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EVERYBODY'S COLUMN / Letters from our readers

Religious freedom is central to this debate

On March 28, the Another Voice column written by the Rev. Charles Lamb argued that the religious freedom argument with regard to the contraception mandate is illegitimate. The next day The News argued the same point. I completely disagree. Religious freedom is central to this debate.

The News argues that religious freedom applies only to worship. I disagree. Health care, education and service to the poor are at the heart of the Catholic mission. Our worship informs how we live and what we promote. The Obama administration knows the Catholic teaching on contraception. Several of the president's top advisers argued against the mandate. The administration chose to do it anyway. Some Catholic organizations would be forced to pay for contraception and violate church teaching, which crosses the line. The religious freedom argument is a legitimate one.

The News also argues that President Obama has been the victim of a slick media campaign. However, church officials have been the victims of one. Many have tried to paint those who object to the rule as Republican toadies. A basic knowledge of the works of the bishops' conference and the Vatican on the rights of the poor and immigrants, the environment and war shows that this is simply not true. In fact, official Catholic teaching would be consistent with Lamb's position on the Iraq War and universal health care.

We can't stop what Catholics and non-Catholics practice in private, but we shouldn't have to pay for it. As Cardinal Timothy Dolan said, Obama made a good first step, but it can't be the only one.

Rev. James W. Kirkpatrick Jr.

St. Philip the Apostle Church



Religious freedom is not endangered

In the present political climate, fear tactics abound. Yet, I was not quite prepared for the outrageous statement of Bishop Edward Kmiec on the March 24 Buffalo News front page: "If we lose our religious freedom, what's next?" This is an obvious reference to the "slippery slope" fear-mongering of the political right, which exclaims daily that the nation is in danger of losing all of its rights; that we will become a fascist country under the present president. He is "dangerous," as noted recently by a Republican candidate. Be very afraid.

Religious freedom is not endangered. The ongoing religious rallies are not about constitutional freedoms. The "religious freedom" issue is being used by the bishops as a pretext to defeat this president, since he is pro-choice. Connecting "Obamacare" to loss of freedom could cause its/his defeat.

Could "he's not going to tell us what to do" be an issue with those accustomed to making the rules? I suspect that the bishops have excellent health insurance. What is their alternative idea for the millions of people who will have no hope of coverage if "Obamacare" is eliminated? You can't go to the emergency room for your chemotherapy. What happened to "Whatever you do for the least of my people "?

In the only "civilized" country that doesn't have universal health coverage, will there be health care for all, or only for the privileged, after the 2012 election? If you have a pre-existing condition or can't afford insurance, plan on voting/campaigning. There are powerful forces against us.

Peg Price

Grand Island


Catholics aren't alone in opposing mandate

I was disgusted to read the March 29 News editorial "Safe in America." Half of the facts were missing, and others were distorted.

First, religious freedom is under attack when an organization is required to fund insurance for practices contrary to its beliefs. The editorial specifically mentioned contraception coverage, and conveniently left out the fact that the March 23 protest was about forcing the church to fund coverage for abortion pills, sterilization and birth control.

Second, it stated that many Catholic women ignore church teaching against birth control. So what? Whether all Catholics agree with a teaching or not, the church still has the religious freedom to conscientiously object to funding practices it finds immoral.

Third, it said that the church is seeking "to impose Catholic teachings on all of the employees no matter their religion." No one is forced to work for a faith-based organization. People have every right to pay for birth control themselves, just as the employer has the religious freedom not to pay for it.

Fourth, the speakers on March 23 represented a number of different religious groups, not just the Catholics.

Patty Doyle



Shooter is innocent until proven guilty

I have to say, it doesn't look good for the shooter in Florida who killed a teenager, allegedly in self-defense. But what ever happened to the idea of "innocent until proven guilty"? In this case, it was thrown out the window, because all we hear is guilty, and there seems to be no doubt about it. It has always been said we shouldn't try any case in the media, but that is exactly what is happening. Certain people have made up their minds and can't take any other answer. As I said, the odds are against the shooter, but everyone has to wait until it is proven or not, like it or not.

John B. Guzzi



Let police, courts examine this case

The shooting of Trayvon Martin has drawn huge amounts of media coverage for justice because the shooter, George Zimmerman, was not immediately arrested for the shooting. The demonstrations and the stories have focused on accusations of racism and the Stand Your Ground law. Neither should be issues, and Zimmerman should not be tried in the media. Calling for a fair investigation and a trial, if necessary, should be the objective of the demonstrations.

The law is not applicable because nowhere in the law does it allow pursuit of a person, only that someone who is attacked is allowed to fight back wherever he or she is. The law allows self-defense to go with the person beyond his dwelling. New York law has seven conditions where the use of deadly force is justified, but it also states that the person must retreat if he can do so with complete safety to himself or others.

A person does not have to retreat in his home or dwelling or a place where he is licensed or privileged to be. However, self-defense is a basic law of nature wherever the person is and anyone who has a viable means of self-defense, like a gun, should accept the obligation of being trained in the use of a weapon and the situations where justification is lawful.

There is a question of whether Zimmerman was justified in his actions, and the event should be thoroughly investigated. If there is sufficient doubt, he should be tried in a court of law. It should not be determined by mobs or media.

The media seem to be focused on the issue of racism in this case. However, in The News there was a six-paragraph article regarding Shawn Tyson, who was convicted of the murder of two young men Tyson called "crackers." He shot them as they begged for their lives. Perhaps, if the two victims had been armed, they would still be alive today, but that aspect was never discussed.

Budd Schroeder

Chairman, SCOPE



Companies already have 'death panels'

There are reports that some people don't buy health insurance because they don't need it. Actually, no one needs it -- until we do.

I know of a very healthy person who suddenly needed to go to the emergency room. After six hours of assessment, a condition was diagnosed that will require lifelong monitoring. The emergency room visit itself generated a $4,000 bill. Because the person had health insurance, the patient co-pay was $50.

So the insurance company paid nearly 99 percent of the bill. If this previously healthy person did not have insurance, all who have insurance would have contributed to the emergency room charge in higher premiums. That's the benefit of a mandate requiring health insurance for everyone.

For those concerned about government bureaucratic "death panels," decisions are now made by insurance company "death panels."

Sandra W. Myers



Keep health care accessible for all

Who says our government can't control what we purchase and from whom? How about the fairly recent coup with fluorescent light bulbs? I'll bet a few of our dignitaries gained monetarily from that decision.

And have you tried to buy British flannel sheets in recent years? This quality product was effectively banned by extremely high import taxes after the Brits refused to commit to buying more bananas from American interests. The list goes on and on. People need affordable health care and the government should make it available.

Joclaire Achatz



Parents are ignoring their responsibilities

Daily in The News I read accounts of parent group meetings, most often in front of television cameras, claiming that the Buffalo Public Schools and the teachers who teach in them are failing the students. Demands are made to lower the suspension rates and raise test scores.

Absent in this rhetoric are any demands that parents be held accountable for their children, that they teach their children discipline and respect and that they back the teachers and the schools when their children engage in the kind of violent and disrespectful behavior that warrants suspensions. And, most obviously, that they take enough interest in their children to make sure they arrive at school to learn.

The schools and the teachers are not failing at all. These parents and their lack of expectations and responsibility are failing the children.

Christopher J. Huffington



Obama must work to reduce gas prices

It appears that President Obama's plan is to raise gas prices to Europe's level of $10 per gallon. According to Obama, he can't do anything about rising gas prices. That is not a good response for someone who is supposed to be a world leader. In 2006, with gas prices near $3, he said, "the time for excuses is over." He should take his own advice.

In 2008, Steven Chu, now energy secretary, said "somehow we have to figure out how to boost the price of gasoline to the levels in Europe." Recently, he told Congress that reduction of gas prices is not Obama's goal. Chu is chauffeured in an SUV, so why would he care about gas prices? Why not ride around in a Volt?

The president wants to eliminate gasoline in order to increase green energy. Green energy should be a long-term goal, but in the meantime, we should expand leasing of federal lands for oil and gas development, tap shale reservoirs, build the pipeline from Canada, revamp the Environmental Protection Agency and end our dependency on foreign oil.

All of the above could create thousands of jobs and bring in more tax revenue. That is real "hope and change."

John W. Orlowski