1. Archive

Pastor says story degraded Speer contribution

Re: Speer's foundation gave church $500,000, May 21.

Your story is typical of so-called "news stories" that are deliberately skewed to reflect the preconceived notion of the reporter. The story that detailed the Speer Foundation's donation to Hilltop Baptist Temple was filled with innuendo.

As pastor of the church, I resent the bias, false assumptions and obvious attempt to tar and feather an act of kindness and generosity. Alan Goldstein interviewed me and, as reporters are frequently prone to do, he ignored the favorable information.

For example, he wrote: "The reason for (Home Shopping chairman Roy) Speer's generosity toward the church is unclear . . ." I told Mr. Goldstein that I have not met Mr. Speer, nor have I ever communicated with him. My contact has always been with Richard Baker, the foundation trustee.

Why did Mr. Baker look favorably upon Hilltop? I told Mr. Goldstein that I could only speculate and that any or all of these reasons might have come into play:

Mr. Baker visited Hilltop in August 1991. He examined our books, discussed our 10-year expansion plan and inspected our property. He recognized the need and concluded that our financial policies reflected integrity.

He discovered that Hilltop puts people before buildings. More than $100,000 annually is given to missions and over $20,000 per year to the poor.

He learned that Hilltop Baptist Academy accepts some 50 students per year from poor families. The church underwrites the cost at a tremendous sacrifice. Because of Hilltop's generosity, and in view of its indebtedness, it had no monies available for much-needed expansion.

He saw a church with continuous growth and a clear need for additional facilities.

He saw a congregation made up of medium- and low-income people. Small grants of $20,000 or $50,000 would not get the job done. It would take a major infusion of capital monies to finance expansion.

He saw a rapidly growing academy with students from all races, cultures and religious backgrounds.

And I suspect he had a certain amount of admiration for my personal sacrifice of having left a position with a six-figure salary, thousands of stock options and other amenities to start a church in an abandoned hardware store.

I explained to Mr. Goldstein that more than 95 percent of my dealings with over 300 national foundations were with the trustee, not the president. Nearly all foundations work through their trustees. Yet Mr. Goldstein chose to impugn Hilltop's grant because Mr. Speer had not seen the premises.

I told Mr. Goldstein that Hilltop approached the Speer Foundation as part of a mass mailing in the early summer of 1991. However, your newspaper story attempts to link my brother Max's sale of his home some six months later (December 1991) to the Speer Foundation's grant to Hilltop. How ludicrous and demeaning!

How did Mr. Speer learn about our church needs? It is my understanding that when he and my brother first met the conversation turned to religion. It developed that Mr. Speer and my brothers and I were raised in a small, obscure denomination called the Church of the Brethren. Max went on to say that his brother had become a Baptist at age 29 and a Baptist minister at age 50. Mr. Speer responded that he, too, was sensitive to the needs of others and had organized the Speer Foundation to help worthwhile causes.

My brother knew that Hilltop was writing to foundations seeking money. He suggested that we might want to add the Speer Foundation to our list.

This brings out an important point contrary to the impression left in your story. I said I thought the Speer Foundation learned of our need by receiving one of our applications _ not through the intercession of my brother. There is a distinct difference between the Speer Foundation, operated by Mr. Baker, and Roy Speer, the founder. As far as I know, my brother had absolutely no contact with Mr. Baker during the application process.

Mr. Goldstein failed to mention in his story that the Speer Foundation made another grant to Hilltop last summer of $250,000. It was specifically designated for our proposed new sanctuary and additional classrooms. This was part of an understanding that the foundation would continue from time to time to make grants as circumstances permitted.

But Mr. Goldstein could not make these numbers add up to his sinister conclusion that my brother's sale of his home in the Bahamas "for $560,000 _ a figure local real-estate agents said may have been half of its value" _ was tied in to Hilltop's grant. The $560,000 plus $750,000 already received, plus more to come, just didn't support Mr. Goldstein's objective: painting a dark cloud over the Speer Foundation, over Hilltop Baptist Temple, and over my brother, Max.

Furthermore, he downplayed the fact that the sale-price of the home in the Bahamas was far more than $560,000. His numbers plainly and simply did not add up, yet in his hot pursuit for a sensational story he forsook fair reporting! More importantly, he forsook accurate reporting.

I am sorely distressed that your headline made the $500,000 grant appear to be tainted. Only an ugly mind would attempt to degrade a good deed. Shame on your newspaper and shame on Mr. Goldstein!

Jack Humbert, Pastor, Hilltop Baptist Temple

Cedar Park, Texas

Immigration policies hit

The June 10 editorial, Help for Haitians, was a well written piece in favor of an ultra-liberal U.S. immigration policy. However, I do not believe that a majority of Americans are in favor of admitting HIV positive foreigners to our country as permanent residents and potential U.S. citizens.

Immigration laws and policies dating back to America's pioneer days are no longer viable in a mature America of today. The laws must be restrictive enough to protect the health and welfare of our present citizens, many of whom have no jobs or health care benefits. We have enough health and employment problems in modern America without asking for more.

There is adequate proof in recent years that our immigration laws and policies are not effective. In the 1970s, dictator Fidel Castro of Cuba emptied his jails of hardened criminals and we brought them to America. Suspected terrorists are illegally in America and we do not have the laws to expeditiously deport them. Thousands of foreigners enter America each year with no intent to leave. They are allowed to stay by saying the magic words, "I want to apply for political asylum." We have no ideas about the character and integrity of these people as they fade away into the American landscape.

In my opinion, America deserves the best immigrants in the world; that's not what we are getting under our current laws and policies. Let your members of Congress know your views on this very important matter or a vocal few will set the agenda for you.

William A. Crutchfield, New Port Richey

Re: Haitians will leave camp, go to U.S., June 10.

My way of resolving the HIV-positive Haitians filtering into the United States is to resort to the 1950s and bring back the sanitariums. In the early 1900s, the influx of Europeans to the United States, by way of Ellis Island, were made to take a mandatory physical examination. If they were found to be in ill health, they were not allowed entrance into the United States.

Surely, I understand why citizens of Second and Third World countries risk their lives immigrating to America, the land of the free. It just doesn't make sense, though, to let these people enter the United States knowing that they carry with them a deadly disease.

Jo Ann Frank, Clearwater

The decision of the New York federal judge ordering the freeing of Haitian illegal immigrants (that's what they are) held in Guantanamo is a crime against the American people, and is especially dangerous to Florida residents. It is monstrous to think of the potential for harm of turning loose into the general population 142 people who have either tested positive for the AIDS virus or are closely related to someone who tested positive for the virus. What can possibly be a reasonable rationale?

While it is easy to understand the motive of the refugees in coming to the United States, they still came here uninvited and are here illegally. It is far-fetched to say they are political refugees. What possible good could it do the Haitian government, such as it is, to persecute a small group of poor and powerless citizens? If these people are political refugees, they are refugees of U.S. politics which have prevented their being processed for return to their native land.

As far as the judge's contention that their living conditions are intolerable, I wonder if he has ever visited the camps _ or Haiti. The conditions, while hardly ideal, are probably better than what they left in Haiti. They have a bed to sleep in, food to eat and medical care _ all at no expense or effort. While he may be sorry for these poor souls, Judge Johnson went beyond the bounds of sanity in issuing this order and flouted the properly enacted U.S. immigration laws.

Raymond P. Warrell, St. Petersburg

To the rest of the world: Send us your impoverished, destitute, persecuted and ill. We certainly have the resources to facilitate them.

A parallel article states that Congress is calling on Florida's Social Security recipients, federal retirees, military employees and recreational boaters to be taxed more to cut the $500-billion deficit.

The melting pot is full!

David Smades, St. Petersburg

"Positive acknowledgement'

Appreciation is extended for your recent editorial, Good lessons in learning. I was delighted to see the positive acknowledgement of Pinellas County's efforts to improve education. In addition to the awards won by the school district as mentioned in your editorial, the general public needs to become more informed of the numerous programs already in existence which promote the enhanced self-esteem, individual growth and learning of our children. Your regular feature, "Top of the Class" has begun to touch upon some of these. I, too, have grown weary of negative publicity. As stated in your editorial, there is much that is good about Pinellas County schools. The dedication and effort of many within the school system on behalf of our children is surpassed by none.

Michele C. Glenn, Seminole

A marketing ploy?

I find it totally ludicrous that there is so much in the news warning parents that Jurassic Park is not recommended for children because of its violence. Evidently these people are unaware of the rampant violence in other movies, cartoons and the 6 o'clock news. Modern radio and TV give us curse words, sexual innuendo, real-life violence and depraved showcases (talk TV).

Looking through their thin veil of "concern," I see a well-orchestrated reverse psychology ploy guaranteed to make parents take their youngsters to see Jurassic Park and assure the success of this movie. How disgusting!

Kevin Horan, New Port Richey

Big shoes to fill

We resent the implication in the Clay Bennett cartoon of June 11 that Justice Byron White's shoes are difficult to fill because they are so small. Justice White has served with distinction on the U.S. Supreme Court for 30 years and is acknowledged to be the voice of moderation on the court.

I wonder if Clay Bennett has ever taken the time to read any of the opinions authored by Justice White over the years. Bennett is the master of the cheap shot, and this one hits way below the belt.

Nathaniel B. Kidder, Marvin S. Grant,

William B. Bennett, John W. Biesinger III,

Vitas J. Lukas, Attorneys at Law, St. Petersburg

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