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    Letters to the Editors

    Avoid simplistic assessments of war

    © St. Petersburg Times
    published April 7, 2002

    Re: Religion at risk of losing its moral authority, March 24.

    Philip Gailey writes that some church leaders are morally confused because they fail to give unqualified support to the war on terrorism. He commends the Southern Baptist Convention for its "unreserved support" and the Roman Catholic bishops for invoking "just war" teachings (which are full of nuanced conditions about engaging in war) to justify our war against "mass terrorism."

    Gailey ironically, has no room for nuance. He excoriates the Episcopal bishops for raising issues about the root causes (hunger, poverty) of anger directed against the United States. He criticizes the Rev. Vernon Broyles, a Presbyterian staffer, for urging us to be self-critical as we respond to the unspeakable atrocities of Sept. 11.

    I wish Gailey had read Broyles' article instead of quoting the typically hysterical characterizations of the Institute of Religion and Democracy. If he had, he would have noted Broyles' effort to apply an honored theological position to our crisis.

    Broyles wrote that our "war" is with evil, not with terrorists. The doctrine of sin always challenges our temptation to use simplistic and triumphal slogans as we engage current manifestations of evil, no matter how heinous.

    Reinhold Niebuhr, a Christian realist of note, wrote that the doctrine of sin calls us to see our participation in that evil we hate in others. The Rev. Broyles renewed that call in his thoughtful piece, "War, Terrorism and the Search for Peace."

    Since Vietnam, patriotism and self-criticism have been necessary, if uncomfortable, partners. Long before Vietnam, Christians found their moral authority in him who taught us to be critical of all worldly powers, including religion, the state and the Fourth Estate.
    -- The Rev. Dr. Harold M. Brockus, Pinellas Park

    Defend the Constitution

    Re: Remember the terrorists, letter, March 31.

    As usual, some critics of Robyn Blumner have jumped on the bandwagon driven by federal ideologues bent on enacting their brand of justice regardless of whether it is constitutionally sound.

    No, Blumner and most of those who agree with her critique on President Bush and Attorney General Ashcroft have not "forgotten" the events of Sept. 11. Rather, we are determined that subsequent efforts to properly bring the perpetrators of the crime to justice respect critical American due process of law.

    The actions of the Justice Department since Sept. 11 are fast becoming a danger that is far more destructive to the future of our country than the combined damage done by the four hijacked jetliners. If Bush's actions are not challenged and properly reversed, the resulting precedent dooms our generation and those of our children to life in a police state.

    President Bush would sure like to have Americans fall in lockstep behind his shredding of the Constitution, thus his divisive challenge, "You are either for us or against us."

    For those of us who are not born-again Republicans, this raises a serious fear that our critical free speech will label us as "traitorous," and thus subject to the same obscenely unjust sanctions from the Justice Department that Blumner so nicely details in her writings.

    As each day passes following Sept. 11, 2001, President Bush will need support from the American people that is based on his respect for our most hallowed principles. Simply carpet bombing Third World countries while also arresting people and stealing away under the cover of darkness are the tactics of despots and make us no safer against future acts of terrorism. With each Bush step that tramples our Constitution, we can be assured that Osama bin Laden and his followers celebrate their true success at damaging America.
    -- Stephen Heath, Clearwater

    The real church

    In the midst of the press feeding frenzy, at a time when bashing the Catholic Church has become the height of public amusement and the sure sign of "intellectual superiority," I'd like to point out something:

    The church and the hierarchy are not one in the same. The hierarchy consists of persons of "rank" within the church, those who hold the reins of administrative control.

    But the real church is the world's 1-billion Catholics, including the 60-million Catholics in the United States alone who go to Mass every Sunday and teach their children the core church values of love of God and love of neighbor. The real church is the laity, the "little" people who volunteer of their time and talent in the service of their neighbors, those who clothe and feed the poor, those who visit nursing homes and hospitals and prisons to bring comfort, caring and the Sacrament. The real church is Mother Teresa and millions of others like her who, in less noted ways, remember that they are the hands of Christ in this world.
    -- Sue Brown, Wesley Chapel

    Where is the punishment?

    Re: Pinellas spends little to right wrongful arrests, March 31.

    I see the real question in this article as: What punishment has been given to the deputies who have wronged these people and cost the taxpayers money? There was no reason at all that Linda Sue Hardester should have spent one minute in jail. The police department's job is to investigate. A quick check of fingerprints would have cleared up the confusion immediately, but no one cared because no one is going to have any consequences for this act. Why did Naomi Whiting sit in jail 81 days before anyone discovered that she did not look like the suspect, a person that they had a picture of?

    What was done to punish the people who made these and other mistakes mentioned in this article? Were they treated the same way as the drunken deputy who destroyed a taxpayer car and got five days suspension? I guess that the internal affairs division will have to work that much harder and be more creative in finding ways to excuse these actions and behaviors by cops.

    They, obviously, don't have to live by the same laws and rules that they enforce on us mere mortals.
    -- Al Santamaria, Clearwater

    Learn about candidates

    Re: Bush remains state's top pick, April 1.

    I recently read a front-page article about the candidates for governor of the state of Florida. The article suggested that voters picked Jeb Bush because they don't know the other candidates such as Bill McBride or Lois Frankel.

    So let's get to know them! The 2000 election saw Florida as a hotbed of voter ignorance. To elect someone based on the fact that you don't know about the others only reinforces this stereotype. Maybe a front-page article on who these people are, instead of focusing on the fact that we don't know them, would be a service to the community.
    -- Linda Shidler, Valrico


    Re: Clinton says Rich pardon not worth it, April 1.

    Former President Bill Clinton said he regrets giving Marc Rich a pardon because it "tarnished his reputation." What a sad commentary! Why not have regrets because giving the pardon to Marc Rich was wrong?

    Marc Rich was indicted in 1983 on federal charges of evading more than $48-million in income tax and illegally buying oil from Iran during the hostage crises in 1979. Rich left the United States before the indictment and now lives in Switzerland.

    The pardon was wrong because the charges against Marc Rich were not disproved. President Clinton consulted with few if any government officials about the pardon. His associations with Denise Rich, who made many trips to the White House, suggested possible improprieties in the granting of a pardon. In other words there was no valid reason for the pardon.

    It seems that a little-used word in that administration has been forgotten in the name of politics. That word is integrity.
    -- Victor Wood, Indian Rocks Beach

    A heart-lifting report

    Bill Maxwell's March 31 column, A productive spring break for students, offered a radiant beam of light, a heart-lifting report concerning the productive things students on spring break have been doing for the less fortunate. To read about the positive deeds and giving of their own time is very encouraging news, indeed.

    Despite the usual, daily menu of repetitious violence, Maxwell came through on a positive note that many readers had to find inspiring.
    -- Bill Dunihue, St. Petersburg

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