- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 15, 2000

Open Archie and remember suitable comic books

The Feb. 22 article "Changing market reflected in comic-book content, cost" gives the false impression that the perceived decline in interest of the comic-book industry is responsible for the decline in boys reading. The impression also is given that comics are mostly available in specialty shops and that almost all comics contain violence and are unsuitable for children. All this could not be further from the truth.

Had we been interviewed before the article was written, you would have learned that our line of Archie comics and digests sells almost 1 million copies a month. Furthermore, our comics and digests are at most supermarket checkouts and in Wal-Marts, Kmarts, Waldenbooks and major drugstore chains as well as in most comic shops.

We like to say that Archie comics are every kid's first reading experience. Parents continue to tell me they learned to read under the covers at night, by flashlight, reading of the antics of Archie and his pals. They say their children are learning to read in the same way, and they feel it is good.

Our comic stories are believable and nonviolent and entertain through the medium of humor. Our readership is 55 percent female, and the age of most of our readers is 7 to 14. And our Web site, archiecomics.com, is receiving almost 15 million hits a month.

The article mentions the Comics Magazine Association of America and the Comics Code, which was implemented in 1954. That code still exists. Though the guidelines have been changed to conform to the times, all Archie comics carry the code seal. This seal tells the reader that the material in the comic is approved reading for children. Marvel Comics, DC Comics and Dark Horse Comics are members of our association, and all of their newsstand comics carry the code seal.

As to the increase in the price of comic books, it has been almost 60 years since comics sold for 10 cents. What did a car, house, cup of coffee or even a newspaper cost in those days?

As the father of a 9-year-old daughter, I can attest that it takes a great deal of parental effort to make reading fun for children. This, however, is the responsibility of parents and teachers. To blame the lack of reading ability of boys (and girls) on the comic-book industry is unfair, to say the least.

MICHAEL I. SILBERKLEIT

Chairman and publisher

Archie Comic Publications Inc.

Mamaroneck, N.Y.

Organization crosses the line of acceptable food cop

Michael Jacobson's March 4 letter, "Health advocates don't deserve Nazi tag," sugarcoats the activities of his organization, the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI.)

CSPI urges Americans "to be more physically active, and to eat more fruits, vegetables and whole grains and less fatty meat and dairy products." But CSPI also has earned its reputation as heavy-handed food cops who arrest common sense in the name of political correctness.

Mr. Jacobson's letter sidesteps decades of CSPI's junk-science reports about soda pop, food coloring, meat irradiation and fat substitutes. He ignores CSPI's calls for caffeine warnings on coffee ice cream, its support for new taxes on television sets and its proposal to ban fast-food advertising on television programs.

Because of CSPI's nonstop media antics, Tufts University's Web site said of the group, "[M]uch of their advice falls outside the realm of generally accepted nutrition guidelines and recommendations." This is not the profile of a group simply advising us to eat more fruit and vegetables.

RICK BERMAN

Executive director

The Guest Choice Network

Washington

The Guest Choice Network is a coalition of more than 30,000 restaurant and tavern operators working together to preserve the right to offer guests a full menu of dining and entertainment choices.

Tearing down Jefferson's wall of church-state separation in Virginia

The great Virginia statesman Thomas Jefferson wrote in 1802 that the Bill of Rights' clause banning the establishment of religion built "a wall of separation between Church and State." Unfortunately for all Virginians, Jefferson's "wall" will crumble effective July 1.

Virginia's General Assembly passed Senate Bill 209 with bipartisan support last week. Gov. James S. Gilmore III probably will sign it. With only 34 of the assembly's members dissenting, Section 22.1-203 of the Code of Virginia has been altered permanently.

Currently, the decision to implement a moment of silence is a local school board option. This new law would require "one minute of silent meditation, prayer, or reflection [that] shall be observed daily in each classroom of each school division." The U.S. Supreme Court deemed this unconstitutional in 1985 in Wallace vs. Jaffree.

To circumvent the Supreme Court's ruling, however, some state legislatures (including Virginia's) have instituted "silent prayer" by mandating a "moment of silence" in the schools. In cases such as these, the Supreme Court has used the "Lemon test" established in 1971 in Lemon vs. Kurtzman.

Under the three-pronged "Lemon test":

* The statute must have a secular legislative purpose.

* Its principal or primary effect must neither advance nor inhibit religion.

* It must not foster "excessive government entanglement with religion."

Perhaps the lines of legislative intent and excessive government entanglement were crossed when Delegate Lionell Spruill Sr., Chesapeake Democrat, explained, "The way I was brought up, prayer is the key to everything" (Richmond Times Dispatch, March 2). In the same article, University of Richmond constitutional law professor Rodney Smolla stated, "This is an absolutely unconstitutional law." Virginians must be thankful for the assembly's 34 members who, with our constitutional rights in mind, voted against the bill.

While supporters of the bill point to the use of an opening daily prayer in Congress, the General Assembly and the Supreme Court, Delegate Mitchell Van Yahres, Charlottesville Democrat, argued, "We have the option of walking out; a school child is mandated to sit in school."

Additionally, Delegate David B. Albo, Fairfax Republican, voted to protect our rights by saying, "The reason separation of church and state was created was so no one's religion is infringed upon."

Jefferson would be proud of Mr. Albo's service to all Virginians.

I believe some sort of daily reflection is important, but not in a public school setting. If parents want their children to engage in religious activities at school, they should send their children to a private school. For those who argue that they cannot afford to send their children to private school, I suggest voting for elected officials who support private school vouchers.

Furthermore, I question the conclusion of SB 209: "The Office of the Attorney General shall be authorized to intervene and shall provide legal counsel for defense of this law. Further, the Commonwealth of Virginia shall be responsible for all legal fees … for defense of this statute."

Perhaps taxpayer dollars, rather than being spent to defend an unconstitutional bill, should be allocated for optional school vouchers.

In a time when politics have turned voters into cynical misanthropes, we must remember the founders. Thankfully, those who voted against this bill have.

In the words of Jefferson, "The execution of the law is more important than the making of it."

SUSAN K. OGLINSKY

Centreville

Publishing the truth

I would like to commend Larry Elder for his courage to tell it like it is and The Washington Times for its courage to publish the truth, which the mainstream media would label immediately as racist ("When the hatred is not a favored fit," Commentary, March 11).

Seeing the truth is very refreshing for the majority of us who have never acted in any racist manner but are getting very tired of all the accusations, double standards, hypocrisy and government-mandated special treatments. Please keep publishing the truth no matter how politically incorrect it may be.

LASZLO FULOP

Herndon

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