Disabled Recreation Needed

I am writing this letter to express my concern that some of the Calvert County commissioners have reservations about approving the request to hire a therapeutic recreation specialist.

This position is desperately needed in our county. Parks and Recreation has stated that they have no one on staff now that can work with this population (the developmentally and physically disabled). The public school [spokespersons] stated they do not want the responsibility of running any special programs, that they can only provide support and possibly some coaches from the physical education staff.

We definitely need volunteers to help. But we also need someone whose job is arranging opportunities for recreation and rehabilitation for the entire county, for people with all types of disabilities. Recreational activity greatly improves the quality of life for them and makes them happier and more independent.

A survey is supposed to be taken within the county as to who would benefit from these services. I'm sure they will find many more than the 50 people noted by Commissioner [Linda L.] Kelley at the July 22 meeting. It is certainly not too much to ask -- most if not all of the surrounding counties employ therapeutic recreation specialists. I hope the commissioners will see how much this means to disabled individuals and their families, and that they will make the right decision.

ANNE HARMON

Prince Frederick

NAACP Improving St. Mary's

Last October, a group of caring individuals convened to reestablish and revitalize the St. Mary's County Branch of the NAACP. In the months that followed, membership more than tripled and constructive ideas developed and were implemented.

Actions include partnering with the St. Mary's County Board of Education on the "Lend An Ear" reading program, participation in the Year 2000 Calendar Project with the Unified Committee for African American Contributions, and reaching out in cooperative efforts with other community organizations. Last week's NAACP-sponsored Gospel Festival fund-raiser was indicative of the support, fellowship and dedication of this organization throughout its history of community involvement in St. Mary's County since the early 1940s.

On behalf of the local branch, I would like to thank everyone who contributed to this very successful event, and especially our co-sponsors, Lawrence Locksmith, C'Agnes Transportation, and Black Tie Barber Shop. Our thanks also to the Zion Adult Choir, the Gospel Disciples, the Zion Methodist Men, the Willett Family, the St. Matthew Free Gospel Choir, Deon John Butler, Clarence Young, Levi Berry and Pastor Kevin Pulliam for providing an enjoyable evening of music and communion. . . .

The St. Mary's County Branch of the NAACP provides an important service to our citizens and will continue to be a major advocate and contributor to the welfare and quality of life of all people regardless of their cultural heritage, gender, age or religion.

Please join with us in making St. Mary's County the best place to live.

LAURICE WHITE

President, St. Mary's County

Branch of the NAACP

Lexington Park

Moment of Silence Sufficient

In the June 27 issue of Southern Maryland Extra, Robert Boudreaux wrote, in his letter to the editor, that the First Commandment is broken if the state has authority higher than or equal to the church. I disagree because the church is not the same thing as God. For example, the Roman Catholic Church is a church, but it is not God.

Secondly, Mr. Boudreaux wrote that Matthew 28:19 told us to "make disciples of all the nations." But he ignored the rest of the verse. In this verse, Jesus said to his disciples: "Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit." Since only the church has authority to baptize, I believe that this verse was intended for church leaders, not for government officials.

In other news [in the June 27 Extra], some people are trying to "restore student-led prayer at public school events in Calvert County." They believe that students are being denied their right to prayer. This is not true. Students are free to pray any time and anywhere.

The law is against only organized prayers in public schools. If Christians are not willing to listen to, for example, a Muslim prayer in a public school, then they should not force a non-Christian public school student to listen to a Christian prayer. A moment of silence should be satisfactory for everyone. Students of different religions can pray at the same time.

MON YEE MAK

Indian Head

Public Prayer Is Lawful

In reference to S. McCarroll's letter printed June 20, 1999, one is in awe to discover that Ms. McCarroll believes that praying is against the law and the Constitution. It appears [Calvert County] Superintendent [James R.] Hook is under the same impression. Would either of them be kind enough to point out the specific law to which they refer and detail the portion of the Constitution of the United States prohibiting praying? Also, could Ms. McCarroll explain a lawful graduation ceremony as opposed to an unlawful graduation ceremony?

TERRI BARTZ WALLACE

California

All Beliefs Deserve Respect

I quote from a recent letter concerning the impromptu Lord's Prayer recited from the audience at the Northern High School graduation ceremony: "No person was forced to participate in the prayer. Why should the constitutional right to prayer be denied? I salute those who stood up for their rights. Many rights are slowly being taken away from us."

As no one's right to pray was denied, these comments show that the author completely missed the reason for the request for silent prayer or reflection: respect for non-Christians and those who wished to compose individual prayers or not pray at all.

God hears your prayers whether they are voiced or not. While it doesn't "force" prayer, praying out loud does interfere with the rights of others, as does talking or using a cell phone at a play or in a movie theater. I think the incident at [the] Northern High School [graduation] was un-Christian and even un-American in that it showed a lack of respect for school officials' requests and the rights of every individual present.

BRUCE KIRK

La Plata

Prayer Is Private Relationship

I have followed with interest the recent controversies regarding the posting of the Ten Commandments in public schools and the issue in Calvert County of student-led prayer at school-sponsored functions such as graduation ceremonies. It is on this second issue that I would like to make some comments.

In last Sunday's article [Extra, June 27], the Rev. Doug Myers was quoted as saying that the children of his congregation were denied the right to prayer at the graduation ceremony. Who denied them this right? Who denied the students the right to pray silently? Who denied them the right to offer thanks in their heart to their God? Who denied them the right to offer prayer in their church services, giving thanks for their graduation? No one! What was denied them was the "right" to pray out loud, in public, to force their beliefs on others who might not be of the same mind and faith.

It is my understanding of Christ's teaching that prayer is a private relationship between the individual person and God. Before he taught followers the Lord's Prayer, he cautioned them not to pray as the hypocrites did but rather to pray to "their Father who is unseen" in secret and he assured them that their prayer would be heard in secret. He was, I believe, teaching them that prayer by nature should be an intimate relationship with their God. It seems that a public prayer that may be forced on others cheapens this relationship. In another part of the New Testament he also teaches them that their God will know what is in their hearts even before they ask it. Why then do some groups feel the need for public, verbal prayer?

When people of any faith gather in worship they do so of one accord and in one faith. It is certainly right for them to offer common prayer as they believe, at that time and in their houses of worship. To do so at a high school graduation or indeed at any public gathering where there is likely to be a diversity of beliefs, or people who have no particular belief system, is simply rude and inconsiderate. It is not only a question of whether it is constitutional or not.

It seemed that all of the ministers in the group that want to restore prayer in public schools were from various Christian churches. What I find most disturbing is what I perceive to be a certain Christian arrogance that says their belief system is the only valid one and they have the right to jam their beliefs down the public throat.

My faith system is outside of what is frequently called "mainstream religion" and I am always thankful that the Constitution gives me the right to worship as I see fit. My faith system also teaches that I have no right to try to force others to believe as I do.

LISA BABCOCK

Hughesville

Hoyer Flag Vote Unfortunate

On June 24, for the third time, the U.S. House of Representatives achieved a two-thirds majority vote (305 to 124) to amend the Constitution to protect the American flag. And, again, for the third time, our congressman, Steny Hoyer, voted against protecting the American flag.

In all likelihood, Hoyer will (once again) defend his vote against the American flag by relying on the First Amendment of the Constitution. He will claim that burning and otherwise desecrating the flag is protected by the Amendment's free speech clause. But, an act of physical destruction is not "speech" within the original intent of the First Amendment.

Moreover, unlike any other object, our flag is special. It symbolizes our nation's commitment to freedom and independence. One need only look at the Iwo Jima Memorial to be reminded of the flag's special meaning in our lives. As a Naval Academy graduate and naval veteran, I have spent many years of my life protecting the principles upon which this country was founded, including the right to speak freely against the government. However, desecrating the American flag was never one of those principles.

Last year, Hoyer painted himself as pro-military by filling the airwaves with claims of saving jobs at the Patuxent River Naval Air Station and other local military facilities. In fact, Congress could not bring itself to make the tough call on this issue and, instead, delegated its authority to the Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) Commission. Furthermore, Hoyer's voting record on military matters leaves much to be desired. The result: Our troops are undermanned, underpaid, overextended and in the worst state of readiness since the hollow forces of post-Vietnam.

Now, his "three-peat" against the flag amendment flies in the face of the overwhelming majority of veterans who support protecting the American flag. Perhaps if Hoyer had served in the military, he would recognize the special uniqueness of our flag. But, like Clinton, he did not.

Forty-nine state legislators and 70 percent of the American public support the flag amendment. It is unfortunate that Congressman Hoyer does not.

BOBBY STURGELL

Owings

Editor's note: The writer was a Republican candidate for the Maryland Senate last year.

Thankful for Project Graduation

I want to thank a group that is devoted to ensuring that graduation night in Charles County is fun, yet safe, for our students.

Project Graduation, the alcohol- and drug-free graduation party, is largely sponsored by the Chemical People, along with other community groups. The Chemical People, under the leadership of John Hayden, has tirelessly headed the effort to sponsor this large event for our graduating seniors. Their efforts are greatly appreciated by the Board of Education, parents and students.

This year, 875 graduates, representing 68 percent of the class of 1999, attended the event, which was held on June 2 and 3 at Charles County Community College. Total attendance, including guests, was 1,376. Elected officials including the sheriff, county commissioners, Board of Education members and the legislative delegation attended and were supportive of this effort. Many community service organizations also were instrumental in the success of both evenings.

On behalf of Charles County Public Schools, I thank everyone who volunteered their time, donated prizes or food, or helped in any way with Project Graduation. Your efforts continue to help Charles County keep graduation night safe.

JAMES E. RICHMOND

Superintendent of Schools

La Plata

School Thanks Local Businesses

The amount of charitable spirit in Waldorf is truly remarkable. . . .

The end of another school year gives me time to reflect upon the support our students and school programs have received from several local business partners. On behalf of our school community I would like to express our special thanks and appreciation to Chaney Enterprises, Midas Muffler, Crestar Bank, Old Country Buffet, Subway of Pinefield, Checkers, AMF Bowling and the Waldorf Roller Rink. . . .

I acknowledge the many others in the business community who are giving generously of their time, skill and organizational resources to support schools throughout the county. I am very grateful.

RONALD OVENS

Principal,

J.P. Ryon Elementary School

Waldorf