Go With the Flow
I would like to say something to those who objected to the prayer at the Northern High School graduation ceremony.
The Constitution works both ways. The same Constitution that says you don't have to pray also gives that same right to those that do.
I would be upset if someone had shouted "fire" or did something else that would have involved public safety.
My fourth great-grandfather fought for that same Constitution, and there are some times I wonder why (especially tax time).
I was always under the impression that "majority rules." If I don't like the particular president, governor, etc., I vote. If the person I vote for doesn't get in office, I accept the fact that the majority of the voters put that person in office. I might not like it, but I live with it. So, why don't you. I also don't like the fact that "city folk" start dictating lifestyles to those of us who are life-long Southern Marylanders, but unfortunately I have to live with that too! So, as the saying goes: "Get a life."
`Good People' Will Pay Price
The self-righteous Christians at Northern High School's graduation who chose to trample on the rights of individuals who do not share their beliefs illustrate yet again why we must insist on clearly defined barriers between religion and government. I'm sure everyone, including Board of Commissioners President [Linda L,] Kelley, thinks of [themselves] as strong advocates of law and order, yet they knowingly broke the law because they were convinced that God and truth were on their side.
Religious zealots, of various creeds, are responsible for many of the atrocities of this century, including the horrors currently happening in the former Yugoslavia. While events in Calvert County do not rise to the same level of abomination as those in Kosovo, the principle of a religious majority denying rights to anyone who disagrees with them is the same, and that they were joined in breaking the law by the government officials who were present is truly frightening.
I hope the good people of Calvert County will be as convinced of the correctness of their views when the legal bills start pouring in. They're already paying a price in negative publicity, but they should also pay for the damage they did to a young man whose only crime was to ask that the law be observed.
THOMAS G. SHAFFER
Should a Minority Rule?
Ms. Irene Dobrzanski knows very well that many ethnic conflicts in the world have been carried out in the name of religion to the extent that those who have . . . carried out such atrocities have done so not because of their religion but in spite of their religion. Anyone can call themselves a Christian, a Muslim, a Hindu or a Jew, but that does not make them one.
Christians, Jews, Hindus and Muslims have a common heritage which holds human life and freedom in high value. No true Christian, Jew, Hindu or Muslim would ever persecute or infringe on the freedom or well-being of others.
No one made anyone pray at the Northern High graduation in Calvert County. The Lord's Prayer was a spontaneous act of devotion to God and was done quietly and tastefully. As a matter of fact, at least two different groups thought that they were the ones who began the Lord's Prayer. If a person didn't believe in God, they didn't have to pray. If I understand what you are asking, you would be infringing upon my freedom of religion.
Simply stated, the only thing the Constitution says is that "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof." Some state and county departments of education have run so scared that they will be sued by those who don't want God in public affairs that they have mistakenly discouraged or even forbidden anything religious in public buildings or events. This is not at all what our framers of the Constitution intended.
The vast majority of people in Calvert County, or in America for that matter, believe in God. Those that don't believe in God are a very small minority. Should we punish the majority for the wishes of a handful of people?
Students Are Role Models
Irene Dobrzanski's letter contending people upholding love for a divine creator during a graduation ceremony are equivalent to terrorists murdering innocent people in Kosovo was an obscenity to read. As students face dangers ranging from gunfire to illegal drugs, we should gather strength in knowing so many prefer the affirmation of religious faith -- Christian, Jewish, Muslim and more.
Allowing the whims of one [objector] to overrule ideals espoused by the great religions is a wound upon our community. Ms. Dobrzanski suggests punishment of students that affirmed their faith while comparing them to violent Serbian thugs. On the contrary, I rejoice that our young people side with the major religions in saying the prospect of an Almighty emboldens our beliefs and integrity. Students displaying a devotion to such worthy values are role models that will not be deterred by an irate agnostic letter writer.
Constitution Protects Choice
I would like to add my concern to that expressed by Ms. Dobrzanski regarding the situation that erupted at Northern High School's 1999 graduation ceremony on May 26 at the Show Place Arena. That evening, my daughter, Katy, received her diploma honoring 13 years of hard work and dedication by a truly wonderful young woman.
As I am sure you are aware, a traditional invocation was replaced by a Moment of Reflection because of an objection by a student. The Moment of Reflection was beautifully written and wonderfully delivered. It honored people of all religious backgrounds and encouraged them to stop and remember those who have throughout the years encouraged and supported them, and also to remember those who are suffering so horribly in Kosovo as well as the families of the victims in Littleton, Colo.
What bothers me most is not that people chose to pray. This was expressly encouraged by the Moment of Reflection. What bothers me is the fact that the people who participated in this outburst and those who encouraged it ignored my right to pray in a quiet, thoughtful manner.
During this time, I was praying. I gave thanks to God for my wonderful daughter and for the bright future she has because of the great preparation she has received at Northern. I also gave thanks for all of the other young people who attend Northern High School and for the teachers and school administrators who have guided and mentored them.
Unfortunately, my prayer was interrupted by a group of people who obviously felt their prayer was so much more important that it had to be said in a loud, intrusive manner even though we were specifically asked to silently reflect.
What should be of great concern to all people is the intolerance that was demonstrated by the crowd for people of different views and religious thinking. The Constitution protects an individual's right to worship as they please. However, it also protects their right to not worship if they so choose. This is not a matter of "majority rule" but of the rule of law.
No Respect for Non-Christians
The impromptu Lord's Prayer (Luke 11:2-4) during the graduation ceremonies at Northern High School in Calvert County is a shameful example of a smug Christian majority showing its lack of respect for non-Christians. Apparently, even County Commissioners President Linda Kelley finds it acceptable to mock the Jews, Muslims, Hindus and other non-Christians who may have wanted to celebrate the graduation with a silent, introspective prayer of their own.
The tone of the demonstration seemed to be, "Hey, we really put one over on the Supreme Court. How dare it toss God out of our schools!" Of course, all these fine, upstanding Christians did was make an awkward, unpleasant moment for non-Christians, for the Supreme Court did not remove God from school or anywhere else. All it did was prohibit a public school from forcing every student to say the same prayer. Public school-mandated prayer is banned not because the Supreme Court is anti-Christian, but because members of minority religious factions also have the right to pray when, where, how and if they choose to.
One Nation Under God
Recently, our nation has experienced a number of very tragic happenings: the murders of innocent students and a teacher at Columbine High School, the numerous deaths attributed to the worst tornadoes that Oklahoma has ever experienced and the war in Kosovo, to name a few. In the many newscasts and articles covering these tragedies, many references are made to God and prayer. . . . I feel an urgency to ask why we as a nation only feel comfortable during times of trial to publicly mention or turn to God?
We as a nation have continuously distanced ourselves from God as evidenced by the stripping of prayer from our schools; the ruling that the Ten Commandments can't be posted in any courtroom in this country; and the many distorted legal challenges under the premise of separation of church and state. When we take God out, we then create an open door for evil to enter. We are witness to this process here in this country today. I'm standing on the fact that we must put God back front and center of this nation; not just when the going gets rough, but at all times. This nation was founded by our forefathers as one nation under God, and we must go back to that basic principle. But how?
We must ask God for forgiveness and repent of our many sins against Him; such as our failure as a nation to honor Him by the lawful killing of millions of babies by abortion, the general acceptance of immoral behavior, the legal promotion of violence under free speech by what's available through the Internet and TV and much more. Under the guidance of the Ten Commandments, we must then form our conscience both personally and nationally. The greatest of these commandments is to love God above all else and love our neighbor as ourselves.
I for one will strive to love and honor God daily in all aspects of my life. . . . I will continue to pray for this great nation. Won't you please join me? It takes just one spark to make a forest fire. Let's return this nation back to God in good times and in bad.
A good start would be for us to contact our [senators] to put prayer back in our nation's schools. They are Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski, 202-224-4654 . . . and Sen. Paul S. Sarbanes, 202-224-4524 . . . . Together with our actions and voices we can again make this "One nation under God."
Continue BGE's Contribution
Your article "Calvert Faces Lean Times, Official Says" may have given your readers the wrong impression. While the scenario the county administrator presented may come true, there is no reason, at this time, to believe that we will suffer the full $9 million loss over three years as the article indicated. In fact, our county administrator quite clearly said we may lose that much, but no one knows for sure until the Public Service Commission (PSC) rules on stranded costs for Baltimore Gas & Electric. . . .
The PSC has the responsibility and duty to protect the interests of citizens across this state. They serve the public, not the utility companies. Calvert County officials have no room to start talking about a tax increase at this time because we really don't know exactly what our financial future looks like until the PSC rules later this year on BGE's stranded costs. Given the influence that BGE has, since the company hires former top elected state officials as their lobbyists, it may in fact be doom and gloom for Calvert's future. However, I haven't given up hope that our local elected state officials, including Calvert's influential Senate President Mike Miller, Sen. Roy Dyson, Maryland House Majority Whip George Owings III and Maryland House of Delegates member Anthony J. O'Donnell will go to bat for Calvert. An interesting situation is with Del. O'Donnell, who is employed by BGE and works in Calvert County. Where does Del. O'Donnell stand on stranded costs for BGE? Will he make his position known? And, if so, will he write a letter along with the other state representatives from Calvert, asking the PSC for mercy on Calvert when they make their decision?
I plan to write all of them and ask for their assistance. I am also confident that Gov. Glendening and Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend will side with the citizens of Calvert County rather than a big nuclear utility company trying to save some money at our expense. I like and respect Calvert Cliffs workers, many of whom I consider my friends, although they may have to shy away from me for obvious reasons when I challenge their management on something like this. It's just that the company management is trying to save money at our expense. Calvert County citizens don't want higher taxes. We need BGE to continue paying their full share to Calvert County. Whatever nuclear risk there might be to Calvert County and the rest of Southern Maryland, it is not going down. The nuclear waste is growing every year and the plant's safety factor does not get better every year. Some people question the long-term safety of the plant as it ages. I don't know. But I do think that we should continue to be fully compensated for any potential risk to Southern Maryland.
Taxpayers, please ask Sens. Miller and Dyson, Dels. Owings and O'Donnell, as well as the other state representatives from Southern Maryland, to lobby Gov. Glendening and the PSC to have mercy on Calvert County.
JOHN DOUGLAS PARRAN
Editor's note: The writer is a Calvert County commissioner.
Tournament Is Too Exclusive
The real problem with the Maryland softball and baseball state tournament pairings has nothing to do with how the teams are seeded. The problem is that only half of the teams participate at all. A "state" tournament that excludes all of the private and parochial high schools is hardly a state tournament.
GREGORY T. EINBODEN
Editor's note: The writer is the head track and cross-country coach for St. Mary's Ryken High School.
Vandalism Also Hurt Children
My husband coaches both of our sons' (ages 6 and 9) soccer teams for the Calvert Soccer Association (CSA). He has two groups of children and parents who work hard to develop soccer skills and learn good sportsmanship. His first question to the teams when they come off the field from a game is: "Did you have fun?" not "We won/we lost . . . " He spends a lot of time getting together practice plans and game plans to help develop each child to his/her full potential. He is a caring and concerned coach. The parents spend time practicing with their children at home and are invited to be involved in practice as well. Two of them serve as assistant coaches. The children do their best and know that win or lose, their parents and coach are proud of them.
Both teams, along with several others, practice at the Baltimore Gas & Electric (BGE) fields located near the Southern Middle School on H.G. Trueman Road in Lusby. On Sunday evening, May 23, we were at the fields with our sons to fly model airplanes. The fields looked the same as they had on Saturday during the game, dry and in need of rain. . . .
When my husband came home from practice Tuesday of that week, he was angry. Someone had taken an SUV onto the fields and torn them up. Some ruts were up to a foot deep.
Trying to run practice in a field that torn up is nearly impossible, not to mention dangerous. Some person decided to have some fun at the expense of several groups of children. Thankfully, there [were] no games scheduled last weekend because of the Memorial Day holiday. However, there were practices scheduled during that week, and then last week tournaments were scheduled all week.
So, if the person responsible for this damage reads this letter, thanks for 10 minutes of irresponsible behavior on your part that could undo countless hours of responsible behavior the coaches and parents have given to all of the children who use these fields. You have a lot to learn. Maybe some day if you have children of your own, you will realize the damage you have done to these children's spirits. Maybe you will have to explain to your child why someone would want to tear up their practice and playing field. Maybe you will think of someone else besides yourself. Maybe you will finally learn to be a responsible adult.
Editor's note: The writer added last week that similar damage occurred to playing fields at Cove Point Park.
Congratulations to The Extra
Congratulations to Southern Maryland Extra of The Washington Post for the journalism award from the Metro Area Mass Media Committee of AAUW.
AAUW, which stands for the American Association of University Women (www.aauw.org), is an organization of 150,000 members nationwide (open to anyone with a four-year degree from an accredited college or university) which promotes equity for women, education and self-development, and positive societal change. In other words, our mission is to promote equity and education, especially for women and girls.
The Calvert County, Charles County and St. Mary's City branches appreciate The Post's coverage of tri-county issues, girls' as well as boys' sports, health watch, real estate transactions and, of course, letters to the editor.
Thank you and congratulations, Washington Post!
President, AAUW Maryland
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