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There's no way an abortion can be done humanely

Re: Abortion and the truth, editorial, March 8.

Your statement that the medical community should make "sure these abortions are performed as humanely as possible" is classic doublespeak.

The truth is, there is no "humane" way to destroy the developing child in the womb. Other than the "partial-birth" abortion, the current methods are: ripping the body apart with a powerful suction machine (sometimes requiring that the child's body be sliced up by a sharp curette before suctioning, depending on the child's size); poisoning the child with a caustic salt solution, causing the child to writhe in pain for a number of hours prior to being violently expelled; or chemical assault which makes the normally receptive "nest" of the womb inhospitable to the new life. All are equally inhumane.

It is appalling that a so-called civilized society that "values" turtle and eagle eggs cannot understand the far more intrinsic worth of the fertilized human egg and the person developing there.

In your editorial, you speak of the "viability" of the fetus as the point where these babies should be protected; yet it is just as important to protect these children before the point of viability when they are just as human and just as valuable.

I do look for the day when the Times and all other media recognize the real "truth" about abortion and just how "inhumane" it really is.

Billie Sowards, St. Petersburg

Prayer is best kept private

A couple of letters in the March 13 Times caught my attention. In We have a right to the free exercise of religion, too, the writer contends that since the Constitution protects free exercise, then we have a right to have prayers at public functions. In Moral conviction vs. intolerance, the writer claims an absolute moral right for Christians to pray publicly. Both writers condemn the Times for its coverage of the recent prayer debacle in state government.

Both of these writers should return to their Bibles. Matthew 6:5-6 _ The Sermon on the Mount, to be precise _ settles the issue of public prayer in no uncertain terms:

"And whenever you pray, do not be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, so that they may be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. But whenever you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you."

As for our politicians indulging in public prayers, Mark 12:38-40 settles that issue:

"As he taught he said, "Beware of the scribes, who like to walk around in long robes, and to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces, and to have the best seats in the synagogues and places of honor at banquets. They devour widows' houses and for the sake of appearance say long prayers. They will receive the greater condemnation.'

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Christ taught tolerance as a central tenet of conduct, beginning with "Do unto others" I suggest these writers begin to practice what they preach, and may I suggest they start with "Render unto Caesar that which is Caesar's," continue with "Judge not lest ye be judged" and add a good dollop of "Let he who is without sin cast the first stone." If they could learn just these few lessons, they'd do more to improve the perception of Christianity than all their demands for public prayer. And, by example, they would be "teaching all nations."

Sue Civil-Brown, Clearwater

Religion and history's lessons

Re: Prayers in the state Legislature.

It is unfortunate that people who have elected state legislators who support the kind of prayers given by William Bright have not learned the lessons of history. When religion begins to control secular affairs, democracy is doomed. History is replete with governments dominated by religion that have murdered, persecuted, maimed and stolen property in the name of God.

The demise of government happens developmentally. Religious groups develop agendas, collect money, while giving their followers the only one truth, and then elect people to state and federal agencies that propagate their belief on the majority of the citizens.

Since most citizens are basically passive for various reasons, policies, rules, laws can be passed that violate the separation of church and state principle to such an extent that many pieces of the wall begin to crumble. Such an occurrence took place at the opening session of the state Legislature with the leadership's approval of both houses.

What made this nation great was not the domination of one specific religion or race. Many different groups created what we have today. Those who would breach the wall of separation between church and state under the guise of free speech forget this is not a Christian nation; it is a religious one. All its citizens do not believe in one specific deity. They reach conclusions about life, death, eternity, evil and good in different ways. The wonderful part about all this is it has been done without the coercion from government bureaus or influence.

Here comes the Florida Legislature foisting its specific religious philosophy on its citizens. It does not matter that a Jewish rabbi or any other clergyman spoke in order to "balance" the program.

George Santayana's pointed statement that if we do not learn from the mistakes of the past we are bound to repeat them seems like an apt pronouncement for the future.

Sy Ginsburg, Hudson

The IRS acted properly

Your editorial Intimidating the IRS (March 11) follows the March 9 article by Douglas Frantz of the New York Times (Details of church's IRS battle emerge).

Unfortunately, Frantz had the facts all wrong. As the tax lawyer who represented the Church of Scientology before the Internal Revenue Service, I am compelled to address one glaring inaccuracy in particular: The public record unequivocally establishes that the IRS made its decision to issue exemption rulings to the Church of Scientology in 1993 on the merits, following the most in-depth examination in the history of the IRS.

David Miscavige did not "march his way into IRS headquarters" and "demand to be seen by the head of the IRS without an appointment." There is no record of such a meeting on that day because there was no such meeting. The first meeting Miscavige had with former Commissioner Fred Goldberg and other senior IRS officials was a month later, duly scheduled through an exchange of letters. The IRS then began an examination of the church, which carried on for two years under three different IRS commissioners _ Goldberg, Peterson and Richardson.

The role of the IRS committee formed to address issues involving the Church of Scientology was not to negotiate a deal but to independently and objectively review the church's qualification for tax-exempt status. Howard Schoenfeld, special assistant to the assistant commissioner for exempt organizations, was only one of several IRS officials on the committee. In fact, the committee was chaired by the two most senior IRS officials responsible for exempt organization matters: John Burke, assistant commissioner for employee plans and exempt organizations, and James McGovern, assistant chief counsel for employee plans and exempt organizations. (McGovern succeeded Burke as assistant commissioner.) In addition, three senior attorneys from the office of IRS chief counsel specializing in exempt organizations and a senior exempt organization specialist from IRS operations were on the committee.

The committee certainly did not "bypass" the exempt organizations division, as Frantz claimed in his article. It was made up of the two most senior officials in that division and a team of exempt organization specialists.

All of the adverse court cases referred to in Frantz's article and your editorial were premised on findings that the church had failed to establish that it was entitled to tax exemption. When the church approached the IRS to end the decades-long controversy, it made the decision to answer every question the IRS could raise for as long as it had questions, so that no one could say the church had failed to establish its entitlement to tax exemption. These questions and their answers are a matter of public record, available at the IRS public reading room in Washington, and represent the most extensive record ever compiled in the history of tax-exemption applications to the IRS.

Further, it was the senior-most officials responsible for exempt organization matters who determined the church and its constituent organizations fully satisfied all the requirements for tax exemption. The fact that high-level officials rather than mid-level bureaucrats reviewed the issues surrounding the qualification of the Church of Scientology for tax exemption provides even greater credence to the thoroughness with which the IRS examined the church's application.

The facts surrounding the church's recognition of exemption were never kept secret. All the background of the rulings Frantz recites, and your editorial parrots, was covered in the tax trade press shortly after the exemption rulings were issued. In the ensuing three years, the facts in the church's public record have been reviewed and reviewed and found to be true. During the same period, everyone knowledgeable about federal tax exempt laws who has reviewed the public record has agreed that the facts warrant tax exemption. When Douglas Frantz's "facts" are corrected, his and, accordingly, your outrageous premise that the exemption rulings were the result of IRS capitulation under pressure from the church cannot be maintained.

If you truly are interested in determining whether the IRS acted properly, you should be focusing on the strength of the public record and what there is in that record that supports the church's entitlement to exemption.

Monique E. Yingling, Washington, D.C.

Not a worthy sport

Re: Legends of Derby Lane, March 12.

It boggles my mind that you are trying to canonize people involved in one of the worst sports known to man. I can respect anyone who does their job well, but to take part in a job that contributes to the senseless destruction of an animal for the greed of mankind is beyond my understanding. The Humane Society of the United States estimates that up to and beyond 30,000 greyhounds a year are destroyed. These people are part of the problem.

I spend much of my spare time working with a small but successful greyhound rescue and adoption group. Right now, my 7-year-old greyhound is lying happily on my couch with his two feline friends. I could not adequately describe the horrific scars on his neck and sides or the chronic colitis that he suffers caused by a lack of veterinary attention in the track industry.

As a journalism teacher at Osceola High School, I often use the St. Petersburg Times as an example of exceptional journalistic writing, but now I question your moral standing. I suspect that your advertising dollars from Derby Lane have more to do with the subject matter than the people involved.

Tom Zucco is a terrific writer and in the future I hope he finds subjects that do not involve and perpetuate the slaughter of innocent creatures.

Laurie Leishman-Sauble, Clearwater

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