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State is right to stop funding for circumcision

Published July 12, 2003

Re: A family decision, July 5.

This editorial states, ". . . the right to determine care is one that falls to a child's parent, not to some partisan officeholder in Tallahassee. That's the no-brainer."

That statement, in addition to being false, entirely misrepresents what our legislators did when they correctly defunded Medicaid circumcisions July 1. Lawmakers did not decide - as they should have - that parents have no right to mutilate without adequate medical justification their children's healthy sex organs. They did decide that if parents make this medically unjustified, unethical, barbaric decision, they simply will have to find the money to pay for it themselves. Doing so is not an obligation of Florida's taxpayers. There are far better ways to spend limited Medicaid funds. That is a no-brainer.

Here's an even more important one: The right to bodily integrity is a fundamental, universal human right, part of the right to life. There are no exceptions for sexual or any other living body parts. No one has the moral or legal right to mutilate unnecessarily any part of anyone else's body.

The only person who may ethically and lawfully decide to chop off healthy, erogenous body parts from a living human being is the person whose brain is attached to the sex organ in question - after having been completely informed as a competent adult of what exactly is proposed. I hope the Times' editors will be responsible enough to educate themselves on normal human sexual anatomy and function and the human right thereto before printing any more uninformed, opinions on the subject.

Van Lewis, president, Florida National Organization of Circumcision Information Resource Centers, Panacea Savings should be applauded

Re: A family decision, editorial.

My son was born in England, where the National Health System, Britain's socialized medicine program, paid for his birth, but would not pay for circumcision. The NHS never has paid for infant circumcision. The NHS doctors said that resources were too stretched to cover frivolous whims of parents.

His parents, both Americans, were told we could bring in a doctor or rabbi to do it. So it wasn't done as there was no reason to do it, once we thought about it. Other parents did make arrangements for circumcisions based on religious or cultural reasons. My son has suffered no ill effects. I figure he can always get a circumcision if he wants one.

The Legislature should be applauded for saving $2-million a year. While your editorial stands up for parents' rights, what about the child's rights? Male children have a right not to be circumcised, just as they have a right not to have their bodies pierced or tattooed. Once they reach the age of majority, they can do what they like. That's a no-brainer.

Chris Van Ormer, Spring Hill Feel his pain

Your editorial board fooled me on this one. It actually took several hours longer than I anticipated for your knee-jerk reaction to the decision to stop taxpayer funding of circumcision. It seems as though you feel the pain of everyone except the poor little fellow that is strapped to the table and must endure this barbaric procedure without even the aid of a mild anesthetic, primarily because he has the misfortune of being the smallest guy in the room.

If this draconian ritual was being performed at the local SPCA on furry critters, I suspect your hearts would be bleeding more for the true victims.

Marion Foust, Palm Harbor Walter Industries works for safety

Re: Miners deserve more, editorial, July 8.

On Sept. 23, 2001, 13 coal miners died at Jim Walter Resources' Mine No. 5 in a tragic accident as 12 men rushed to the aid of an injured co-worker. Subsequently, the Mine Safety and Health Administration fined JWR, a subsidiary of Walter Industries, $435,000 for citations related to the accident.

This Times editorial mischaracterized both our motivations in contesting the citations and our commitment to safety at JWR's three mines in Brookwood, Ala.

In contesting the citations, we are not seeking to avoid responsibility for the safety of our miners. Future improvements in mine safety depend on determining the circumstances that led to the accident and taking action to prevent the recurrence of these circumstances. We are seeking an accurate assessment of what contributed to the accident, and believe that MSHA's investigatory methods were seriously flawed in estimating what the conditions were before the accident, particularly in regard to how much coal dust was present. These issues will be addressed in the appropriate forum, before a federal administrative law judge.

Jim Walter Resources' top priority is safety. We have state-of-the-art ventilation systems in the mines, and our training programs are among the best in the industry. We have reduced workforce injuries by more than 50 percent over the past seven years, and one of our mines set an Alabama safety record in 2002 with 192 days without a lost-time injury.

We hope that future coverage in the Times of the events surrounding this accident will more accurately reflect the facts and our commitment to safety.

Don DeFosset, chairman and chief executive officer, Walter Industries, Inc., Tampa Uncle Sam's empty pockets

Re: Michael Ramirez's editorial cartoon, July 2.

In this cartoon, Ramirez portrays a disconcerted Uncle Sam saying "Prescription Drugs?" and displaying empty pockets labeled "Social Security" and "Medicare."

As usual, Ramirez has missed the point completely. The empty pockets should be labeled "Bush's Tax Cut" and "Bush's War on Iraq." These are the true reasons there is so little money available for prescription drugs and other services for the elderly, children and other needy citizens!

Dennis Clarke, Tampa Commandments are not misplaced

Re: Alabama's ayatollah, editorial, July 5.

Every American should be taken aback by this editorial. Its essence not only misrepresents our Constitution but also is rather mean-spirited - ayatollah indeed!

Having the Ten Commandments posted in a state (or federal) building is not in violation of the Constitution. As the first law of the land, what better place than a judicial building? The First Amendment to the Constitution grants freedom of (not from) religion in government. The decision of the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals is weakened further by the statement that it would lead to religious murals over courtroom walls - hogwash!

What the First Amendment does is preclude Congress from making any law respecting an establishment of religion. The Supreme Court and some federal jurists, abetted by the American Civil Liberties Union, have been "twisting" this clause to suit their ultra-liberal ends. It does not mean separation of church and state, as claimed. It simply means no national church... the reason our founding fathers journeyed to this land - to worship freely. A brief review of our history shows religion in government throughout - e.g., all the artifacts in the Capitol Building itself, prayer in Congress and other government sessions, the Bible in swearing-in ceremonies, the great chaplain corps in our military. Like the Ten Commandments, none of these establish a religion.

H. Scott Parrish Jr., Tarpon Springs Name-calling is self-defeating

Re: Alabama's ayatollah, editorial.

When I was in college, I took a course in speech, where we learned how to debate. One of the basic rules in debating is to refrain from name-calling, as it defeats your argument. The Times' editors have shown once again their inability to defend their position by name-calling.

While I am not a church-going person, I take no offense in the Ten Commandments being displayed. I find them to be good rules to live by. The Supreme Court is not infallible, and we all have taken issue with the court on some of its rulings at one time of another. But what really irked me was calling Justice Roy Moore an ayatollah, which implied that all ayatollahs are wild-eyed, evil, religious fanatics. Not only to do you defeat your argument, but you also insult members of the Islamic faith.

Peter Stathis, Spring Hill Churlish opinions

Your editorial staff seemed to be especially churlish on the holiday weekend. On July 4 you took some cheap shots at Attorney General John Ashcroft (Liberty first) and on July 5 you criticized Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore (Alabama's ayatollah) for (gasp) using the Ten Commandments as his moral compass.

What evidence do you have that Ashcroft "intimidated" Congress into passing the Patriot Act? In my view, it was more of a meeting of the minds between Congress and the administration that we had to ramp up our internal security in the knowledge that even one terrorist can cause massive damage.

I believe that Ashcroft is the right man to be attorney general in these perilous times instead of some liberal disaster like Ramsey Clark or Janet Reno. And I get the sense that most Americans agree that more security precautions in effect increase our protection. That is why we tolerate the airport measures, etc. As you yourselves quote Thomas Jefferson, "Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty."

Regarding Alabama Chief Justice Moore, whom you called "ayatollah," I agree that bringing in a 5,000-pound stone copy of the Ten Commandments into the courthouse was a bit over the top, but they are a good compass to live by. The good citizens of Alabama knew this when they voted him into office.

Meanwhile, I hope you used the rest of the week to relax; you are too uptight.

C. Wiley Gilstrap, Palm Harbor A happier holiday

Re: A celebration spoiled, letter, July 8.

My family and I also watched the "neighborhood" fireworks in Northeast St. Petersburg on July 4th - from the comfort of our living room. The fireworks were great fun for our two preschoolers (and ourselves) and we didn't have to battle the downtown crowds. The letter writer needn't have worried about her house catching on fire seeing as how we had had a downpour less than an hour earlier - the very storm that kept us away from the downtown fireworks!

As for her statement, "Now I hate the Fourth of July," that's just a terrible thing to say after everything this country has suffered through since 9/11.

Sandra Hogge, St. Petersburg A railfan is grateful

Re: Choo-choo chasers, June 30.

A big "thank you" for your great article and photos on railroad enthusiasts (or railfans, as we are called). I was at the Plant City "Strawberry Railfest" and enjoyed myself very much in spite of the inclement weather. The hospitality of the small town makes one yearn for more of this type of friendliness.

This type of article is wonderful for those who enjoy this sport, as we are often maligned by law enforcement and others who profess not to know about the train watching/photographing hobby.

This article will go a long way toward educating people as to why some of us "linger along the tracks for hours." Thank you again for pointing out that there still are a lot of "good guys" out there.

Mike Shirmer, Largo Share your opinions

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[Last modified July 12, 2003, 02:03:26]


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