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Letters to the Editors

Nave has right to choose an invocation

© St. Petersburg Times,
published June 7, 2001

We have all read a great deal the past few months about the controversy surrounding prayers being offered during Citrus County School Board meetings, those who are doing the praying and what kind of prayers, etc. I, for one, think the whole thing has gotten totally out of hand and way overblown.

The guy who has been disrupting the board meetings with his own version of praying and the stunts he has been pulling is long overdue to be stopped once and for all. He is way out of line here, to the point he is rude, obnoxious and totally ignorant of the concept of rules and regulations we all go by every single day, every time we attend a meeting of any kind. There are reasons for all those rules and regulations that were formed about how to conduct a meeting and the proper decorum, etc.

Chairmen or presidents of any club or organization -- whether government, community, church-related, school, children, or whatever -- have every right to select the manner in which they wish to handle this issue, which should not be an issue at all.

It is called an invocation and it is always held at the beginning of a meeting, right along with the call to order and salute to the flag. The chairman always decides who will lead the salute to our flag and who will give the invocation or moment of silence. It is always up to the chairman to either handle this personally, or ask someone in the group.

There seems to be some sort of confusion on the part of this person, and others who either call or write opinions, whether in an attempt to be humorous or really serious. They insinuate that board chairwoman Patience Nave thinks she can lead these meetings as a tyrant and no one has any rights. That could not be further from the truth. Anyone can attend board meetings, but does not have a right to interrupt the proceedings, without being recognized formally. He seems to think this is his right as an American. This person is so way off base he most likely will never find his way back to the real world.

Nave is leading the meetings as they are supposed to be led. That's really very elementary. Only those who have strange ideas of what their rights are, and obviously don't like the proper means of conducting a meeting, appear to not have any idea of what etiquette is either.

Whatever they are trying to accomplish appears to have been trampled in the dust, with only themselves to blame.
-- Ann Burch, Homosassa Springs

Maybe all School Board prayers should be silent

Re: School Board ejects pagan over prayer at meeting's start, May 23 Citrus Times:

If the School Board doesn't want other religions to pray aloud during the designated prayer time, maybe they should say all the prayers silently. I applaud Charles Schrader for both his bravery and how he handled the situation.

This is yet another example on how the Christian majority feels like it can pressure and bully the minority. And it is exactly what the U.S. Constitution is for -- protecting the minority from the tyranny of the majority.
-- Timothy Whiteway, Chandler, Ariz.

Glidewell column put prayer issue in perspective

Re: Let us pray -- but we'd better do it her way, May 28 Jan Glidewell column:

Mr. Glidewell's column about the imaginary school board certainly put the issue in proper perspective. My name is not Johnnie Cochran, nor am I a lawyer, but I would be happy to work for Glidewell's cause at no charge -- pro bono that is. Or should I say pro boooonnnn-o? If the imaginary chairwoman hasn't gotten the message by now, I suggest she needs a doctor. An ear doctor, or an eye doctor, or better yet, a common sense doctor. One who would dispense large doses of common sense laced with humility, tolerance and patience.
-- Bill Arend, Lecanto

Curb your temper when examining prayer case

I have followed with interest the continuing saga of the case of Charles Schrader and his problems with free expression at Citrus County School Board meetings.

I am a pagan and I'm taking an odd course in this debate. Listening to both sides speak on this page, I've seen a number of strongly worded letters from both sides and it seems pretty obvious there are a lot of hot tempers flaring on all sides.

Demonizing board Chairwoman Patience Nave based on what appears to be fairly sensational writing seems to be the sport of the day, and I'd like to hear what this woman has to say before the pagan community at large condemns the board. Has the Citrus County School Board issued a public statement of any sort (or Nave for that matter)? What is her stance regarding religious freedom and what is the official policy regarding these prayers before the meetings of the board?

Reading from the May 30 article in the St. Petersburg Times online, the one board member, Carol Snyder, seems to have the right idea with silent reflection, which would defuse the problem nicely, in my honest opinion.

Also, do these sorts of meetings get taped? It would be very telling if these tapes were played for the public.

Pagans are humans, and as such, are capable of mistakes just like the next guy. The issue of prayer at public gatherings is already a hot enough issue when coupled with the word "school."

Our community has indeed suffered mightily because the word "witch" has such negative connotations among those who do not know our history and confuse us with "devil worship." We don't even believe in the devil and we believe that those who do works of evil are paid back times three for their deeds. Our aims are to do good works and recognize both the God and Goddess in all things (as well as living in peace with others and being tolerant of all belief systems).

I may be off-base and risk the ire of my own community when I then ask: "Was Schrader wrong?" but I am asking it.

This is hard to say. Some of the letters I've seen in the editor's online column say as much. My guess is there is blame enough on both sides. Until we actually see a tape or transcripts, we can never really know.

School boards often are cast in similar fashions and stereotypes in the same mold that we witches have been cast in. When you think of a school board, do you see in your mind's eye informed and civilized people? Not for the most part. We have television and the movies to thank for the usual negative stereotype. In fact, even I must admit that I've tended to see them in the popular stereotype of rigid and downright narrow-minded centrists with a positively 19th century sweathouse mentality (pardon the rich metaphors -- but I'm painting a picture here). I have decided to change that view in light of this incident.

My guess is that the School Board probably is made up of some dedicated folks who are (egads!) human, and put their pants/skirts on the same as even we pagans. They may even feel that their sensitivities have been violated and that this issue was thrust upon them with little or no education about Schrader's motivations. I can empathize with them if that is the case.

As for Schrader, I've never met the man and don't know his agenda. I can only hope, that as he represents pagans, he is exercising care and restraint in handling our good names with distinction and honor. If he is not, then he is bound by his oath "And it Harm None, So mote it be," meaning he is bound to cause no harm, and if he does, to make it right. If he did swear or act in an openly hostile manner at the board, he is wrong and should apologize. If not, he has nothing to apologize for.

I don't think it is fair to cast either side in the garb of ignorant or evil people. My guess is there are some polarities, possibly personal, that have clouded what is already a thorny issue. If both sides take a breather and declare a truce based on this understanding, I am sure there would be great progress.

I honestly hope you all can work it out and become friends. An open heart and mind work better than one that is closed to new ideas and thoughts.
-- Jon Almada, Shingle Springs, Calif.

Community should fight to protect use of springs

Now that summer is here and the community is enjoying the waterways most of us moved here to utilize, let's not forget the pending closure of Three Sisters Springs by way of another manatee sanctuary. This is the only beautiful water left in Kings Bay.

If you haven't heard, Mr. Goodman, owner of the springs, is attempting to bottle the water that will be coming out of the aquifer, which belongs to all of us, at a time when we are in a terrible drought and not even allowed to water our lawns, much less pull out 100,000 gallons of water a day (to be reviewed for more in the future).

According to newspaper articles that I have read, the Southwest Florida Water Management District agreed to issue a permit in exchange for an acre of land around the springs, the use of which is still undetermined, possible research which would not include public use. Of interest to the local homeowners in the Three Sisters area, Mr. Goodman has not yet filed for a Commercial Land Use Permit for the large trucks that would be running on and off the property, pulling bottled water out of your quiet residential area. Who knows how many trucks it will take to ship out 100,000 gallons of water a day? And who wants to listen to them at any time of the day or night?

It all comes down to behind-your-back manipulations by the Save The Manatee Club, powerful government agencies and one selfish man who has tried to bar people from swimming in "his" springs for the past 20 years. If an extension of the manatee sanctuary is imposed, this community should come together to assure access to the headsprings of Three Sisters, which are federally owned waters. They could extend the sanctuary without taking away access to the headwaters. It's time for all of us to wake up and splash some of that cool spring water on our faces before they take it all away. Write your representatives before it's too late.
-- Diane Oestreich, Crystal River

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