Employers with "religious objections" to a health plan that provides coverage for contraceptives should read the Constitution. The First Amendment prevents Congress from prohibiting the free exercise of religion. It doesn't allow employers in the free-market workplace to impose their religious beliefs on employees.
If employers such as the current litigants, Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood Specialties, are forced to offer employees contraceptive coverage in an insurance plan, who exactly is deprived of their right to practice their religion? Certainly not the employer. No one is forcing them to use contraceptives. But the employee does not have to use contraceptives either if doing so would violate the dictates of his or her religion, even if the service were available. Nobody is forcing anyone to violate or abandon their religious beliefs under this law.
If employers could claim their religious practices do not allow them to offer contraceptive services for their employees, what's to stop a Christian employer with deeply held biblical convictions from hiring Jews because they don't accept Jesus as the savior? Likewise, Jews could refuse to hire Christians because they might eat ham. Jehovah's Witnesses operating hospitals could refuse to allow blood transfusions. This would be tantamount to medical malpractice. Where would this nonsense end?
Stephen Feldman, Valrico
Florida governor's race
Crist's shaky record
It is amazing that the public so quickly forgets about Charlie Crist's lack of leadership while in office. I voted for him for governor, but was extremely disappointed in him during his time in office.
Remember his campaign promises to fix the homeowners insurance problem? He vowed that if a company wouldn't write a homeowners policy in the state of Florida, they would not be allowed to write auto insurance either. Well, we all know how that turned out.
Fool me twice? No, I don't think so.
Bonnie Hill, San Antonio
How about Parenting 101 before leaving the hospital? | Nov. 25, Ernest Hooper column
Start early on education
Ernest Hooper makes several good points on parenting. However, I would like to tweak the process a bit.
Waiting until after hospital delivery to instruct parents is far too late. The 101 classes should begin at the marital sanctuary while both are fresh. Some marriages don't even last nine months. Sadly, in 2011 the African-American community showed 67 percent single parent households.
When I got married in the '60s my wife-to-be and I attended the Catholic pre-Cana classes. In those days there were no "Parenting 101" classes. Discussion on contraception or controlling family size was prohibited. The message was "go forth and multiply." I asked, "How many?" Total silence.
If they haven't modified their program, that is sorely needed to address the needs of the real world.
Jack Bechtold, New Port Richey
Medicaid in Florida
Our tax money for others
Florida's governor and Legislature won't expand Medicaid funding to be paid at 100 percent for three years and 90 percent thereafter.
Because of all of the news about the Affordable Care Act, approximately 13,000 Florida citizens have signed up for Medicaid in the last two months who were previously eligible but didn't know it.
This will put an additional stress on our budget because our Legislature decided for purely political reasons not to take federal money, which we in Florida pay through our federal taxes.
The next time you pay your federal taxes, remember that the money is going to states that had the wisdom to get back to our citizens what they contributed. Florida will continue to be an also-ran in the nation as long as we have a governor and Legislature more worried about their own advancement than about the people they were elected to serve.
Dudley Clapp, St. Petersburg
Preserve real Florida
Florida's state parks call themselves the "real Florida." This is the absolute truth and apparently a concept that Gov. Rick Scott and his administration cannot seem to grasp.
Floridians are blessed with one of the best state park systems in the nation. They have been awarded the Gold Medal for Excellence by the National Recreation and Park Association an unprecedented three times as of October.
So it is strange why the governor would want to dramatically change things. Since being elected, he has privatized most of the park concessions, proposed converting natural park forests into golf courses, promoted putting advertisement signs on nature trails, turned down the offer of Peaceful Horse Ranch from Mosaic for a new state park, and now wants to sell off some adjacent state park properties that his staff has determined to be "surplus."
Florida's population will continue to grow, creating a demand for more parks and park spaces. As the expense of traveling long distances increases, more people are going to be looking locally for outdoor vacations. Even now the system is showing signs of pressure. I have had to book campsites many times six months in advance or even longer. We need to be expanding our state park system with more land and facilities.
We can do so by hopefully making the parks profitable. I was told that Florida taxpayers help provide around 15 percent of park costs, so why not charge out-of-state campers a bit more if possible? Also, people in the huge RVs should probably be paying by the foot instead as the same as the tent campers using the same campsites. Give the concessions back to the parks to increase park revenues. Use these monies for land acquisition and improvements.
Urban sprawl has decreased many of the available large tracts of land in the state. We should be purchasing these environmentally sensitive additional state park lands now while we can. We have an opportunity that we should not let slip through our grasp.
K.C. Nayfield, Crystal River
Time for Florida to act
Florida should jump on the bandwagon of a major social movement in politics — and no, it is not the legalization of marijuana. Same-sex marriage is legal in 16 states, and Florida should follow suit.
Whether or not society agrees with the idea that being homosexual is a choice or not, the truth remains that the couple in question will still love each other and still live together, despite the fact that their right to wed under the law has been taken away.
No matter which way it is sliced, withholding the right of marriage from a certain group is in fact discrimination. What right do heterosexual citizens have to hold such power over another part of society?
The Constitution boasts a separation of church and state. Though some lawmakers do not directly cite religious reasons as justification for impeding same-sex marriage, religion is tied inextricably to the issue. Separate the two.
Marginalization is the deadliest form of oppression. Let us hope that Florida does not continue on the path of oppression and instead moves on to herald the dawning of an inevitable new age.
Nicole Greco, Tampa
Century of flight progress
Much has been done this month to honor the memory of John F. Kennedy's visit to Tampa Bay 50 years ago. One of the less publicized events of that trip was the message Kennedy delivered at Al Lopez Field in Tampa. Under the banner of "St. Petersburg-Tampa 50th Anniversary Scheduled Air Service," he delivered a major speech that discussed the origin of the first airline in Tampa Bay and its famed pilot Tony Jannus, and noted the importance of aviation both for the nation and the world.
"Because of Tony Jannus, because of others like him, this country is No. 1 in aviation … and I hope in the 1960s that the United States of America will take the leadership again in space, in the air, and around the world so that the United States will still be No. 1 a hundred years after Tony Jannus' first flight."
The world's first airline began in Tampa Bay on Jan. 1, 1914, when Tony Jannus flew the Benoist Airboat from St. Petersburg to Tampa. Its first passenger was early St. Petersburg Mayor Abram Pheil. In four months, the airline flew over 1,000 people. Today's global aviation industry serves over 2 billion passengers. The economic impact in the Tampa Bay area alone is estimated at $9 billion.
It is now nearly 100 years since Tony Jannus' first flight, and several Tampa Bay organizations have joined as "Flight 2014" to commemorate the centennial in St. Petersburg and Tampa. Events include student projects, talks at area museums, and exhibits and displays at the St. Petersburg Museum of History, Tampa International Airport, and Tampa's Riverwalk. On New Year's Day, Kermit Weeks of Fantasy of Flight will re-enact the flight across the bay in a new reproduction of the first airliner.
One hundred years after that first flight, we now have private air services delivering cargo to the International Space Station, the emergence of spaceports, and are on the cusp of commercial suborbital and orbital travel. JFK and Tony Jannus would be proud. This is a centennial celebration around which all of Tampa Bay can unite.
Will Michaels, chair, Flight 2014 planning board, St. Petersburg