2005-11-25 / Editorial/Opinion

Letters

A ‘Toxic Political Climate’

Dear Editor,

I was totally appalled at the Rockaway Irregular’s Stuart Mirsky’s whiny diatribe, “Bill Maher vs. The President” from the November 11, 2005 issue. If anyone created this toxic political climate of “us” and “them” it is the conservatives, not the liberals. Maybe Stuart Mirsky should consider the following:

Conservative pundits have published books with inflammatory titles including Slander, Treason, and Liberalism Is A Mental Disorder, as well as Unfit For Command, which bashes and smears liberals and liberal politicians at every opportunity.

Conservatives are sore losers and crybabies when Americans go to the polls and reject proposals they hold sacred. Bill O’Reilly blew a gasket on his radio program and all but encouraged al Qaeda to attack San Francisco. Why? Because San Francisco voters voted for discouraging aggressive recruitment by the military on college campuses and in high schools. O’Reilly went on a rampage saying all federal aid should be cut off to the city in the event of a terrorist attack. In a similar vein, the Reverent Pat Robinson vented his self-righteous wrath against the city of Dover, Pennsylvania when the school board members who were forcing “intelligent design” into the public schools were turned out of office enmasse. Robinson ominously warned Dover to turn to Charles Darwin instead of God in the event of an emergency. Dover, Pennsylvania’s only crime was that its citizens decided that science instead of theology should be taught in public school.

And Stuart Mirsky has the unmitigated gall to imply that it is liberal commentators like Bill Maher that are destroying intelligent dialogue? Anyone who does question the president is an unpatriotic Bushbasher? There can never be any sort of reasonable dialogue because conservatives like Mirsky have elevated mudslinging and insults into an art form.

Here is a practical suggestion for Stuart Mirsky. If you’re so offended by Bill Maher, pick up your remote control and change the channel.

SHARON RUTMAN

An Apology Is In Order

Dear Editor,

I feel that an apology is due to the Sullivan family for the caption that appeared in the November 11, 2005 issue of The Wave, underneath the photo of James Conway Sullivan, their devoted son and brother, and our faithful friend and benefactor.

So many wonderful accolades could have been said about Jimmy, instead of the hurtful comment about suspension and arraignment. It must have been a very slow news day to resurrect such a sad tale about our deceased friend and community activist.

We remember his quick intelligence, his independent judgment, his commitment to education, his appreciation of his Irish heritage, and his protection of his family. Our community will always be grateful to Jimmy, as founder of the Rockaway St. Patrick’s Day Parade. Rockaway is a whole lot better because he walked among us. We will never forget James Conway Sullivan and his down-to-earth, overwhelming largesse of heart.

DR. EILEEN M. MCCABE

Impressed With

Scholar’s Academy

To the editor,

I would like to take this opportunity call attention to a parent’s dream come true. I am referring to the new Region 5 Scholars’ Academy. I am the parent of a 6th grader and I’d like to let you know how happy I am with the school. The curriculum is interdisciplinary, challenging and interesting. The program is demanding, yet nurturing and it is caring for the whole child. Not only is the school maintaining a high level of academics, but it is teaching the children pride, pride in their school and pride in themselves. They are learning to become part of a community and how to take responsibility for it and themselves.

The ongoing renovations in the building are impressive as well. I feel as if we are receiving a private school education in a public school setting and the fact that it is close to home is the icing on the cake. For many years I fully expected to have to send my children out of the Rockaways for a quality middle school education and it’s still hard to believe that this wonderful school is so close to home. Thank you and kudos to Dr. Kathleen Cashin and Mr. Brian O’Connell for their forward vision and their tireless efforts in making this dream come true. If any parents have children of middle school age, I strongly recommend that they take the time to attend the Scholars’ Academy open house on November 29. I’m sure they will be equally impressed!

FRANCINE BENJAMIN

'Freedom Of Religion.

Not Freedom From Religion'

Dear Editor,

The first portion of this letter is in response to the Editorial column in the Nov. 11 issue of the Wave. This column was, in large part, an attack on the "neo-conservative religious right, who... sure in their belief that they are "right"... see the "Establish-ment Clause" of the First Amend-ment ... as a minor stumbling block ... [and]... they want to... find a way around... [the law] and bring their "knowledge" to the unbelievers." As a conservative Christian, I take offense to this blanket portrayal of religious conservatives. First of all, I believe that many Americans have forgotten what the First Amendment actually says. It states that: "Congress shall make no law respecting an estab-lishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the gov-ernment for a redress of grievances." The first sentence, in plain language, assures all Americans "freedom OF religion", not "freedom FROM relig-ion". Therefore, each person has the Constitutional right to have their own beliefs and to express those be-liefs, including the conservative reli-gious right. I would also add that most people, of any religion, who are strong in their "faith" believe that they are "right". That is the basic definition of faith, believing in things that cannot be seen or proven.

If the editorial had said that some religious conservatives try to force their beliefs on others, I would have to agree with that. However, the same can be said for some of those on the liberal left. The majority of reli-gious conservatives are not over-zealous evangelists who spend their days spouting fire and brimstone with the ultimate goal of converting the heathens. In my experience as a Christian, we are taught to share our faith out of genuine love and concern for others, and always in an atmos-phere of gentleness and respect. Of course there are misguided people whose motives may be in the right place but their delivery could use some work. Then there are also those who completely distort the message and give all of us a bad name. How-ever, no one can say that all, or even most, religious conservatives fall into this category any more than one can say that all Muslims are terrorists. (I certainly hope no one will take a por-tion of this quote out of context)

I would also like to remind the edi-tor that President Bush was elected by the people of the United States. He was always open and honest about his faith, and the fact that his policy decisions would reflect his moral values. He was also very straightforward about his plan to ap-point conservative judges who are "strict constitutionalists" and would interpret and apply the laws enacted by the legislature, rather than "legis-lating from the bench". Many of the people who voted for him did so based on these very issues.

This brings me to the next part of my letter, which is in response to the statement in "The Beachcomber" sec-tion of the same issue. The state-ment reads as follows: "Congressman Anthony Weiner fired the first local shot in the battle against the Presi-dent's nominee for the Supreme Court, Judge Samuel Alito. Weiner, who is a Liberal Democrat, said that Alito's ruling in "Planned Parenthood v. Casey, in which he ruled that a woman needs her husband's permis-sion to obtain an abortion" makes his nomination "an open and shut case"."

This is a perfect example of distortion of the facts by the "liberal left". I don't have any knowledge of what Congressman Weiner actually said, so I don't know if it was really he who misrepresented the facts of the case, or if it was the Wave who misquoted Congressman Weiner. But in either case the statement about Judge Alito is absolutely inaccurate. The ques-tion of a woman needing "permission" from her husband to get an abortion was not even an issue in the case, and it was not even part of the Penn-sylvania law that was being litigated.

The issues in this case were five provisions of the Pennsylvania Abor-tion Control Act of 1982. (Which, by the way, was a law passed by the leg-islators of that state, who were elected by the people of that state.) The issue that "The Beachcomber" article refers to is "§ 3209 [of the law], which commands that, unless certain exceptions apply, a married woman seeking an abortion must sign a statement indicating that she has no-tified her husband." (This is a quote from the supreme court decision.) The exceptions are as follows: "(1) [The husband] is not the father of the child, (2) he cannot be found after diligent effort, (3) the pregnancy is the result of a spousal sexual assault that has been reported to the authori-ties, or (4) [the woman seeking an abortion] has reason to believe that notification is likely to result in the infliction of bodily injury upon her." (This is a quote from Judge Alito's opinion) It should also be noted that the woman's statement was not re-quired to be notarized or corroborated in any way.

The relevant portions of Judge Alito's decision are quoted as follows: "I concur in the court's judgement ex-cept insofar as it holds that 18 Pa.Cons.Stat.Ann § 3209 (Supp. 1991) (spousal notice) is unconstitu-tional." "... my major disagreement with the majority concerns the ques-tion whether Section 3209 imposes an "undue burden," ... ." He then cited numerous cases involving many different scenarios, in which Justice O'Connor had decided that an "undue burden" did not exist. In summary, he stated , "Taken together, Justice O'Connor's opinions reveal that an undue burden does not exist unless a law (a) prohibits abortion or gives an-other person the authority to veto an abortion or (b) has the practical effect of imposing "severe limitations," rather than simply inhibiting abor-tions" 'to some degree' " or inhibiting "some women"." "In this case, ... Sec-tion 3209 does not create an "absolute obstacle" or give a husband "veto power." Rather, this provision merely requires a married woman desiring an abortion to certify that she has notified her husband or to claim one of the statutory excep-tions."

He also went on to explain that the percentage of women who would be affected by this provision is very small. He stated that "... the district court found, the "vast majority" of married women voluntarily inform their husbands before seeking an abortion." "Indeed, in the trial testi-mony on which the district court re-lied, the plaintiffs' witness stated that in her experience 95% of married women notify their husbands." "Sec-ond, the overwhelming majority of abortions are sought by unmarried women." "Thus it is immediately ap-parent that Section 3209 cannot af-fect more than about 5% of married women seeking abortions or an even smaller percentage of all women de-siring abortions." "The plaintiffs failed to show even roughly how many of the women in this small group would actually be adversely af-fected by Section 3209. As previously noted, Section 3209 contains four sig-nificant exceptions." (Which would reduce the number of affected women even further.)

In addition to this e-mail, I am sending, by regular mail, a copy of this letter, a full copy of the Supreme Court Decision, a full copy of Judge Alito's Opinion, and a short commen-tary from Patterico's Pontifications dated 10/30/05 which summarizes the opinion in plain language. I am also sending the second part of this letter to Congressman Weiner with all the above attachments, as well as a copy of the excerpt from "The Beach-comber". I personally would like to know whether the error lies with him or with The Wave, and I believe it is important that the voting public know the answer to this question also. In either case it is inexcusable to state or print such a glaring distor-tion. Obviously the person making the argument did not take the time to do the research and clarify the actual facts of the case. This is very sad be-cause the majority of the public who heard or read the inaccuracies will not take the time to research it ei-ther, and they will form opinions about Judge Alito based on this inac-curate information.

ANN MURRAY

Nothing But Bias

Dear Editor:

Howard Schwach insists that he is not anti-Catholic, but his statement that “five admittedly conservative Catholics . . .will [soon form a majority of the Supreme Court and] . . . insure that Catholic values and ideals will be imposed on the rest of us . . .” demonstrates nothing but bias. Mr. Schwach offers no evidence whatsoever that any of the five judges he names uses or would use his position to impose “Catholic” values, and I doubt he can find any. While all five individuals may be conservative (although it would surprise many to see Justice Kennedy considered part of the same bloc as Justices Scalia and Thomas), and may insist on interpreting the Constitution strictly and narrowly, that legal doctrine has nothing to do with their religious faith, and certainly does not amount to an imposition of the Catholic faith on others.

If Schwach is referring to these judges’ presumed or stated positions on abortion and the Roe v. Wade decision, he should bear in mind that the most even a conservative Court would do is rule that abortion is not a right protected by the Constitution, and return the issue to legislatures to decide. Whether or not you agree with such a decision, it would hardly amount to an imposition of Catholic values by the Court. If he is concerned about the Court’s potential rulings on free exercise and establishment of religion, he should review where each of the five stand. He would find, for example, that Judge Alito has issued at least two rulings as a Circuit Court judge preserving individual rights to exercise (non-Catholic) religions against restrictions imposed by the government, and generally seems to be considered very supportive of free exercise claims. The Catholic Church, too, is adamantly opposed to the death penalty, a Catholic value that these justices have certainly not tried to impose on the country.

Another way to demonstrate the bias in Schwach’s statement is to consider the (justifiable) reaction if someone expressed similar attitudes toward other religions. How would you react if a writer opined that too many “admittedly liberal” Jewish judges should not be allowed to serve because they would impose Jewish values on the rest of us, and did so without any supporting evidence? What is the maximum number of Catholic justices that you would permit on the Court? What if someone opined that there should be a limit on Jewish justices? Luckily, as the Constitution prohibits religious tests for public office, we are protected from those who would impose such limits based only on a person’s religious faith.

I have no issue with criticizing these judges on the basis of their records or conservative philosophies. To go beyond that and attribute their rulings to their personal religious values, and to oppose them because of their religion, is another matter.

THOMAS SWIFT

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