Friday, February 23, 2018
Letters To The Editor

Saturday's letters: Court keeps eroding 'wall of separation'

A majority of the Supreme Court has ruled that the religious beliefs and opinions of a company's owners trump their employees' access to birth control under the mandate of the Affordable Care Act. Their reasoning in this case is as specious and convoluted as their recent ruling allowing superstitious, sectarian prayers to occult entities to open the meetings of governing assemblies. In addition to this being one more slap in the face of women by conservative males, it represents an abysmal obeisance to hallowed religious irrationality, and is in keeping with this court's disastrous ruling that corporations are persons, too. What's next? Constitutional protections for passionately sincere religious murderers of abortion clinic workers?

Perhaps Hobby Lobbyists think that granting access to birth control is a violation of God's directives in Genesis 2, that man and woman should become one flesh and be fruitful and multiply. Or perhaps they feel that birth control is the secular equivalent of spilling one's seed on the ground, an act for which God slew Onan, the unfortunate son of Judah. Actually, God apparently slew Onan for not fulfilling his leviratic duty of conceiving a child with the wife of his dead brother, Er, whom God also slew for some unknown sin. God was slaying people right and left all over the place in those days for rather peculiar and inhumane reasons. Perhaps God ought to have practiced what he preached in the Sixth Commandment.

If one has scientific data suggesting that contraception is socially injurious or disadvantageous to societal goals, then by all means present it. But religious objections to birth control are inane and baseless. There simply is no viable evidence supporting such beliefs and people ought to quit appealing to them. They are rank superstitions that have shackled the minds of human beings for millennia and they continue to enjoy an utterly unwarranted sanctity in the male minds of a majority of this Supreme Court who continue to chip away at Jefferson's "wall of separation," who continue to erase Madison's "line of separation," and who continue to erode what Washington, the former general, dramatically called "effectual barriers against the horrors of spiritual tyranny." All of these Founders expressed what is perhaps the most basic and important ideal of liberal democracy, and this court majority seems to willfully ignore it — at our peril.

Tommy Moore, Riverview

Book ban too hasty | June 28, editorial

Book is still on the shelves

This editorial regarding John Green's Paper Towns leads the reader to believe that the book was banned from Pasco County schools. That is not the case. Rather, the title was simply eliminated from a teacher's summer reading list of possible books for students to read over the summer.

The parent's email brought the inclusion of this book to the attention of the Office for Teaching and Learning. It was quickly recognized that this title was not recommended by authoritative reviewing sources for the age group targeted for that reading list, so the title was removed from the list while the district determined whether the full review process that is outlined in board policy should be put into action. At no time was any copy of the book removed from school media centers, nor was it "banned" as suggested by the title of the editorial. We currently have this book available in many of our high schools and some of our middle schools.

In addition, the Office for Teaching and Learning will be recommending some changes to procedures regarding the selection of instructional materials that will ensure that students and parents have more information regarding controversial topics that may be included in reading lists or other instructional activities.

Kurt S. Browning, Pasco County superintendent of schools, Land O' Lakes

Ruling hits Obamacare | July 1

Practice what they preach?

The owners of Hobby Lobby claim they are unwilling to cover contraceptives based on their Christian beliefs. They even close their doors on Sundays to allow their employees a day of rest. They are obviously devoted Christians rooted in scriptures.

One has to wonder, however, if they have ever asked where the crafts, home accents and hobby products they sell are made and who made them? A little research into the products that Hobby Lobby sells shows that most of these items are produced in low-paying sweatshops in China. It appears that making money at the expense of the poor has not factored into Hobby Lobby's religious conscience.

There are dozens of New Testament passages where Jesus admonished his followers and those he disputed with to care for the poor. Jesus spoke against wealth and about caring for the poorest many times. There is absolutely no disputing that. But Jesus says absolutely nothing about contraception for women. It's not quite theologically clear what religion the owners of Hobby Lobby are following, but it is surely not the way of Jesus and the scriptures that tell about his life. It appears they are practicing Hobby Christianity, or just making it up based on their political convictions.

Rev. Michael MacMillan, Palm Harbor

Employer intrusion

Gail Collins' column said it best: Once again we are reminded that men, and corporations, do not get pregnant. What's next? Corporations deciding that their employees do not need certain vaccines or preventive care, or perhaps a life-saving blood transfusion? We already have insurance companies dictating to doctors how to treat their patients.

If I choose to use any contraceptive, it should be my business and my employer should not have the right to say we provide medical coverage but I, your employer, will determine what you can have and what you cannot.

I for one will never set foot into a Hobby Lobby store and hope that others consider what they have done to women. This court decision simply opens the door to more attacks against the worker.

Sandy McNicol, New Port Richey

Not the whole story

It's no surprise that both your lead editorial and front-page story by the New York Times underreported a key component of the Supreme Court Hobby Lobby case. The specifics of this ruling are as narrow as the 5-4 vote.

The carefully orchestrated "reporting" on this story somehow failed to point out two limitations of this particular ruling. The for-profit corporations covered are only those held tightly by families or a few stockholders, and the contraceptives that these companies do not want to be forced to pay for are only four of the 20 contraceptives on the market. Those four are acknowledged as "abortive" in nature and are affordable and readily available for any woman choosing to purchase them.

Kenn Sidorewich, Oldsmar


The high price of conflict

Every Remembrance Day I reread Lines for an Interment by Archibald MacLeish. He wrote the poem after visiting a French military cemetery in 1931, 13 years after the Great War — "the war to end all wars." MacLeish was no stranger to armed conflict; he was an ambulance driver in the war.

The poem is antiwar in tone and notes that countries that fight so bitterly often become, sooner or later, friendly. Diplomatic and social ties are re-opened. From the poem: "The foremost writers on both sides have apologized: The Germans are back in the Midi with cropped hair: The English are drinking the better beer in Bavaria."

We now have tours of Vietnam, and diplomatic relations exist in other places despite differences that erupted into conflict or wars. But things do not go back to normal for a large part of humanity: the refugees. Today I think of the refugees forced out of their homelands and surviving in camps — if available. Otherwise they are on their own, trudging from place to another.

A TV camera crew focuses in on some young refugees, their clothes in tatters. They are but another patch of humanity in lines snaking across desert-like conditions. The evening newscast fills the screen with their peril before cutting to a commercial for upset stomachs.

Humanity failed to learn the lesson of World War I (and other wars for that matter) and if the neoconservatives persuade the United States to unleash airstrikes in Iraq, there will be, as the professional war people like to rationalize, "collateral damage." What that means is that many young refugees will not hear what kills them — the drones are silent — and there will be no rows of white crosses to commemorate them.

Calvin Branche, Hudson


Problem resurfaces

Has there been a change? Is roadside panhandling no longer illegal in St. Petersburg? I have noticed an increasing number of people with "please help" signs in the past several weeks. The most recent was a man with a sign at the 38th Avenue N exit of I-275.

What made this incident noteworthy was that a patrol car was in the eastbound exit lane on 38th Avenue. He didn't appear to be in a hurry — no lights or siren. I was shocked that he apparently ignored the panhandler. What gives?

Julia Larson, St. Petersburg


Thursday’s letters: Second Amendment is outdated

Second AmendmentCongress can act on firearmsThe Second Amendment is outdated, since it is predicated on the need for a "well regulated militia." Militias are defined as civilian soldiers trained under the command of competent military leadership. The...
Published: 02/20/18
Updated: 02/22/18

Wednesday’s letters:

House Bill 21Opioid proposal merits supportIn 2016, Florida recorded 952 heroin-related and 1,390 fentanyl-related deaths. Four in five new heroin users began by misusing prescription pain medications, also known as opioids. Despite the widespread op...
Published: 02/20/18

Hernando Letter to the Editor for Feb. 23

Re: Hernando business leaders push to loosen development rules | Feb. 9; Re: Deny Brooksville mine expansion, planning commissioners say | Feb. 16Wish to register my opposition to both the draft of the new Hernando County Comprehensive Plan that elim...
Published: 02/20/18

Tuesday’s letters: Making politics personal is one way toward reasonable gun control

The Parkland shootingMake gun politics personalAs an educator of 32 years, it encourages me to see our young people engaged after the horror at Stoneman Douglas High School. The tragedy at Parkland has awakened the sleeping giant that is the millenni...
Published: 02/19/18

Sunday’s letters: Congress must act on firearms

Deadly toll: 17 | Feb. 15Congress must act on firearmsIt’s time for Congress to be counted.The failure of Congress to act to: (1) limit access to assault rifles and (2) require meaningful background checks for all gun purchases is appalling.Surel...
Published: 02/17/18

Monday’s letters: Call it by its name: terrorism

Deadly toll: 17 | Feb. 15Call it whatit is: terrorismLet’s just call it what it is. It’s terrorism. No school in the country is immune. They all have procedures for sheltering in place or emergency evacuation from a shooter. It’s prudent to be pr...
Published: 02/16/18

Saturday’s letters: Payoff to porn star not front-page news?

Lawyer: I personally paid porn star | Feb. 14Where we’re at: This is 4A newsOnly under the Trump presidency does a story about the president’s lawyer paying off a porn star to cover up an affair with the president show up on page 4A. Never mind t...
Published: 02/16/18

Friday’s letters: Water quality too important to gamble on

State to update water rules | Feb. 10Don’t gamble with water safetyI wondered whether this front-page article was an early April Fool’s joke. The Florida Department of Environmental Protection "updated" its pollution regulations in 2016, with str...
Published: 02/15/18

Thursday’s letters: Bill protects pharmacy customers

House Bill 351Bill protects pharmacy customersWe all need the protections provided in Florida House Bill 351 to ensure pharmacy benefit managers, or PBMs, are transparently operating with patients. Currently, PBMs are not regulated by the state and o...
Published: 02/14/18

Wednesday’s letters: The ocean is no place for amateurs

Youthful dream sinks in two days | Feb. 12Ocean is no place for amateursFirst of all, let me say I am sorry this couple lost their boat and I do applaud their adventurous spirit. However, I have spent over 20 years at sea and would like to commen...
Published: 02/13/18