- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 5, 2000

The House chaplain controversy continues

Tony Blankley passes off House Speaker Dennis Hastert's actions in the House chaplain controversy as "unpardonably clumsy" ("Wars of religion," Op-Ed, March 1). They are much more than that. All indications are that Mr. Hastert knew the relative support on the chaplain search committee for each of the three finalists and that the Rev. Timothy O'Brien had the most support. The committee's co-chairman, Rep. Earl Pomeroy, has been quoted time and again as saying he personally told Mr. Hastert. Yet to this day, the speaker claims he didn't know.

The fact that Mr. Blankley excuses this dishonesty is not surprising. This is the same commentator who, on the "McLaughlin Group" television show, made the irresponsible statement that Roll Call "misreported" the almost laughable episode that injected the Rev. Billy Graham into the chaplain debate. Mr. Hastert's own press people were trumpeting the fact that Mr. Graham called to support the House leadership's choice for chaplain. It took all of a few hours for Mr. Graham to release a statement saying he had done no such thing. Mr. Hastert's staff retreated, changing its story.

The press didn't get the story wrong. Mr. Blankley should get the facts.


Director of communications

Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights

New York


The controversy regarding the naming of a new chaplain by the House of Representatives points up the need to make a change in the traditional system of appointment.

I am not a Catholic, nor do I hold any particular preference for any Protestant church, but the Republican leadership in the House has grossly bungled the current situation by turning down the appointment of a Catholic priest for the post.

Why does the House need an official and salaried chaplain? I am in favor of opening sessions with a prayer, but that can be accomplished by selecting members of the House to perform that function or by inaugurating a new system such as Chaplain of the Month, in which all major religious faiths could receive recognition. The salary should be eliminated, but each month's chaplain should receive an honorarium for service.

If the House does not end the controversy, it will not only put Gov. George W. Bush at a disadvantage, but could result in the Republicans losing control of the House.



Japanese women are breaking a 'bum deal'

An otherwise accurate piece on Japan ("Birthrate plunging in Japan," World, Feb. 28) ignores a crucial reason for the reluctance of Japanese women to bear children: husbands' expectations that women, no matter what their education or job responsibilities, will do all the work of maintaining a home and caring for everyone in it men, aging family members and children included.

Educated women can see that this is a bum deal. This is just like bum deals they get from employers who deny them career-ladder jobs and the bureaucrats who treat them as "parasites" (successful single women in Japan who are in no hurry to marry are called "parasite singles") instead of enforcing equal-opportunity requirements.

Japanese women are starting to push for equality in every sphere of life. What you have here is a portrait of a revolution.



Keyes the only candidate sticking to the issues

Armstrong Williams' Feb. 25 Commentary column, "A time to bow out gracefully," was very disappointing. Until I read that column, I had great respect for Mr. Williams' thinking and work, but taking dismissive shots at Republican presidential candidate Alan Keyes is uncalled for and intellectually dishonest. Mr. Williams' cringing in embarrassment and discomfort when Mr. Keyes talks about the country's moral decay and the Republican Party's hypocrisy is a sad comment on how he has weathered the Clinton years.

I find it hard to believe Mr. Williams wants Mr. Keyes to simply shut up and sit down (for the good of the party, of course). It sounds as if he's advocating Clintonista-style political pragmatism and glossy cover-up jobs over honest dialogue, accountability, clear definitions of policy and the unalterable truth. Does Mr. Keyes really rock the Republican boat that much?

While Mr. Williams dismisses Mr. Keyes' single-digit turnouts as evidence of his irrelevance, he also attacks Mr. Keyes' (growing) influence and appeal. Using the Democratic Party's lexicon, Mr. Williams attacks the Keyes message as "fringe conservative rhetoric." I call Mr. Williams' attention to the Republican "debate" hosted by Larry King on Feb. 15. The front-runners traded "did nots" and "did toos" like 10-year-olds fighting on a school playground. Mr. Keyes was the only candidate prepared to discuss policy and the nation's future. Mr. Williams should rethink his position.



Hong Kong doing fine under the one-country-two-systems formula

Your Feb. 28 editorial "Beijing blackmail" included an allegation that "all things are eroding in Hong Kong. The judicial system used to be independent, but twice decisions have been reversed because of pressure from Beijing. The civil service has been compromised."

This allegation is untrue and needs to be corrected. The comment on judicial independence presumably is a reference to a decision by our Court of Final Appeal last year on the issue of whether children born in mainland China to Hong Kong people had the right of abode in Hong Kong.

The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Government thoroughly respects the final judgment handed down by Hong Kong's Court of Final Appeal in January of last year. In accordance with that decision, we are assessing the eligibility of several thousand people who have lodged claims for the right of abode in connection with the court case.

Separately, in view of the huge ramifications for our immigration policy in the long term, we decided to seek an interpretation of the constitutional provision in question from the body designated in Hong Kong's Basic Law for that purpose, namely the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress in Beijing. This was a legal and constitutionally proper route. There was no pressure from Beijing. Our estimate was that up to 1.6 million people in mainland China would be eligible for the right of abode in Hong Kong. That would be equivalent to an almost 25 percent increase in population. Any government would act in the face of such an influx.

The authority of the Court of Final Appeal has not been undermined. According to our constitution, the Basic Law, the court has the power of final adjudication and interpretation of Hong Kong common law and Hong Kong legislation. This covers the vast majority of court cases. The Court of Final Appeal also can apply provisions of the Basic Law in dealing with any litigation. The Standing Committee of the National People's Congress has the power of final interpretation of the Basic Law.

The one-country-two-systems formula is working well in the special administrative region. Hong Kong remains a vibrant, free society under the rule of law. Democratic elections to the legislature and district councils have attracted active participation by candidates and the electorate. Judicial independence remains firmly intact. Freedom of the press and of expression continue to flourish. The integrity, professionalism and political neutrality of the civil service are stronger than ever.



Hong Kong Economic and Trade Affairs, U.S.A.


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