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Letters to the Editors

Founders didn't mean to banish God


© St. Petersburg Times
published July 21, 2002

Re: When faith rules over reasoned judgment, we've adopted the Saudi way, July 14.

Did anyone else notice that Robyn Blumner did not cite the First Amendment in her article? "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion . . ." That's the oft-debated clause of our country's founding document. In James Madison's own words, Congress couldn't make a law establishing a "national religion." The words "religion" and "denomination" were used interchangeably in our founding fathers' debate for the wording of this clause. Fisher Ames, who gave the final wording that we have now, was quite a "religious" person indeed. Blumner might find his ideals Saudi-like, because he was the one who thought government-run public schools would be a good idea. His reason: so that many children could be consistently taught the Bible in a classroom setting.

You see, if anyone truly studied our founding fathers' ideas, especially from reading the congressional records written during that time, it would be crystal clear that the purpose for this amendment was to prevent government from establishing a certain religion/denomination as the only allowable worship to practice (they had a huge problem with this in England). They had absolutely no intention for God to be stripped from government. Why would they have prayed to God at the beginning of every congressional session? Wouldn't that have been an obvious "violation" of the very principle they had just established?

Blumner stated that the pledge "is a declaration of religious belief -- a belief in monotheism." Where in the Constitution does it prohibit that, I ask you? The words, "separation of church and state," which Blumner did quote, are taken from a letter Thomas Jefferson wrote to a concerned group of citizens fearing that Congress was going to make the Congregationalist denomination the national religion. Atheists, agnostics, and the like, didn't even start using that phrase as an argument against "God-in-government" until the mid-20th century.

Unfortunately, via recent judicial minority rule, God has been increasingly thought of as too offensive for public life. The judges said the Bible taught in school was a breach of the church-state separation (also prayer and religious graduation ceremonies).

I fear all public mention of God will eventually be looked on with utter disdain (as in the pledge, patriotic songs, our money . . .). I hope most of us will wake up and realize how despicable and un-American a trend like this would be. Praise God for President Bush!
-- Jon Doozan, Brandon

Hasn't happened yet

Re: When faith rules over reasoned judgment, we've adopted the Saudi way, July 14.

Robyn Blumner suggests that leaving "under God" in our Pledge of Allegiance will turn us into an oppresive nation like Saudi Arabia.

Since our 226-year-old Declaration of Independence refers to our "Creator," I wonder why that hasn't happened?
-- Barbara Hungerford, Palm Harbor

Words don't belong

Re: When faith rules over reasoned judgment, we've adopted the Saudi way.

It's rare that I agree with Robyn Blumner's liberal viewpoints, but this column was right on target! Finally someone with the courage to speak out against the sanctimonious and hypocritical politicians who, in lock-step, have denounced the recent decision by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals regarding our Pledge of Allegiance.

The words "under God" should never have been inserted into the pledge in 1954, and the court has made the correct decision now in ruling that they should be removed.

Blumner makes the very valid point that we can be no better than the Saudis if our government is subjugated by the vagaries of religious superstition in the interpretation and enforcement of our laws. Furthermore, our "leaders" continue to refer to the United States as a Christian nation -- unfairly excluding many of its loyal, patriotic citizens such as Jews and, of course, atheists.
-- Bob Lindskog, Palm Harbor

The big picture

For me, the best life has to offer occurs when many elements come together to form the "big picture." That experience occurred as I read the July 14 St. Petersburg Times. Patrick Welsh, in The power to engage them, says that in order to interest students in reading we must present them with relevant reading, that is, reading that interests them. It only makes sense.

Bill Maxwell sent his young friends, Marcus and Sean, books about butterflies and dragonflies. That's what they have interest in, as we learned from Maxwell's wonderful column ("I saw myself as a boy out of school for the summer").

Readers responding to Lynn Stratton's column from the previous Sunday reflect her view that in order to produce good writing one must be capable of clear, uncompromised thinking. Unmitigated thinking emanates from minds that are not constrained by formulas of any kind. Rules are for playing games. Life is not a game, but rather a complex series of interactions between people, property, things and ideas.

I heard earlier on the NPR news, that 3-million youths contemplated suicide in the year 2000. Many of them, I suggest, did so for one reason. As their predecessors, we have not clearly defined "the future," or what that future means to them. We cannot expect that young people will automatically move toward the future without some degree of focus. As parents, teachers and advocates of youth, it is our obligation to encourage all of the reading, writing, listening, thinking and talking outside the box that we can. This may not be the most desirable stand from some of our politicians' perspectives. But that is okay, too. After all, all politicians are public servants. That's what they signed on for when they asked to be put on the ballot. In response to any objections they may have to my thinking, I will refer them to a bumper sticker I saw the other day that said, "Question the answers."
-- Jim Duffey, St. Petersburg

Summertime fun

Re: "I saw myself as a boy out of school for the summer," by Bill Maxwell, July 14.

Kudos to Bill Maxwell and his excellent column regarding summertime fun. I, too, am a believer in children needing time to "play" and not be overachieving droids.

The simpler times Maxwell speaks of are still out there, and the lucky few (including Sean and Marcus) will benefit from those simple times as they grow older.

As a single working mother of four, I could not even begin to afford the summer programs offered by every day care, museum, cooking shop, etc., to come down the pike. My two youngest boys are spending the summer with their grandparents and are also chasing butterflies, dragonflies and collecting rocks. The invaluable time spent "playing" and enjoying the relationship with their grandparents is something no amount of money could buy.

Thank you for a lovely column that made me smile.
-- Lori Tindall, Land O'Lakes

Watch out for strangers

I had to reread Bill Maxwell's July 14 column ("I saw myself as a boy out of school for the summer") a second time to make sure that I had read it right. Let me get this straight:

Maxwell saw two young boys in a field off a rural highway, stopped and asked them what they were doing, then "played" with them in the woods for the afternoon? As a mother of four children, I cringe when I think of what can happen to school-aged boys who romp along in the woods for the afternoon with a 56-year-old stranger who pulled off the highway in a SUV, even telling this stranger where they lived so that he later could mail them butterfly books! (I won't even get into how offended I was that Maxwell felt the need to point out twice that these were "African-American" or "black" kids, which makes no difference in how dangerous it was for a strange adult of any race to be "playing" with them!)

Certainly Maxwell must keep up with the news enough to know how dangerous it is in this day and age for children to be this naive. Yes, kids need to be kids in the summer, but perhaps adults should be teaching children not to "play" with strangers in the woods!

Please, Mr. Maxwell, see yourself as a boy out of school for the summer with some kids that you know personally. And the next time that you mail those two boys gifts, I would hope that you reprimand them for being so trusting with adults who pull over on the side of rural highways!
-- Donna Dixon, Holiday

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