, Rowan commissioners have defied federal law. In February 2012, they were informed of the results of a federal case in Forsyth County that prohibited government invocations from including words like “in Jesus’ name.” While other counties and cities changed their prayers or instituted a moment of silence, Rowan commissioners continued to act as if the law did not apply to them.
Spoken by government officials, “In Jesus’ name” or similar words are more than an expression of faith. They say, “We the government favor the Christian faith over all others.” Commissioners failed to consider that faith-based words spoken as government representatives raise doubts about their fairness to all citizens.
I support the three concerned citizens who are taking the commissioners to court. They stand for fairness and against bias in our government. They are champions of equal justice for all.
This suit is not about private prayer, prayer in church or theological principles in everyday affairs. It is not about commissioners praying in Jesus’ name in church or in their homes. It is about prayers favoring one belief system over another inside the halls of government. That form of prayer is governed by the First Amendment, which protects religious liberty for all by prohibiting a government establishment of religion. Commissioners have consistently tried to tear down that wall separating religion and government and favored one set of beliefs over another.
Expect Rowan to lose this fight. The matter of appropriate legislative prayer has been settled. Even if you do not agree that “in Jesus’ name” is inappropriate for a government-led invocation, the courts have decided. After Forsyth lost its case in the lower courts and the Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal, they wrote a check for $250,000 to the attorneys for the winning side. Expect that to happen in Rowan if the commissioners fail to realize the negative impact their biased words have on Rowan citizens.
I appeal to all those who value the separation of church and state to speak out on this issue.
— Pete Prunkl
Interpreting the Scriptures
In response to the letter “What a Bible verse tells us about prayer” (March 14), one must understand that when we pray, we are honoring God through Jesus Christ. When Jesus talks about going into your room, closing the door and praying in secret, he does not mean in some dark closet or basement. What is meant here is that your mind is the secret place, and when you pray, you should put all thoughts out of your mind and pray to our father who is in heaven. Let’s go back to the Bible and read Matthew 10:32. My Bible says, and this is written in red, “Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men, him I confess also before my Father which is in heaven.” I prefer pleasing God and Jesus above all.
— Robert Dry
Board should respect all citizens
In regards to the ACLU suit over prayer at Rowan County Board of Commissioners meetings, I fully support the plaintiffs and hope the commissioners will respect both the law and the citizens of Rowan County by discontinuing this practice.
Sectarian prayer at meetings for a government body representing all citizens of Rowan County is unnecessary and inappropriate. The line between the Jeffersonian “wall of separation between church and state” is crossed when elected officials call upon others to rise for sectarian prayer while conducting county business, and it can be unnecessarily divisive. Commissioners are free to pray privately, but they should not conduct sectarian worship at meetings where they are doing the business of all of the people of Rowan County. Nonbelievers or citizens of other faiths may feel unwelcome and made to feel their elected representatives value one set of beliefs over others.
Lending the power of the office to one sect of religious beliefs is contrary to America’s founding, which was in part by refugees seeking freedom from government sanctioning of specific religious beliefs. Government representatives, in words or action, should not be seen as telling the citizens they represent which church to support, what religious rituals to engage in or what to believe or disbelieve.
I hope the commissioners will respect all of the citizens of Rowan County by discontinuing this practice. If they choose to go to court, the commissioners who refuse to comply, and not taxpayer money, should foot the bill.
— Rod Goins
There’s no violation of Constitution
OK, Here is the First Amendment of the Bill of Rights:
“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”
Where does it say that officials cannot pray in the name of Jesus? The amendment says they cannot make any laws respecting an establishment of religion. This separation of church and state does not actually appear anywhere in the Constitution. This phrase comes from a letter that Thomas Jefferson wrote to the Danbury Baptists. It states, “I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should ‘make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,’ thus building a wall of separation between Church & State.”
It meant that the U.S. doesn’t have a one government church like in England. So enough is enough. Pray on, commissioners!
— Aaron Lawing
I’ll keep standing with plaintiffs
I have literally stood with Nan Lund, Bob Voelker and Liesa Montag-Siegel, not just behind them, since last March at county commission meetings, and I thank them for asking the ACLU to defend them.
Government-led prayer is a violation on two levels. First, it violates the Establishment Clause as it has been interpreted by the courts for over 60 years. As I wrote in a My Turn article last March, in Everson (1947) Justice Black stated, “In the words of Jefferson, the clause against establishment of religion by law was intended to erect ‘a wall of separation between Church and State’.” Justice Black also stated in McCollum (1948), “The First Amendment rests upon the premise that both religion and government can best work to achieve their lofty aims if each is left free from the other within its respective sphere.”
The second violation is that it is an open defiance of the law, specifically, the ruling in Joyner v. Forsyth County (2011).
It is not too much to ask that our elected officials at the national, state, county and city level (including the School Board) follow the laws that they took an oath to uphold. Following the law is the ethical minimum that we as their constituents should expect and demand, in this specific case, of our county commissioners.
The Constitution calls on no higher power than “We the People.”
— Blaine Gorney
Weapons ban could have dire consequences
Sen. Diane Feinstein’s so-called “Assault Weapons Bill” made it out of committee last week. The legislation attempts to judge which firearms should be classified as assault weapons by listing specific brand names and models. It also lists over 2,000 firearms as exempt. At some future point, it would be a simple matter for a bureaucrat to move a weapon from the exempt list to the banned list.
After reading the proposed bill it became obvious the people who wrote it do not understand firearms. For example, AR-15 rifles are listed as assault rifles while the Ruger Mini 14 is exempt. I have personally fired both of these rifles on multiple occasions. They are both semiautomatic, fire the same ammunition, and may use high capacity magazines of 30 rounds or more. The difference is that one looks like an M16 used by the U.S. military and the other does not.
Unfortunately, many citizens and politicians have gained their firearms knowledge from Hollywood. They do not understand that the M16 is a machine gun regulated since 1934. Should we trust politicians to tell us which firearms are acceptable, when they lack a basic understanding of their capabilities?
Should we trust politicians to regulate all sales and register the names and addresses of all gun owners in this nation? During my lifetime, gun owners in Britain, Australia and Canada have learned that registration leads to confiscation. They are now warning us the same could happen here. Our nation was born after our ancestors tried to stop government soldiers from confiscating firearms. The Federalist Papers did not discuss hunting as a reason for arming the people.
Over 100 million human beings were murdered by their own governments during the 20th century. Firearms confiscation by politicians turned millions of citizens into victims of genocide.
— Joe Teeter
Modern Bread Riot supports sustainable food
A local non-profit adopted the name Bread Riot to honor the spirit of these brave women seeking to provide nutritious meals to their families so many years ago. Today’s Bread Riot uses non-violent means to spread the message of supporting local, sustainable agriculture.
While much has changed since the desperate days of the Civil War, the motivation behind today’s Bread Riot has a common thread. Underlying both Riots is the need for a steady supply of healthy food not subject to price disruptions created in far-off lands, i.e. gas prices caused by turmoil in the Middle East. We invite you to visit Rowan’s modern Bread Riot at www.breadriot.org to learn more about our group, programs, and upcoming events.
— Bread Riot Board of Directors
Junior Firefighters definitely pass muster
This past Saturday, the Miller’s Ferry Junior Firefighters joined others at the Stony Hill Department in Bethel for a muster (competition).
These are 14-18-year-olds training to become volunteer firefighters. This is a job that offers no pay but allows them to handle medical calls in the middle of the night, horrible crash scenes and dangerous fires. The competition at these events is always fierce, but the most coveted prize is the Sportsmanship Award, not the mental or physical tests. Fraternity is everything.
Far too often, the news of the day portrays the modern teen in a negative way. Silently, there are those who choose a higher calling and go unrecognized.
— John Ernst