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    Letters to the Editors

    Offending ad not from Adventist denomination

    © St. Petersburg Times, published March 30, 2001

    The St. Petersburg Times ran an advertisement on March 16, from a church that calls itself the "Sweetwater Seventh-day Adventist Association." Several letter writers have responded, drawing the erroneous conclusion that the church is affiliated with the Seventh-day Adventist denomination. That is not correct. The Sweetwater Seventh-day Adventist Association is an independent church not affiliated with the Seventh-day Adventist denomination.

    The Seventh-day Adventist denomination is a Protestant church that shares many beliefs in common with other Protestant denominations -- the Trinity, the divinity of Jesus, salvation by grace alone, the inspiration and primacy of the Bible and the return of Jesus Christ. The Adventist Church has nearly 11-million members in 206 countries around the world. More than 930,000 Adventists live in North America alone.

    The Adventist denomination seeks a positive relationship with other Christian churches and with other religions. The Adventist Church cooperates with other religious organizations in the International Religious Liberty Association, promoting religious tolerance in all countries of the world. Adventist Development and Relief Agency joins with the Red Cross, the United Nations, the Salvation Army, Catholic Charities, Baptist Relief and other organizations to provide assistance in times of disaster. Our Adventist health care institutions also provide medical services to all people, regardless of race, creed or religious affiliation.

    We hope this letter clarifies any confusion created by the use of "SDA" or "Seventh-day Adventist" -- as shown in the ad of March 16.
    -- Minervo Labrador Jr., pastor, Clearwater Seventh-day Adventist Church, writing on behalf of the Tampa Bay Council of Seventh-day Adventist Churches

    The Times readers need to be informed that the advertisement of March 16, Earth's final warning, placed by the Sweetwater Seventh-day Adventist Association, has no affiliation with the General Conference World Church of Seventh-day Adventists, the local Florida Conference and Southeastern Conference of Seventh-day Adventists.
    -- Michael Reid, pastor, All Nations Seventh Day Adventist Church, St. Petersburg

    Consider a variety of viewpoints

    Re: Earth's final warning, advertisement.

    The letters to the editor published March 23, treat this as a hate ad. The ad said, "Please keep in mind that there are many wonderful Catholic Christians." They also treat this as an ad by the official Seventh-day Adventist church. The ad points out that the sponsors are not affiliated with the General Conference Corp. of Seventh-day Adventists.

    It should be pointed out that in this country, the Constitution guarantees freedom of speech, freedom of religion and freedom of the press. The St. Petersburg Times is to be commended for publishing the advertisement and the hostile letters in response. How else are people going to arrive at the truth except by having access to various points of view?
    -- Jack C. Werner, Dunedin

    Censorship can cut both ways

    Frankly, I'm frightened. The March 23 letters from those outraged because of the Times' Seventh-Day Adventist advertisement cause shivers to run up my spine. Are these offended people actually advocating censorship? Do they really want state-enforced rules to govern what any publication (or any person) chooses to print or say?

    The advertisement didn't please me personally either. (I am a secular humanist.) But I would never want restrictions on the precious freedoms we enjoy. The Times has a constitutionally upheld right to print what it likes and to sell its advertising space to any person or group willing to pay.

    Remember, censorship is a two-edged sword. Therefore, we should endure preaching we hate, art we consider trashy, literature we think tasteless because by so enduring, we ensure that our ideas will be allowed expression.
    -- Abigail Ann Martin, Valrico

    Keeping the peace in Clearwater

    Re: Police work for Scientology, editorial, March 22.

    It's not Judge Thomas Penick, as you wrote, "who has the unenviable task of refereeing sidewalk skirmishes between the Church of Scientology and anti-Scientology protesters" in downtown Clearwater. That responsibility falls to the Clearwater Police Department. It's the police officers who must monitor and mitigate the constant confrontations between two groups -- fueled by hatred and distrust -- that seem incapable of tolerance and civility.

    This situation involves both public safety and fiscal responsibility. Without off-duty police officers standing by to act as schoolyard monitors for these two groups, we would have to continually send on-duty police officers to break up confrontations, to interview witnesses, to review videotape from scores of cameras (both visible and hidden), to write reports and to take whatever actions are necessary -- every day -- to quell these venomous, juvenile exchanges.

    I don't think the expense of our baby-sitting activities should impact the quality of life or the level of service to which Clearwater's residents are both entitled and accustomed. In this time of municipal fiscal blight, I think it's not only responsible, it's downright wise, to let the recalcitrant combatants themselves pick up the cost of the referees. That's my solution to cutting this Gordian Knot.

    Despite your disingenuous suggestion that the Clearwater Police Department "treat Scientology differently" from other churches or synagogues, I will not turn a blind eye to the fact the members of this organization are residents of Clearwater, and are guaranteed -- not just by the law, but by me -- the same treatment and protections afforded every other resident and visitor to this city.

    It may be easy to make a call on this issue from afar, whether you're a judge who has actually spoken with most of those involved, or an editorial writer who has yet to gather information firsthand. But for those of us with the responsibility to physically step between these combatants on a daily basis, ours is an exercise based in practice, not theory and high-mindedness.

    I appreciate your opinion -- though I don't endorse it -- for I took an oath 38 years ago to uphold your right to express such speculative musings. But you should know that the men and women of one of the finest law enforcement agencies in the world are not likely to have their honor sullied or their professionalism questioned because of a part-time job. To imply as much is pandering and insulting.

    While continuing to act as peacemaker -- and enforcing Judge Penick's complex court order -- I will carry on my work with both sides, searching for a viable solution acceptable to all. I fully intend to extricate the Clearwater Police Department from this untenable situation. But absent any Solomonic solution offered by the Times, I will continue to address this convoluted situation in a manner that has proved to be both effective and fiscally responsible.

    I'm confident our peacekeeping actions -- as distasteful as they may be to some people -- are clearly in the best interests of the residents of Clearwater. And I'm just as confident that our actions speak louder than your words, which have the hollow, distant ring of an ivory tower bell.
    -- Sid Klein, chief of police, Clearwater

    Children are ill served by this president

    Re: President Bush removes the mask, March 27.

    I feel this column by Bob Herbert truly gives everyone a true insight into what we can expect from the White House during the next four years. Each and every day, dedicated teachers and child care workers work to help our children, and the president seems to want to downplay their efforts. This is a terrible injustice not only to the children but to all Americans.

    After all, the children of today will be the leaders of this country tomorrow. Did anyone ever remind him of that? Or is he content to smirk and say "who cares." I have to believe that children's rights are a low priority with President Bush.
    -- Clinton DeMilt, New Port Richey

    A mask easily seen through

    Re: President Bush removes the mask.

    Anyone who has sagaciously followed the Republican agenda and presidential candidate George W. Bush prior to his "political appointment" would have known it wasn't a mask but his real face all the time!!
    -- Russell Lee Johnson, St. Petersburg

    How much will Bush benefit?

    Why doesn't President Bush reveal to us how much his tax cut will save him?

    Maybe he is afraid that showing the millions of dollars that his tax cut will save him and his family will prove that the Democrats are correct in stating that the Bush tax cut benefits the rich at the expense of the poor and middle class.

    Instead of a tax cut, how about protecting Social Security and Medicare and guaranteeing every American citizen decent housing, decent food (no child in the United States should ever go to bed hungry), a decent education (college, if qualified) and quality medical care?
    -- Mark Drebin, New Port Richey

    Spare us the gory details

    I am really disgusted with the Times coverage of this horrible epidemic of foot-and-mouth disease. I realize that this is an extremely serious situation, but can't it be published in the newspaper without all the gory, graphic pictures that I seem to see almost daily?

    Is it really necessary to show these pictures of these poor animals being burned? I picked up the March 24 edition of the newspaper only to see a picture of cattle being burned in England right on the front page. In a previous edition, there was a picture of sheep, still alive, but lined up on their way to the slaughterhouse. The faces on these animals, as if they knew their fate, will remain with me for a long time.

    What is the purpose of showing these pictures, anyway? The public can certainly be kept informed of this disease without all the gory details. It just makes me sick.
    -- Jan Filipovsky, Brooksville

    Making the tragedy feel personal

    Re: For British farmers, the disease devastates their livelihood, March 24.

    Tears were running down my face as I finished Fiona Houston's column regarding her family's firsthand experience with the extermination of their beloved and prized farm animals in Gretna Green, Scotland, due to foot-and-mouth disease.

    There is nothing like a personal story to help us understand the effects of this sad situation. It is understandable that the British and European authorities were not prepared to respond to this fast-spreading disease. But hopefully, their counterparts here in the United States are preparing to respond if and when it affects our animal herds.

    One thing I deplore is animals being killed unnecessarily. It seems this may already be the case in Europe. Animals are not "things" or "machines," they are sentient beings just as we are. They sense and feel fear, grief and death just as we do.
    -- Barbara Johnson, St. Pete Beach

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    Letters may be edited for clarity, taste and length. We regret that not all letters can be published.

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