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EVERYBODY'S COLUMN / Letters from our readers

Freedom of religion is not at issue here

I was fascinated by the story of the Nationwide Rally for Religious Freedom, and agree that freedom of religion is an integral part of the overall freedom and contentment of American citizens. It is guaranteed in the Constitution and well worth defending. I am one of its heartiest defenders.

I can't help but wonder, though, if last Friday's demonstrators were defending the right of all citizens to practice their religion or their right to impose their religious beliefs onto the entire citizenry. The latter appears to me to be true. I saw it when they brought their religion to bear in the Terri Schiavo case. I've seen it over the years in their opposition to the Roe v. Wade decision and in the laws for which they are lobbying in their efforts to erode that law. I've seen it in their decimation of Planned Parenthood and the Susan Komen organization.

I saw it up close and personal during my time as an escort at an abortion clinic. In the name of religion, the pro-life people shouted and shoved offensive photos and drawings under the noses of the frightened patients trying to access the clinic. For the record, I am not an advocate of abortion; just a believer in women's choices.

The belief in one religion is evidenced by those who question both the citizenship and religious beliefs of President Obama. President George W. Bush's Supreme Court appointments support my contention.

As an admirer of the Constitution and of the wisdom of its framers, I uphold the document and hope that it won't be held captive by religious conservatives.

Hallie Morrison Block



All should be eligible for contraception

The League of Women Voters was born more than 90 years ago from the long fight to get women the right to vote. Since 1992, when league members studied health care policy, we have worked to ensure access to quality health care for all. The league also has a strong commitment and belief that public policy in a diverse society must affirm the right of individuals to make their own reproductive choices.

That's why the league is so deeply concerned about recent proposals that would allow employers and health plans to block contraceptive services and discriminate against women.

By a narrow margin, the U.S. Senate recently defeated an amendment that would limit access to contraception for women if any employer or insurance plan has an undefined "religious or moral objection" to it. This open-ended invitation to cut back on preventative health care services would turn back the clock for women and for American society.

We understand that not everyone agrees with the league on this subject. But we strongly believe that public institutions, including schools and hospitals that receive substantial federal assistance, should not limit the health care choices available to their employees. Institutions that serve the public at large should not impose their own views but should respect the conscientious decisions of each individual.

The League of Women Voters believes that all persons should be eligible for preventive health services. Allowing employers to exclude contraceptive services is discrimination based on sex, and it's wrong.

Joan T. Parks

President, League of Women

Voters of Buffalo/Niagara


Church is imposing its beliefs on others

Closed churches. Empty pews. Untold millions spent for clerical abuse. Communion denied to a lesbian. These and many weightier problems face the church today. What response do we hear from the bishops? Though countless Catholic women have used birth control at some time, the bishops are offended that "their" tax dollars might be used to provide contraceptive options to non-Catholic employees in their institutions, even if the money came to them directly from insurance companies.

Of course bishops have the right, even the duty, to state their views on religious tenets. However, when they impose their beliefs, they are stepping on the Constitution.

I heard Rick Santorum quoted as saying that rereading President John F. Kennedy's speech on the separation of church and state "turned his stomach." While bishops can rightly state their position on birth control to their employees, Catholic and non-Catholic alike, they cannot deny women the right to utilize their own free will to choose what they will do.

Religious freedom should be a two-way street. If you want people to respect your beliefs, you must be obliged to tolerate what others believe. I, for one, felt slightly nauseous when Bishop William Lori, who spoke for the church in this regard, was promoted to Archbishop of Baltimore.

Henry N. Stahl Jr.



Baby's right to life is never mentioned

Funny how in the "Doonesbury" cartoons, there is no mention of the baby's right to live. How skewed the whole series of cartoons were -- because there is belief in the baby's right to be born, pro-life Republicans are depicted as despicable men having no right to interfere in the killing of the unborn.

I was appalled at how hateful and biased these cartoons were. It seems like those on the left are always allowed to say whatever they want, but those on the right are never allowed to voice their opinions without being belittled, mocked and made to feel stupid for their beliefs.

Abortion is the killing of a human being. That is a fact. Our country is falling down a dangerous, slippery slope -- first, the killing of the unborn, then religious institutions being made to pay for so-called health benefits against their convictions. What next? Killing our elderly and disabled because they don't contribute to society? Think that's farfetched? It isn't. God help us.

Glory Ann Cranston



Buffalo News right to publish cartoons

Thanks to The News for publishing the Gary Trudeau cartoons on the Texas abortion law. It needs to be made public. Everyone should be aware of this arrogant law against women.

Judith Kovach

North Tonawanda


Requiring sonogram makes perfect sense

Any woman who is unwilling to look at the image of her fetus on a sonogram screen is unfit to receive an abortion. At some point in the future, her denial will be pierced by reality, and it will be devastating. She is exactly the type of woman the Texas law seeks to protect from a lifetime of regret.

The "Doonesbury" comic strips have the doctor describing the first-trimester image as including "a dot that could be a lung and a speck that may be genitals." If that were the case, abortion rights advocates would be promoting sonograms. One of their biggest lies has always been that a first-trimester fetus is nothing more than a blob of tissue. Also, how absurd to oppose the sonogram's vaginal wand as an instrument of "rape," when the woman is already there seeking a much more painful and invasive procedure.

Women seeking an abortion are often in a panic, and it's understandable that anything that might slow them down would be opposed by the abortion industry. After all, abortion is a "service" sold to women in a time of crisis.

Susan M. Stack



Explore & More is ideal for Canalside

Having made the conscious choice to raise our children in the city, we are very pleased to learn that Explore & More Children's Museum is under consideration for the proposed Canalside revitalization.

We have visited the museum in East Aurora, and found it to have so much to offer in terms of cultures, imagination, creative play and child development. We have also participated in Explore & More's waterfront programming over the summer, and had a terrific experience.

In a larger facility with greater accessibility for all, Explore & More could offer a much-needed boost to the city and a terrific opportunity for families. We wholeheartedly support this proposal for the Canalside site.

Robyn Gallick



Consolidate districts to maintain quality

I read with interest the article that discussed the school tax cap and the subsequent changes that will need to occur in districts to stay within the new tax limits. Various options were discussed as possible solutions to develop a budget that stays within the tax cap. An option that I feel is inevitable is the consolidation of services between the myriad of school districts in New York State.

Ultimately, the number of school districts in the state will have to decrease to maintain the quality of education and stay within and possibly reduce the tax cap. Districts could share payroll services, purchasing power and then move to shared administration and curriculum services. In the Baltimore area, there are just two districts, Baltimore County and Baltimore City. Could we have Buffalo City and Erie I and Erie 2 school districts?

School districts have identities and standards that they will fight to maintain. This will not be an easy process, but the level of taxation needed to maintain the current educational standards is not sustainable in our future. Change is inevitable; better to accept that and find positive ways to maintain and improve the education of our future citizens.

Barbara Snyder

Retired Buffalo teacher

Grand Island


Court should repeal Affordable Care Act

Since all of the Supreme Court justices are questioning "a penalty versus a tax" in their review of the Affordable Care Act, one would think that President Obama, who once was a law professor and constitutional scholar, would have better prepared those arguing his case.

We were told before the 2008 election that Obama was not what he claimed to be. Now that he has, with the blessing of the Democratic Party, inflicted on this country his "wise judgment" and put us on the road to ruin, it is evident that his qualifications to be president were dubious at best.

Frank A. Gugino Sr.

West Seneca