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Published Sep. 21, 2009

Can creation evolve into a valid issue? - Sept. 16, story

St. Petersburg mayoral candidate Bill Foster has made his religious beliefs an election issue by publicly proposing that alternatives to the theory of evolution should be taught in school science curricula.

Conservatives typically subject political candidates to "litmus tests" with regard to moral issues. Similarly, one's acceptance or rejection of the vast body of scientific knowledge supporting biological evolution can be used by progressives as a litmus test for critical thinking skills.

While Christian faith is not necessarily incompatible with the theory of evolution, a literal interpretation of the Bible definitely is. Foster's apparent inability to rectify his religious beliefs with scientific facts demonstrates a certain intellectual rigidity, and perhaps an underlying lack of critical thinking skills, that might be reflected in other important decisions that he would face as mayor.

The United States has fallen woefully behind other developed nations in the preparation of scientists and engineers, and we need leaders at all levels who will promote the advancement of math and science education rather than blur the line between science and religion.

Although Foster may be otherwise well qualified to serve as mayor, I believe his dogmatic religious beliefs could be an impediment to effective leadership of a modern city with a major university, and a burgeoning scientific research and development community.

Doug Robison, St. Petersburg

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Stick to your values

It's refreshing to see someone who has definite standards and beliefs and stands by them in this era of changing values. Bill Foster is a person of strength and courage, has traditional beliefs, and states them.

We are made extremely nervous by some of the far-left liberal values we see coming out in our country right now. This is not the America we grew up in and love, nor the values our country was founded upon.

We, for two, are glad to see someone with the backbone of Bill Foster. Our advice to him would be the same as it would be to the Republican Party: Stick to your conservative values and stand firm against liberal criticism!

Jane and Bob Kline, St. Petersburg

Let reason rule

By his remarks, it seems Bill Foster is a so-called "young-Earth creationist." This type of creationist believes the Earth is only 6,000 to 10,000 years old, and that human beings and dinosaurs were contemporary!

This flies in the face of all we know from the fields of geology, biology, paleontology and numerous other sciences. To me and everyone else who values reason and rationality over superstition and ignorance, I can't imagine anyone less qualified to lead our city into the 21st century.

Greg Simpson, St. Petersburg

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Views affirmed

Thank you for the front-page story in the Wednesday Times titled Can creation evolve into a valid issue? While it is an obvious attempt to discredit Bill Foster, it actually confirmed my decision to vote for Foster.

The quote, "If our mayor has a belief system that basically rejects science, how can people take him seriously?" implies that those who believe in creationism can't be taken seriously.

Professor Peter Harries' statement "If you look at all the data that are out there . . . they all support the theory of evolution" is simply not true. There are thousands of Bible-believing scientists who believe in creationism. If you are seeking real truth go to the Web site for more information on creation science.

Larry Kellogg, St. Petersburg

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Absurd doctrine

Bill Foster asserts that a belief in young-Earth creationism is compatible with rational thought. This absurd doctrine declares that the Genesis myth is historically accurate, that all life was created 6,000 years ago in its present form, and that God may have distributed fossils to test man's faith.

As Richard Dawkins points out, this error of several billion years is equivalent to thinking that the distance from New York to San Francisco is 28 feet.

Surely such absence of rational thought should disqualify any candidate for an office where he is responsible for decisions affecting people's lives. Did we learn nothing from the embarrassingly inept (and young-Earth creationist) former mayor of Wasilla, Alaska?

Nick Hobart, New Port Richey

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Everything in its place

Bill Foster had sent a letter to the Pinellas School Board wanting them to allow discussing alternatives to the theory of evolution. How would he like it if Sunday schools were forced to teach evolution?

My point is that in science class you teach science and when you go to Sunday school you teach that God created all living things in six days.

Ray Martinez, Lutz

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Faith shouldn't be at issue

Your headline asks: Can creation evolve into a valid issue? Answer: Absolutely, no!

I, like Bill Foster, have the constitutional right to my religious beliefs. I, also as a citizen of the United States, have the right to hold an elected office. Creation is a part of a religious belief. This belief is found in several of the major religions of the world. How you interpret it is your right (unless our country has changed its Constitution).

Kathleen Ford states that Foster is unable to lead our city because of his religious beliefs. If true, then how does she think she can lead a city of people of many faiths that do not match hers? Also, faith by definition is not based on science!

Frances Glisson-Doyle, St. Petersburg

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Cartoon coexistence

As a retired educator who has devoted my professional life to imparting knowledge and respect for the truth, I find it very difficult to believe a candidate for St. Petersburg mayor believes dinosaurs and humans existed on the Earth simultaneously.

Bill Foster must be watching Fred Flintstone cartoons and mistaking it for the History Channel.

Frank Lupo, St. Petersburg

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'Illegal immigrant' has become a hateful epithet

The time has come to stop using the term "illegal immigrant." Let's be honest. This has become a racial epithet. When it is used it is not in reference to French citizens who overstay their visas or the Canadians who work among us. It's a term used for Mexican and Central American nationals and it's used with seething hate.

The term "illegal immigrant" or "illegal alien" has come to mean it is okay to treat these people as a subclass, something less than human. Using the term "illegal immigrant" opens the door to allow us to think it's okay to let people suffer a lack of medical attention because they are "illegal." Congressman Joe Wilson's outrage at the mere thought that we might provide medical care to "illegals" should be placed alongside the outrage of a racist congressman from the 1940s or '50s regarding African-Americans' ability to vote.

Immigrants are subject to being trafficked as sex slaves, "Guat bashing," wage theft and more in an atmosphere fueled by this hatred toward "illegal immigrants." Just read the online responses to any article about immigrants and you will see a sampling of this hatred.

Nor is the term "illegal immigrant" accurate under the law. Being present in the United States without authorization is not a crime but an immigration offense, which is administrative civil law. Law enforcement officers do not have the authority to arrest or detain immigrants for immigration offenses unless they are authorized under the 287(g) program and receive extensive training from the Department of Homeland Security.

Immigration law is complex. An immigrant could be without status but be in the process of applying for residency because she is married to a U.S. citizen, a victim of a violent crime, an abandoned, abused child or other categories too numerous to name. Immigration law does not lend itself to the simplified legal/illegal world painted by so many television and radio pundits.

Let's stop the hate and remove the term "illegal" from the discussion on immigration. It's only then that we will we have any chance of a reasoned discussion on immigration reform.

What part of illegal don't I understand? Everything.

No human being is illegal.

John E. Dubrule, Esq., director of litigation, Gulfcoast Legal Services, St. Petersburg

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Debate on oil drilling: Keep it calm - Sept. 10, commentary

Drilling deserves no debate

Complex public policy issues facing Florida need to be discussed and debated with thoughtful public discourse. Threats to the very things that make Florida the place it is deserve to be killed outright, and discarded and enshrined in the horrible ideas hall of fame. Drilling right off of Florida's beaches? No. 1 on the list of worst ideas ever.

Colleen Castille and Allison DeFoor argue in their guest column that we should discuss the issue in a calm and rational way, and then that discussion could potentially lead to drilling off our beaches. Both of them worked for former Gov. Jeb Bush, who ensured that drilling did not occur under his watch and whose leadership led to millions of tax dollars being spent to buy back oil leases in the Gulf of Mexico to prevent drilling off the coast of Florida.

There is no discussion to have. Drilling is unacceptable to Florida, then, now, and in the future.

Drilling right off Florida's beaches is a direct and unacceptable risk to our environment, our economy and our way of life in Florida. There is no room for nuance, discussion or debate here. No drilling, not now, not ever. The risk posed to Florida is too great, and the sustainable coastal economies of Florida that we all depend on, including tourism, recreation, fishing, and wildlife viewing all would be harmed by drilling.

With all due respect to Castille and DeFoor, drilling off our beaches is a horrible idea that deserves no discussion. It is an unacceptable risk to Florida that simply needs to be abandoned, the sooner the better.

Joe Murphy, Gulf Restoration Network, Ridge Manor

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Honor our fallen solders

I am a mother of two military men. Luckily both have come back from Iraq alive. I have felt strongly about this for along time and was not going to write, until I read prominent stories about a police dog that was killed.

If I happened to be a family member of a fallen soldier and had to find his or her name toward the back of the paper, it would truly hurt. Why are they not put on the front of the paper? Every one has fought and died for our freedom.

And I do feel we have forgot. I remember after 9/11 you did not see a car without a flag or a person without a flag pin. As for myself, I will wear a pin and fly my flag till the last one comes home.

Please don't forget that our men and women are putting their lives on hold, while we just go about our lives as though there is no war going on.

Cheryl Weaver, Zephyrhills

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Getting on board for transit - Sept. 13 editorial

A paradigm shift

I have a mixed reaction to the basic point made in Sunday's editorial concerning a lack of leadership and participation by the business community.

In June, NAIOP Tampa Bay, the commercial real estate development association, established a Transit Oriented Development (TOD) committee and has been actively collaborating with the business community and several organizations to promote and support a responsible and sustainable regional transit plan which includes TOD. A grass-roots effort including more than 20 business and community groups is working diligently both independently and together to work out an effective way to bring a regional transit system to the Tampa Bay area.

If your definition of leadership is focused on public comments of elected officials and press conferences, your point may be well taken. This lack of public leadership may be caused by the risk associated with the unprecedented paradigm shift that transit represents. This regional grass-roots discussion and the plans being promoted by TBARTA and the Hillsborough County Metropolitan Planning Organization incorporate three major advances.

First, these efforts represent regional planning and action focused on the future, something very different from what our government planning agencies have been tasked with over the last few decades.

Second, these efforts impact much more than transportation. They will significantly support a new sustainable approach to revitalizing the economic development engine of our community prompting sensible redevelopment and reducing suburban sprawl.

Finally, the benefits of these efforts will bring about changes that can truly transform our region into a global competitor for quality jobs and economic growth, enhancing everything from employment to housing to our cultural growth and quality of life. There are many positive implications to consider. It's about much more than transportation.

The hesitancy of our leadership to take an open or official position is understandable. But a visionary, bold paradigm shift in our approach to leadership is required and we salute those who are taking the lead, publicly and privately.

Tom Kennedy, chairman, NAIOP Tampa Bay TOD committee, Tampa