- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 18, 2006

The First Amendment and religious freedom

Although Bruce Fein acknowledges that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 is the “Magna Carta of civil rights” and that it “honors religious freedom” by “authorizing religious entities to make employment decisions based on… religious preference,” Mr. Fein would constrain this fundamental right according to the canons of political correctness (“Free exercise extravagance,” Commentary, Tuesday).

Mr. Fein’s contention that a church may not consider gender (or, these days, sexual orientation) in hiring would mean that every Catholic parish, Orthodox Jewish synagogue or other traditionalist sect that as a matter of religious doctrine does not ordain female clergy (not to mention objects to homosexuality) should be compelled by federal lawsuit to reverse these tenets. That would be, in Mr. Fein’s word, “absurd,” not to mention at odds with the First Amendment and the intent of those who drafted the 1964 act.

NATHAN DIAMENT

Director of public policy

Union of Orthodox Jewish

Congregations of America

Washington

What kind of prevention?

Sen. Bill Frist could be commended for his call for improving our federal response to biological threats (bioterrorism and pandemics) in his “Anthrax in review” Commentary column on World Food Day (Monday). As he pointed out, local media and public-health institutions lack the capabilities to effectively respond to an anthrax attack or the natural spread of avian flu.

It’s gravely unfortunate, however, that Mr. Frist failed to mention the vital importance of prevention. Preventing pandemics or bioterror attacks would be infinitely more cost- effective in saving lives and dollars than more spending on “pre-emption” or increased preparation.

Every single day, nearly 30,000 children under the age of 5 die from easily preventable malnutrition and infectious diseases. According to the United Nations World Health Organization, clean water alone would eliminate nearly half of all the world’s infectious diseases. Any doctor should know that adequate nutrition is humanity’s first line of defense against infectious diseases.

Mr. Frist also should consider the idea that foreign policy aimed at more humanitarian goals would reduce the potential for bioterrorist attacks, insofar as it would reduce the number of people who use our current strategy of military, interventionist means to justify their nefarious responses to those policies.

More federal dollars should be spent preparing for the inevitable bioterrorist attacks and pandemics, but the wisest investment would be in prevention efforts “over there” so we don’t have to fight them “over here.” The most effective way of waging war against infectious threats is the universal protection of inalienable human rights to adequate food, clean water and education. This could be achieved worldwide for less than a third of what we are spending on the Iraq war each year.

MAGGIE REEVES

Silver Spring

Truman and the Korean War

Ernest Lefever talks about Harry Truman’s greatness as a president (“Truman’s greatness,” Commentary, Sunday). I believe one hole in his greatness was the firing of Gen. Douglas MacArthur, the U.S. commander in Korea during what was then politely called a “police action.” The resolution of the Korean conflict was the beginning of America’s famous distaste for prosecuting a war once entered into, and certainly a distaste for winning it. If Washington had listened to Gen. MacArthur and given him rein to command, we might not have a divided Korea today and could have saved ourselves the expense over 50 years of playing nursemaid to South Korea as that country went on to become an economically healthy democracy.

Of course, we saw later how Washington lost its stomach for the Vietnam War, and now we are seeing the same thing with the situation in Iraq. There never was a war that could be run by anybody but the generals. That politicians in Washington at any time have the wherewithal to prosecute a war, or sometimes even to wind their watches, is a conceit that goes with the whole self-satisfied Washington package.

I spent a year in Korea with the Marines during that police action and came back hale and in one piece, but more than 50,000 men did not return. One wonders whether these 50,000-plus turn in their graves, watching the current developments over there.

RICHARD LANDON

Williamsburg

Rangel responds

The article, “GOP focuses on taxes again,” (Page 1, Friday) alleged that I planned to roll back the Bush tax cuts. Nothing could be further from the truth. On Oct. 8, the editorial page reported correctly that my priority was to protect middle-class taxpayers, restore pay-as-you-go and eliminate the alternative minimum tax.

Desperate Republican strategists are just falling back on a strategy that they’ve used in the past to overcome a host of failed policies and to raise money from big donors.

In Congress, they’ve been unable to gain traction on their wedge issues of gay marriage and immigration. The president hasn’t helped GOP candidates with his campaign to keep the focus on national security. Voters are revolted by the slaughter of more than 2,700 Americans and 20,000 wounded in Iraq, described by U.S. intelligence as a breeding ground for terrorists.

Republicans have also lost the public’s confidence in their management of the economy, but they’re playing the “tax card” in a last-ditch attempt to paint Democrats as “tax and spend liberals.” Republican National Committee Chairman Ken Mehlman issued the call to go on the attack in a Sept. 29 fund-raising memo.

It’s clear that Republicans are searching desperately for an issue to scare the voters. Under GOP leadership, Americans have already seen their incomes stagnate, their jobs exported overseas, their health insurance disappear and their children’s futures mortgaged to benefit the wealthiest 1 percent. Bogus claims about Democratic plan to raise taxes just won’t work this time.

CHARLES B. RANGEL

House of Representatives

Washington

‘Legitimate rights’ and the Tamil Tigers

The conflict in Sri Lanka is complex and requires a balanced and comprehensive solution (“Targeting the Tamil Tigers,” Editorial, yesterday). The Tamil Tigers may sometimes act deplorably, but they are legitimate representatives of the Tamil people in the north and the east. They run a de facto state in the north-central part of the island. The truth is that the State Department has recognized the right to self-determination for the people of the north and the east of Sri Lanka.

In June 2006, Assistant Secretary of State Richard Boucher said: “Though we reject the methods that the Tamil Tigers have used, there are legitimate issues raised by the Tamil community, and they have a very legitimate desire, as anybody would, to control their own lives, to rule their own destinies, and to govern themselves in their homeland, in the areas they’ve traditionally inhabited.”

This conflict will never be resolved on the battlefield. The situation in Sri Lanka can only be resolved if the major donors to Sri Lanka make it very clear to the government that it needs to recognize the legitimate rights and aspirations of the Tamil people and grant full autonomy to the north and the east.

DAYALAN KASILINGAM

Dartmouth, Mass.

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