- The Washington Times - Monday, September 30, 2002

Supreme Court doesn't have a prayer

On Sept. 20, I took a tour of Washington with six other friends. We had just toured the Supreme Court and gathered on the front steps to get our picture taken when someone in our group said, "Let's just kneel down here and pray for a minute." We had no more turned around, kneeled and started to pray when a security guard ran over to us and said that we couldn't do that and that we would have to leave. I asked if we didn't have freedom of speech, to which he replied, "Not here."
We were so totally surprised. We had no signs and weren't demonstrating, only praying. One of our group tried to engage the security guard in conversation when our tour guide said we had better stop or we would probably get arrested.
We calmly left, but the more I thought about it the more upset I got. We had just seen the sculpture on the side of the building that shows Moses holding the Ten Commandments, and also saw a reproduction of the sculpture above the justices' bench. Words from the Bible are carved in stone in the Jefferson Memorial. All over Washington, there is evidence of our Christian heritage. Our members of Congress pray every morning, and they even stood on the steps of the U.S. Capitol and sang "God Bless America," which is a prayer. And yet we can't pray on the steps of the Supreme Court?
This security guard infringed upon our right to free expression of religion, which is guaranteed by our First Amendment. I'm concerned that all our freedoms are being eroded daily. America needs to examine its roots and realize that our nation exists because God blessed our Founding Fathers with the wisdom to establish the greatest nation on Earth and that without God's continued blessings we will cease to exist.

Branson, Mo.

A needling problem

Adrienne T. Washington made a strong plea for federal monies for a needle-exchange program in the District ("We have an AIDS epidemic in our own back yard," Metropolitan, Friday), but she made an incorrect statement about birth-control programs and a questionable statement that needle-exchange programs reduce the transmission of disease.
She wrote: "On the heels of the Bush administration's discontinuation of funding for foreign birth-control programs," In fact, President Bush did not discontinue or reduce funding to population-control programs; he increased them from $446.5 million to $480.5 million. However, he did, duty-bound by law, discontinue funding for the U.N. Fund for Population Activities (UNFPA) because it materially aids China's coercive abortion population program. The details of his decision can be found in Secretary of State Colin L. Powell's report to Congress at www.house.gov/maloney/issues/UNFPA/unfpadecision.pdf.
Ironically, in the same edition of The Times, we read that "Most young injection drug users continue to share needles and other drug paraphernalia, even after being given risk counseling and referred to needle exchange programs" ("Education does not stop needle sharing, study shows," Nation).
Even so, Mrs. Washington sees needle exchange as a temporary measure "while we figure out how to provide addicts with real resources that will help them kick their habits." She apparently does not understand that addicts must first themselves decide to kick the habit and that then help becomes useful.


Varieties of killing

I really enjoy your fine newspaper, which I read daily on the Web. Yet I was surprised at the use of the word "execute" in the headline "Gunmen execute 7 Pakistani Christians" (Page 1, yesterday).
The word "execute" generally refers to an act of killing by the legitimate authority of a nation or state after due process of applicable law. It has always seemed to me that the use of the term "execute" validates the killing as legitimate under local code and authority.
I hope that in the future, The Washington Times will call such killings what they are: murders. Or perhaps a neutral term favored by the BBC, "shot dead," could be used as well.
That said, I am glad The Times ran coverage of this atrocity. The murder of Christians does not seem to be newsworthy in many journals.

Plymouth, Ind.

CARE would give a boost to fundraisers

For the first time in more than a generation, Congress is considering legislation that would dramatically increase charitable giving in the United States. As Michael Jones argued in his Sept. 19 Op-Ed column "There's still time to CARE" which specifically addressed the legislation's faith-based initiative aspect the CARE (Charitable Aid, Recovery, and Empowerment) Act, S. 1924 creates new incentives for individuals to give to charities.
The CARE Act would allow donors to contribute funds from their individual retirement accounts (IRAs) or other retirement funds to charity without paying taxes on the contribution. Currently, donors can roll over funds from their IRAs to charity, but they face tax consequences if they do so.
The CARE Act would allow donors who do not itemize their deductions to take a charitable deduction. Nonitemizing donors giving multiple, smaller contributions will realize the benefit that itemizers do. Other provisions encourage more contributions of food (to help shelters and food banks), books (to help libraries and literacy programs) and technological and scientific equipment (to help schools and charities).
For the past 12 months, America's charities have helped our country respond to tremendous challenges. Many charities provided disaster relief, job training and other support after September 11; others continue to offer critical programs food, education, housing and medical research, to name just a few and serve our communities in countless ways.
Even as charities remain committed to their causes, they have suffered. Recent data show that charitable giving in 2001 actually declined compared to 2000 (adjusted for inflation), the first such decrease in more than 15 years. Charities in our own area have found demands for their services increasing while sources for contributions are decreasing. The CARE Act will help these charities provide their vital services.
The CARE Act is close to passage in the Senate and has impressive bipartisan support. We urge Congress to strengthen charities and pass S. 1924 before adjournment this fall.

Association of Fundraising Professionals, D.C.

Computers out of the courtroom

The lure of high technology to both ease lawyers' clerical tasks and wow juries with PowerPoint presentations and fanciful simulations ("Laptop courtroom," Metropolitan, Thursday) has a seldom recognized downside: Computers do lie.
By happenstance, this morning I reviewed a printout of a "final" document for compliance with agreements reached in conference with clients. Discrepancies discovered led to e-mail exchanges and hurried phone consultations, only to discover that what appears on the screen is not what comes out of the printer.
In this case, Microsoft Word's change tracking feature had been used previously and for some reason, Microsoft Word printed a slightly earlier version despite the on-screen version displaying final corrections.
Unlike original paper documents, computer copies apparently can change due to software gremlins unknown to the people handling them. The courts and legal profession owe it to the public not to succumb to convenience and easier fees at the expense of those whose welfare, freedom and even lives depend upon fair hearings.


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