- The Washington Times - Saturday, April 16, 2005

Believers and nonbelievers

My letter is in response to the three-part series “Faithless: God under fire in the public square.” “Secularists” cite Thomas Jefferson’s “wall” in their fight to exclude God from public life, proposing to ban creches at city hall, Christmas carols in public schools, graduation prayers at colleges and grace over meals at military academies — as well as the more than 4,000 stone and concrete testaments to the Ten Commandments across the country (“Religion under a secular assault”).

God save us from the secular extremists who disregard America’s religious history and shamelessly quote Thomas Jefferson out of context. Especially those on the United States Supreme Court.

Jefferson did write of a “wall of separation between church and state,” but he did not believe that governmental property could not be used for religious purposes.

Two days after writing his reassuring “wall” letter to a small religious group in Connecticut that feared the kind of governmental persecution that “wall” was intended to prevent, President Jefferson began attending nondenominational church services in the House of Representatives on Sundays.

Thepodium of the speaker of the House was used by the minister conducting the service. When James Madison became president, he too attended the regular religious services in the Capitol. Atheists were not to be forced to participate in religious practices, but God and religion were not to be banned in the public square and on public property.

The message atop the Washington Monument, once the world’s tallest structure, is Latin for … praise God.

MICHAEL J. GAYNOR

Greenlawn, N.Y.

Julia Duin’s opening entry in her three-part series (“Religion under a secular assault” Page 1, Wednesday) has (at least) two very serious flaws.

The first flaw is the headline, combined with the claim by Miss Duin that “secularists” wish to “exclude God from public life.” These statements are false.

Religion-government separationists battle religious encroachment into government; they don’t battle religion in general. My personal viewpoint as a lifelong atheist is that theists should be free to engage in whatever futile rituals they wish to engage in and believe in whatever imaginary beings they wish to believe in as long as their rituals and beliefs don’t adversely affect me or anyone else who doesn’t share them.

The second flaw is a comment attributed to the Alliance Defense Fund that “Christianity is singled out for challenges.” Christianity is not singled out. The reason the lawsuits target Christians and their propaganda is that they typically are the only offenders, and egregious ones at that. It was, after all, a Christian who sued the city of Chicago to have his Nativity scene displayed on government property.

SANDRA VAN MAREN

Illinois state director

American Atheists

Chicago

As Ronald Reagan would say, “There you go again.” Your blanket statement, “Religion under assault by liberals” (early edition headline) tars all liberals with the same brush. I have been a liberal for about 55 years.

I have no love for organized religion, but, as long as no one tries to jam it down my throat or do harm to me and those I hold dear, others can do what they wish.

Religion is not only under assault by some liberals, but it is under assault by some conservatives, such as Judge Roy Moore, who placed the Ten Commandments in “his” courtroom and said no other religion had a place in “his” courtroom.

Religion is also under assault by those who bomb abortion clinics and murder doctors and nurses. These conservatives say they are doing the work of the Lord, as if almighty God needed the help.

Religion also is being assaulted by conservatives who say the courts are expelling God from public places. So, the God that conservatives say is omnipotent and omnipresent can be pushed around by a few dozen of his own creations?

Why would anyone worship such a God? To have an excuse for their actions? God made me do it. It was God’s will.

The assault on religion is a fit subject for examination, but it shouldn’t be approached with the view that Christianity is the only religion in existence.

DARREL SALISBURY

Lorton

The Rev. Barry Lynn, executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, credits bans on abortion as galvanizing him to vigorously oppose religious viewpoints having any place at the table of American democracy (“Why Bush threatens secularism,” Page, 1, Thursday). As he phrases it, policies dictating “what rights a woman has to make an intimate moral decision on her own” triggered his worry that “religious decisions that guide our country’s policy” cause damage to the fabric of our nation.

Strange that he should view the matter that way. Religious decisions also guide our country’s policy against first-degree murder, an act involving “intimate moral decisions” by those who commit homicide.

It would certainly damage the country’s fabric were government to condone murder. Mr. Lynn has expressed no qualms with this aspect of policy. Yet he condones one form of taking a life (abortion), but opposes another form of taking a life (murder).

Still, a murder analogy may be too harsh. Some argue abortion is a “compassionate” means of terminating babies with birth defects who otherwise would suffer hardship and diminished quality of life.

Let’s stipulate this point — though data show most abortions are elective rather than medically necessary. Are we then to say people living lives of hardship and diminished quality ought to be terminated? (Americans United objected to congressional action in the Terri Schiavo matter, so Mr. Lynn’s organization appears to be in the vanguard of the march down that road.)

It seems religion, per se, is not what causes Mr. Lynn angst, but rather religion’s (or, specifically, Christianity’s) opposition to his apparent views regarding “inconvenient” lives.

Not all moral systems are equally valid or desirable. Our government is charged with defending the common good, not every perversity. Sixty years ago, we won a war against a country that believed some lives were unworthy of living. Our country is now fighting another war, again over the question of which lives are worthy of living. That is why life-affirming religion must continue to inform our government’s policy and why Americans United opposes it.

SCOTT A. BYRD

Vienna

Not sold on AARP

I very much appreciated Thursday’s Op-Ed column “The games AARP plays, ” by John Carlisle. I am 59 years old and thus far have refused to join AARP for some of the reasons stated by Mr. Carlisle. I, too, do not believe AARP’s primary goal is to be a protector of senior citizens. The ongoing debate on Social Security is a classic example.

I have tried to e-mail AARP to remind the people there that many people older than 50 favor personal ownership and investment that would allow us to invest a portion of the onerous Social Security taxes we pay each year.

The only thing I received was a canned response generated by a computer that reiterated AARP’s positions. Apparently they aren’t interested in new opinions. It also has become an aggravation to me that the national media are so quick to attribute AARP’s positions to its entire 35 million members.

Reports don’t even take the time to note that AARP’s own polls have shown that at least a portion of those 35 million members have their own opinions about what’s best for them and their families.

There may be some benefits to being a member of AARP, but until it begins to make an effort to represent the conservative side of America’s senior citizens, I’m keeping my money.

WADE YEARSLEY

Hamer, Idaho

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