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Religion too often has a tendency to take control

Re: Congress awards medal to Orthodox leader, Oct. 22. in which the patriarch is said to praise religious liberty and tolerance.

Noble words, but just a few days ago I read how the Orthodox church in Russia is persuading the government there to clamp down on other branches of the Christian denominations and suppress them.

That's a perfect example of how one religion gets a majority and then tries to suppress all other competing varieties of that same religion.

The Orthodox Jews in Israel are making life tough for Reform Jews and others there now, and now the Orthodox church in Russia is going to suppress the minority branches of Christianity who compete.

What will happen when our own fundamentalists take control of the United States? They seem to have taken control of the Republicans already.

Jacques A. Musy, Valrico

Don't elevate these "seekers'

Re: Looking for a middle way on religion, Oct. 21.

As a secular humanist, I am gravely insulted to be told by Kevin J. Hasson (quoted by William Raspberry) that I have a "built-in fear and alienation, and require freedom from distressing claims of morality or eternity." In contrast, those who have a "built-in thirst for the transcendentrequire the freedomto undertake an authentic search for it," and must have their ideas sanctioned by government, their "search" even subsidized by it.

What Hasson says is almost laughable if it were not so serious. In effect he says, let us exalt the ancient frantic dreams of terrified, uneducated peoples, who in awe and fright before nature sought to placate unknown demons and gods. As for those who reject the "transcendent," let us pity them for their "fear and alienation" (and let them help pay for the dreams of the others).

Up with the likes of those who see visions of the Virgin Mary, who creep to holy shrines to be cured, who would veil all women, who would refuse blood transfusions. Yes, these are searching for the transcendent.

And down with the men who, after careful thought, reject spirits and metaphysical tyrants who bring us more and more knowledge of the universe, who harness the forces of nature for our comfort, who discover what we are made of and how we can conquer disease!

Our government was formed, uniquely, to give freedom to all _ impartially. "Neutrality" is not hostility. "Hostility" is shown wherever governments uphold religion (the search for the transcendent). Witness the whole dreary history of religious wars. Witness Iran today. Witness Ireland.

Neutrality? Hostility?

Abigail Ann Martin, Valrico

God will prevail

Re: Looking for a middle way on religion, by William Raspberry, Oct. 21.

I believe there is only one God. Different people have different ways for worship. It doesn't matter what we call God or how we worship _ we just have to be aware of God and be grateful for God's presence. We need to obey God.

God has shown himself in many ways, trying hard through the eons to make us truly good people.

Of course, there are people who are selfish, always "wanting," instead of "sharing and giving,"

but God will prevail in their lives and after death!

Anyway, God is God!

Lyda D. Brierley, St. Petersburg

A symptom of many problems

Re: A day of fasting, a day of ignorance.

Mary Jo Melone's Oct. 12 column took courage to write, and we Jews should be _ and are _ grateful for its publication.

Obviously our holidays are not unknown to the majority: Louis Farrakhan took the Day of Atonement as his for a mass gathering in Washington and his day was highly publicized by the St. Petersburg Times. Were not all other religions' holidays given great attention, the lack of acknowledgement of the Jewish High Holy Days would not be so glaring.

The writer of the Oct. 20 letter Just another minority, says, "A minority should either adapt, move to where they're part of the majority or quietly accept the majority's lack of interest." Lack of interest in any way other than one's own is seen in Bosnia, Africa, etc. and is symptomatic of many of the problems in our own world.

Polly Levine, Spring Hill

Consumption tax would aid the wealthy

Re: A consumption tax would be better, letter, Oct. 21.

Someone has to respond to nonsense and it might as well be me. First, a 14-percent tax on all goods and services, then 20 percent and up, up, up.

Once we eliminate the IRS, what does the letter writer believe all those tax lawyers and accountants will be doing with their spare time? They will be busy creating tax loopholes and exceptions to benefit large corporations. That is why companies make such a heavy investment in politicians.

The poor blokes who live from paycheck to paycheck would pay an inordinate share of the cost of running the government. Those who add to their fortunes would protect the surplus from taxation. To the rich, that sounds fair.

The undue influence and greed of modern-day capitalists make the old robber barons look innocent by comparison. Wealthy corporations have corrupted the fairness of taxation. In so doing they have fouled the nest from which democracy springs.

The letter writer suggests we destroy the fouled nest and begin the process of fouling a new one, which will inevitably follow. Would that we had the spirit to clean the nest we have now.

That is easier said than done. Bought-and-paid-for politicians are unlikely to clean up their act. Better the power that money enslaves them with today than what history will write about them tomorrow.

The wealthy would love to replace the IRS with a consumption tax, but pity the poor and middle classes as the wealthy add to their fortunes.

Stanley E. Butler, Largo

Questioning a public servant

Re: Free to walk away? Just try it, by Robyn Blumner, Oct. 19.

When citizens come into contact with government officials, they have certain rights, as should be the case, considering that public servant works for us.

In addition to the rights guaranteed under the Constitution _ to be left alone, to decline to testify against oneself, to be secure in one's person and property, to ask any official to leave your property unless he or she has a warrant for your arrest _ the Privacy Act of 1974 empowers citizens to require full written disclosure from a government official who seeks information. Thus the "Public Servant's Questionnaire."

The first four questions ask for the public servant's name, residence address, name of agency, name of supervisor and office address. The fifth question: "Will public servant uphold the Constitution of the United States?"

Questions six and seven ask: Did public servant furnish proof of identity? The badge number?.

The questions continue:

8. Will public servant furnish a copy of the law or regulation that authorizes this investigation?

9. Will public servant read aloud that portion of the law authorizing the questions he or she will ask?

10. Are answers voluntary? Mandatory?

11. Are the questions to be asked based upon a specific law or are they being used for a discovery process?

12. What other uses may be made of this information?

13. What other agencies may have access to this information?

14. What will be the effect upon me if I should choose not to answer your questions?

15. Name of person requesting this information.

16. Is this investigation "general" or is it "special"?

17. Have you consulted, questioned, interviewed or received information from any third party?

18. If yes, give identity of all third parties.

19. Do you reasonably anticipate either a civil or criminal action to be initiated or pursued based upon any of the information that you seek?

20. Is there a file of records, information or correspondence relating to me being maintained by this agency?

21. Is this agency using any information on me supplied by another agency? If so, by what other source?

22. Will the public servant guarantee that this information will not be used by other departments other than his or hers?

This is signed by the public servant under penalty of perjury.

According to Daniel Schults of the Lawyers Second Amendment Society, any public servant who doesn't have a warrant can be required to give all these answers _ in writing and signed _ before a citizen is required to answer any questions.

Thanks for the good work that you have done in the past. I am looking forward to more of your articles.

Lonnie M. Arbaugh, Largo

The enduring appeal of heels

I read Susan Estrich's Oct. 20 column The enduring allure of high heels with interest and in defense of this sensational style felt a rebuttal of sorts was in order.

As she admits, feet look smaller and legs look longer. The geometry of a 45-degree angle between toe and a thin, tapered (4- to 5-inch) heel provides this very attractive effect.

Not too many years ago, it was the custom, rather than the exception, for women to wear high heels, and consequently they were able to handle them in most situations. Teenagers in high school wore them and even pre-teenagers couldn't wait to try on their mother's high heel shoes.

But then came the sneaker revolution and work boots (ugh!), which compare in price and destroyed the whole concept. The recent trend toward the masculinization of women is unfortunate.

Women should personify intellectuality, sophistication and femininity, and high heels enhance their appearance be it in a business suit, dating outfit, shopping in jeans or whenever. What is wrong with a hint of "sexiness, voluptuousness and femininity" as Estrich implies?

I consider myself sort of a self-styled "expert" on the subject, even making several attempts in the past to design what I considered the ideal high heel shoe.

So, from a man's point of view, I say, "Long live women in high heels!"

Harry Webb, Port Richey

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