Bishops' agenda in the minority
This weekend the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops will convene in Orlando to continue to evaluate their role in U.S. policy. Very simply, that role should be minimized.
As chair of the Florida Interfaith Coalition for Reproductive Health, I can tell you that the bishops' discriminatory agenda does not represent the views or theological positions on reproductive health care or religious liberty for the vast majority of people of faith and no faith. The Florida Interfaith Coalition includes people of diverse backgrounds, perhaps most notably, Catholics for Choice, who represent the majority opinion of everyday Catholics. Catholics for Choice emphasizes that real religious freedom means the ability for everyone to make moral decisions about their reproductive health care regardless of their faith, income or place of employment.
In contrast, the bishops' religious liberty agenda seeks to strip real religious freedom of its meaning and instead allow a license to discriminate against and impose their beliefs on Catholics and non-Catholics alike. Why should students attending a religiously affiliated university be forced to decide between paying for books or birth control? Every person should be able to access the full range of affordable health care options from cancer screenings to birth control to safe abortion care, and that care should remain available at their local Planned Parenthood center.
Many religious perspectives support access to birth control, sexuality education and safe and legal abortion care, and more importantly none of these religions believe their theologies should be privileged over the beliefs of any other religion. Our country was founded on the principle of freedom of religion and freedom from religion. While evaluating their role in America, the bishops should be cognizant that the voices of millions of Americans who represent many different faiths and spiritual beliefs, including Catholics, must be heard and respected.
Kate Lannamann, Sarasota
Building virtual wall along the Mexican border | June 25
Go big or go home
Donald Trump promised a wall. It differentiated him from the pack during the primaries, and it remained his signature and defining issue right on through to November. He has to have his wall.
Since none of the states where it will be built seems interested in it, and Congress omitted wall funding from its latest budget draft, the only recourse is for Trump to think big. For starters, the notion of a wall that looks more like a metal fence (per the proposed designs that have been aired thus far) needs to be thrown out the window. Twelve hundred-plus miles of bargain basement metallic construction will, years hence, devolve into a sorry legacy — a weathered, defaced and twisted monument to futility. It will forever taint the historical memory of our 45th president.
The quote in the article from Rep. Henry Cuellar, D-Texas, that the Trump wall is "a 14th century solution to a 21st century problem" actually hits the nail right on the head as to what needs to be done. It is simply this:
1. Build a wall resembling the Great Wall of China (parts of which date from the reign of China's first emperor, 221 B.C.) using the same very durable materials;
2. Make it privately funded, via the sale of naming rights to whole sections or individual bricks.
3. Make it a moneymaking tourist attraction (including for Mexicans, who will never pay for it any other way, no matter what Trump says or does).
4. Make it a wall that, like its Chinese model and like no other human-made object — can be seen from space.
This may seem strange. But remember, Trump's strong suit is thinking big. And only thinking big will get this wall built.
George F. Botjer, Belleair
Time for new leadership
As a lifelong Democrat and as a woman, I no longer support Nancy Pelosi as our Democratic leader in the House. She has lost her effectiveness and is hurting our candidates. She has garnered a bad public image for our party, so much so that she is used to great effect in Republican campaign ads against Democrats, most recently against Jon Ossoff in Georgia.
Democrats need new, younger, invigorated leaders who will give our party renewed energy and a fresh outlook.
Wendy Sears Grassi, St. Petersburg
Liberties are under assault
Free speech is under assault, most obviously on many college campuses, but also in the news media, which presents a conformist view to its audience and gets a politically segregated audience in return. For example, take a look at the letters section in the New York Times — virtually every outside writer or reader who writes a piece agrees with the opinions of the paper.
Liberals used to say, "I don't agree with your opinion, but I would fight for your right to express it." We surely don't hear that anymore from the left. People need to realize that to force censorship on others will ultimately come around to affect them.
Michael Scott Hollash, Brandon
Health care bill
How to break the impasse
The impasse over the Senate and House Republican health care bills presents a great opportunity for all parties involved to display statesmanship, renew Americans' faith in the legislative process, and get each party's views into the open.
Here is how it can be done. President Donald Trump invites Sens. Chuck Schumer and Mitch McConnell and Reps. Nancy Pelosi and Paul Ryan to a nationally televised meeting at the White House. Schumer and Pelosi present written lists of their primary objections to the bills and their proposed solutions. That way, everybody knows what the Democrats' concerns and proposed solutions are, the president looks presidential, and the Republicans will have some input on how to improve their bill. Our country needs that scenario to become reality — and the sooner the better.
Arthur G. Sjarp, Sun City Center