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God, prayer already exist in our schools

In response to the recent rash of letters purporting that (1) we need to let God back into our schools and that (2) we need to return to "school prayer" _ enough already, please!

These letter writers need to stop spreading the two most insidious lies of the Christian religious right.

First, that "God is no longer in our schools." Funny, while I realize differing religions have distinct views of God, they are uniform in their belief that God is omnipotent and all-powerful; therefore, no act of legislators or "vocal atheists" should be able to exclude him from our schools, assuming he wishes to be there.

Second, the lie that "praying in school is not permitted." Any student at any time may pray to whatever God or other mythical deity he wishes to address, for whatever reason he sees fit.

What he cannot always do is pray vocally because such speaking out, in the same manner as any uninvited speaking, can prove disruptive to a classroom setting. Nor can the school provide, promote or lead prayers for the simple reason that school officials are government employees and therefore are constitutionally restrained from promoting or carrying a religious message into the classroom.

Finally, the notion that "religion has been purged from our schools" is nonsense. Not only do schools actively include curriculum on the history and evolution of religions around the world and in the United States, but thousands of Bible clubs and other religious clubs meet regularly in public school buildings nationwide, albeit after normal school hours.

Their right to exist and openly meet and function has been repeatedly sustained by the U.S. Supreme Court. What has not been sustained is the notion that schools or their employees should carry a specific religious message or set of prayers (for any faith) into the classroom.

This is simple U.S. constitutional law, rather than the work of vocal atheists or anyone else who supports religious freedoms for all faiths, not just Judeo-Christian. The problems in our country will be solved by our people acting in unity, rather than splintering us by promotion of a narrow and single-minded view of God to our children.

Stephen Heath, Clearwater

Right to pray, not right to coerce

Why all these letters decrying the absence of prayer in public schools (and blaming this absence for all of society's ills)? Prayer has never been banned from the public schools. All that the law requires is that public schools remain neutral vis a vis religion.

Students are perfectly free to read sacred texts of their choosing during free moments, organize afterschool, religiously oriented clubs and activities, and say prayers before eating or at any time they feel the need for spiritual guidance. (As long as there are algebra tests, there will be prayer in the schools.)

But the right to engage in voluntary prayer or religious discussion free from discrimination does not include the right to compel a captive audience to listen, or to coerce _ overtly or covertly by social pressure _ other students to participate.

Shirl Kennedy, Clearwater

Program for cancer patients praised

Re: Program provides means to fight cancer, story, Oct. 24.

Interesting article. I hope it will help _ and save _ many women.

What I think also is interesting and certainly article-worthy is Morton Plant Hospital's Cancer Patient Support Services, or CaPSS, program. It has a variety of programs to help cancer patients and their caregivers, and it's all free.

My husband is a cancer survivor, and I was his caregiver. His medical care was wonderful, but we found the CaPSS programs to be outstanding. For me, in particular, the CaPSS Caregiver Support Group was a lifesaver and a sanity saver.

Debi McCreary, whom you quoted in the article, can put you in touch with the appropriate people, should you want to do an article on the program. I think a lot of people would benefit from knowing about CaPSS.

Diane Kornick, Clearwater

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