Shield Nonunion Teachers

Once again, the Education Association of Charles County (EACC) seeks to compel nonunion teachers into paying "fees," this time through the force of law (Southern Maryland Extra, Nov. 11).

Must nonunion teachers in Charles County be lobotomized in their right to avoid an association they find unnecessary or even objectionable? The answer is self-evident.

Please, county commissioners, shield nonunion teachers from sanctioning the EACC through forced monetary support.

JEROME MARTIN

La Plata

Hospital Will Recover

I, like many other Charles County citizens, was taken aback by the recent revelations of financial instability within our county hospital. I am concerned both as a county citizen and as a small businessman here in Charles County. Moreover, I am even more concerned as a candidate for "King Rex," wherein I will be raising funds for the Civista Health Foundation under the auspices of its annual "Mardi Gras" event. What troubles me most is how the hospital could even get to this point without anyone being aware of its impending plight.

Such dire news raised several questions. . . . Where was the vigilance and oversight from the board of directors and county commissioners regarding expenditures of public funds? Were there "red flags" that indicated we were heading for a potential train wreck? If so, were they acted upon and in which manner? . . . What decisions and subsequent events over the last few years brought our hospital to this present day crisis? Who was responsible and who is accountable? . . . What actions will be taken and what changes will be made to ensure that our county hospital is once again restored to and able to sustain financial integrity in the future? How can we be assured that our hospital won't find itself in such a predicament again?

. . . We must not forget that the Civista Health Foundation is a separate entity from the hospital. Funds raised through the various foundation fund-raisers will be solely obligated and earmarked for specific medical equipment purchases. We as a community of caring citizens should demonstrate our strongest support for hospital equipment needs that could be the life-saving difference for any one of us and our families. I am fully committed to the Foundation's efforts to raising as much money as possible to support the equipment needs for the only hospital in Charles County.

I deeply care about the survival of our hospital. I want it to provide the highest degree of excellence in medical personnel, equipment and services to the citizens of Charles County. I understand that the hospital must spend money to achieve such excellence. However, fiscal responsibility and prudent spending should be the rule rather than the exception to ensure that the expenditure of dollars always improves the quality of care to hospital patients. Surely those who are now entrusted with our confidence know very well the meaning of responsible stewardship. Hopefully, they clearly understand the consequences we must all face when it is abysmally absent in their decisions and actions as perhaps may have happened under the previous hospital leadership to bring us into this current crisis.

Although I am concerned with the events at hand, I am a passionate supporter of our hospital in Charles County, and as a Mardi Gras King Rex candidate, I will continue to raise monies through an ambitious fund-raising campaign to help defray hospital expenses. However, like many other Charles Countians, I feel a full explanation as to what, why and how this has happened to our hospital is necessary. I consider it paramount to clear away rumors of impropriety, mismanagement and to clarify misperceptions.

Furthermore, I consider it vital to the public interest and absolutely essential for successful fund-raising efforts that directly support the hospital. Such an explanation should be forthcoming sooner rather than later if this county's leadership desires to minimize the negative impact of the dilemma we all now face.

People who are serving in leadership positions for this county, whether elected or appointed, have a solemn obligation to keep its citizens informed on such matters that are literally the lifeline of their existence. I beseech them to act promptly and responsibly on behalf of our citizenry's good health and welfare to develop and implement a strategy that will resolve this current crisis in the most expedient and effective manner possible and which will provide the necessary safeguards to ensure it never happens again.

Recently, I had a lengthy discussion with Mrs. Christine Stephanides, president and CEO of Civista Hospital, regarding my concerns. I genuinely feel she is already improving the financial crisis that she inherited from her predecessor less than a year ago. . . . She, in my opinion, was not and is not part of the problem, but she is a key part of the solution and as such has my full confidence and support. . . . Her "patient," the hospital, did not get seriously ill overnight and will not get well in a matter of days. . . . With Christine Stephanides in charge of this patient, I am optimistic that her prognosis for the hospital's full recovery is both realistic and achievable.

AL SMITH

Waldorf

Just the Facts

On Nov. 5, one of the local papers headlined the front page with "Former minister sentenced for abuse." Of course, I, like many other readers, was shocked and saddened: shocked that a local minister had violated his vows and saddened that a child had been violated by a clergyman. How unthinkable and awful! . . . Since I am familiar with the church named in the article, and know the only minister who has ever been the pastor, I quickly read the story. I naturally assumed that the minister of the church had violated his vows and had gotten fired.

Fortunately for the current and only minister of the church, the name of the abuser was printed in the paper. This of course was not fortunate for his family and stepdaughter who had already suffered abuse and humiliation. . . . However, the publishing of his name was fortunate for the real minister because the man named in the article was not the minister and never has been. He is not and never has been a "Reverend," "minister" or clergyman. He is a local businessman, a musician, a singer and a former nightclub entertainer. He has been a song leader at his church. But he has never been a "minister."

That same [day] I was contacted by other ministers expressing the same confusion. They, too, had questions about a newspaper labeling a lay person as a "former minister." As secretary of the Charles County Ministerial Association, I was asked to find out if somehow the abuser had secretly obtained ministerial credentials or had been passing himself off as a clergyman.

I made a visit to the "former minister" at the Charles County Detention Center. He confirmed that he has not ever been a minister and has never professed to have any ministerial training or credentials. Specifically, he said, "I have never been licensed, credentialed or ordained and have never represented myself as a minister. I was a song leader at [the church]." . . .

I also spoke with the pastor of the church in question, and asked whether this individual was ever a "minister" at any time. He said, "No, I am the only ordained minister ever at this church. . . . He has never been a minister. He led our singing--we never called him Reverend or anything like that."

I and other members of the Ministerial Association were left wondering, "Why did the newspaper publish that a 'former minister' was arrested for abuse"? Did someone somewhere mistakenly refer to him as a minister, and then the reporter failed to verify the facts? Or was it just too good a headline to miss publishing? . . .

After verifying that this "former minister" has never been listed in any of the county ministerial directories, nor in the local paper's back issues of the Church Directory page, we feel there is no substantiation for calling this man an "ex-minister."

So, having spent several hours chasing down and failing to find any corroboration for calling this man a former minister, I settled down Sunday evening to enjoy the Southern Maryland Extra in The Post. On page 3 was a similar story, to some degree at least, influenced by the inaccurate headline of the previous Friday's local paper! "Ex-Minister Gets 18 Months for Abusing Stepdaughter." The story's opening paragraph refers to the perpetrator as "a former Waldorf minister." . . .

Members of the Charles County Ministerial Association feel that the irresponsible use of the term "minister" does an injustice and misrepresents the well-trained, dedicated and spiritual ministers who make it their life's work to serve, help, counsel and provide spiritual care for the citizens of our county. . . .

In this case, skipping that one point of the reporting process sent an unverified and damaging message. I spoke with the pastor of the church where the abuser led the singing, and asked him if he told The Post reporter that the man was not a minister, but a song leader. He said that . . . he emphasized the fact that the abuser was an original member of his church, but not a minister, just a song leader.

Part of a reporter's job is to nail down the facts. Readers need to trust that clear investigation and verification of facts have gone into every published headline and story. . . . Also, it would have been more sensitive to the stepdaughter and immediate family members not to have published the name and picture of the abuser, especially while calling him a "minister." These suggestions, and taking the time to verify the facts could result in a few missed stories. Fortunately, the only choice isn't between being ill-informed or misinformed. There is a third option, beyond either missing a story that isn't fully verified, or having to hope we are not being misinformed by unverified assumptions; and many of us would ask for "the facts, just the facts."

THE REV. STEVE DAVIS

Secretary, Charles County

Ministerial Association

Waldorf

Editor's Note: In this particular case, the man convicted was called "worship minister" by members of the church and referred to his "ministry" in statements to authorities. The writer provides ample reason to carefully consider use of the term "minister" in the future. With regard to cases of sexual abuse or similar misconduct, it is The Post's policy not to identify victims in such cases. In this case, it was clear that to name the perpetrator and his relationship to the victim would for all practical purposes identify the victim. Because of that, The Post contacted the victim before publishing the story Nov. 7. She did not object to being referred to as the stepdaughter of the man being sentenced. The article last Sunday referred to her in that manner, but did not name her.

Government Interference

I have three issues with Mr. Robert Boudreaux (Letters, Oct. 31) concerning "partial birth" abortions and the proposed legal ban on them.

First, Mr. Boudreaux implies that those who voted against the ban were "in favor of" the procedure. This does not follow. They voted against it because they believed that Congress does not have jurisdiction, not because they want partial birth abortions.

Second, Mr. Boudreaux explains that the partial birth abortion was supposedly designed to save the mother's life if completing the delivery with the baby's head intact would kill her, then asks, "Does anyone really believe this?" Mr. Boudreaux may dislike doctors, but does he really believe that they would come up with this admittedly gruesome procedure for any other reason? Doctors came up with the barbaric "rib-spreader" to be able to do heart surgery, not because they are sadists.

Third, and most important, Congress (or any other government body, for that matter) should not be controlling the doctor's office any more than the bedroom, the church, or the personal and private matters of individuals. This entire issue, including the abortion controversy, is at odds with that most basic position of conservatives: The government is already too big, too expensive and too intrusive on the private individual.

BRUCE KIRK

La Plata