- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Maryland and marriage

Do Marylanders want to live in the second state in the nation to have same-sex “marriage” forced on us by the courts, following Massachusetts (“Foes set push to ban gay unions,” Metropolitan, Monday)? That’s what is in jeopardy with a lawsuit filed last summer by the ACLU seeking to overturn Maryland’s marriage law.

The majority of Marylanders, like the majority of Americans in 13 other states, want our elected state representatives to represent us and protect marriage as it has existed for milleniums and has been the bedrock of culture in Asia, Africa, Europe, North America, South America, Australia and even Antarctica.

Though Delegate Joseph Vallario says he personally opposes homosexual “marriage,” he does not support an amendment banning them. Give Marylanders an opportunity to vote on a constitutional amendment.

LAURA CLARK

Catonsville, Md.

Politically correct or historically correct?

Richard G. Williams Jr.’s depiction of Robert E. Lee (“Lee the educator committed to character,” The Civil War, Saturday) follows a tradition of Southern writers who have eulogized the Civil War general who later became president of Washington College. Mr. Williams does an admirable job of describing Lee’s empathy toward the soldiers he led in battle and the young men he prepared for life at his educational institution. The author also defends Lee against what he characterizes as recent politically correct efforts to denigrate his public image.

I agree with what Mr. Williams describes as Lee’s strengths as an individual, but he glosses over and defends Lee’s decision to resign his commission in the United States Army, renounce his citizenship and take up arms against his former countrymen in defense of the Southern way of life based on a slave-driven economy. Mr. Williams characterizes Lee’s actions in this case as “one of the most famous self-sacrificing decisions in history.” A more objective observer would see this as an effort to emphasize Lee’s finer points selectively while overlooking anything that might tarnish his image.

Providing historically accurate facts does not constitute being “politically correct.” Lee was a fine gentleman and a talented warrior. At the same time, he went to war against his own country to preserve a lifestyle that has since been rejected as repugnant. Mr. Williams is correct that Lee should not be stricken from the historical record. At the same time, he should be remembered for all of his actions, not just those that some admirers choose to emphasize.

THOMAS J. RYAN

Bethany Beach, Del.

‘Bush’s embrace of faith’

Your front-page article on President Bush’s faith (“Bush’s embrace of faith cheered,” yesterday) notes that President Bush took time out to acknowledge “Religious Freedom Day,” which commemorates the 1786 passage of the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom. The article failed to point out the essence of the Virginia law, however, which is, as the following passage makes clear, against the use of public money for religious purposes:

“To compel a man to furnish contributions of money for the propagation of opinions which he disbelieves, is sinful and tyrannical; that even the forcing him to support this or that teacher of his own religious persuasion is depriving him of the comfortable liberty of giving his contributions to the particular pastor, whose morals he would make his pattern.”

The Virginia law was passed shortly after distribution of James Madison’s 1785 “Memorial and Remonstrance” against the use of tax money “for support of the Christian religion.”

The essence of the Constitution’s religion stipulations is voluntarism in matters of religion. These include “no religious test” (Art. 6, Sec. 3.) and “no law respecting an establishment of religion” (First Amendment). In America, support of religion is to be voluntary. Taxes are not voluntary.

Tax money is for public institutions. It should never be given to any faith-based institution.

On Feb. 28, 1811, President Madison vetoed as unconstitutional a bill passed by Congress that “comprises a principle and precedent for the appropriation of funds of the United States for the use and support of religious societies.”

The debate is not new. Shortly after leaving the presidency, Madison, the “father of the Constitution,” wrote: “Strongly guarded as is the separation between Religion and Government in the Constitution of the United States, the danger of encroachment by Ecclesiastical Bodies may be illustrated by precedents already furnished in their short history.” Go to a college library and read it.

GENE GARMAN

America’s Real Religion

Pittsburg, Kan.

Teaching penmanship

Cursive handwriting is in decline and is a waste of time (“Shorthand rediscovered,” Metropolitan, Monday). We should define it as “conventional cursive,” a method of writing that employs various connectors for joining and letters that differ from the ones first learned that resemble print. Therein lies the problem: Children learn two fine-motor skills when one will do. If they first learn a simple, easy alphabet that has the basic elements of a fluent hand, many of the same lowercase letters will join up for a true cursive. The method is known as “italic,” and use of this method is growing steadily.

Teaching time would be saved. Children could learn to write in a joined-up manner before they leave second grade or earlier. I have used and taught an italic hand for more than 30 years. I have followed former students and learned that they retain a fluent hand.

Teacher-education programs are one cause of the problem. Faced with a mandate to teach penmanship, teachers have little recourse but to rely on copybooks the school provides. They are ill-prepared to understand the physiology of handwriting.

NAN JAY BARCHOWSKY

Aberdeen, Md.

Parental involvement important

The Montgomery County Board of Education has bypassed several of its own policies on sex ed (“Montgomery set on pilot sex-ed class,” Metropolitan, Dec. 15).

Its policies explicitly require the board to inform parents of changes to the sex-ed curriculum and solicit public reaction to those changes. In November, however, it rolled out the new curriculum and approved it for piloting on the same day.

Parents are still reeling from this brazen decision and are wondering how to insert themselves into a tightly controlled and manipulated process that has left them out of the loop.

The board also plans to exclude parents from evaluation of the pilot program, relying solely on teacher and student feedback before final approval for countywide use.

Keep in mind that this new curriculum includes a highly controversial presentation of homosexuality and sexual variations. We parents pay a large portion of the taxes that fund the schools and their $1.7 billion budget. According to the board’s policy on Citizen Review of Curricular and Instructional Materials, we have the right to voice our “reaction to curriculum documents dealing with sensitive topics.” Parents are justly furious over this new curriculum that the board is forcing on the schools with no regard for its own procedures.

ELLEN CASTELLANO

Citizens for a Responsible Curriculum

Montgomery Village

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