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Interpreting 'freedom from religion'

By David EckardtKarl F. Langrock, Henry Rutledge, Jim Remillard and Walter Lang / September 11, 2000



In Pat M. Holt's Sept. 7 opinion piece, "Keep all religion out of campaigns," he misses the point of Sen. Lieberman's comment, "The Constitution guarantees freedom of religion, not freedom from religion."

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Neither Senator Leiberman nor President Reagan, when he made the identical comment, implied that atheism wasn't a constitutionally protected choice. Their point is that a religious choice of "none" does not guarantee a life cleansed of all religion. Others choose differently. They will speak of their religious convictions when it suits them, including, perhaps, on the campaign stump. Atheists can, do likewise, with equal right. One's rights, however, are not violated if a senator speaks at length about his religious convictions, any more than one's rights are violated by walking past a church.

Mr. Holt is correct that there is an exact analogy with freedom of speech, but he gets the analogy wrong. The Constitution guarantees freedom of speech, not freedom from speech. If someone despises Bush, or Gore, or Nader, or Buchanan, he can certainly do his level best to avoid all speech by the despised candidate of his choice. Their political speech, which will assail every American for these next two months, however hard one tries to avoid it, violates no one's "freedom from speech," because no such right exists.

David Eckardt St. Paul, Minn.

While I agree with Pat M. Holt that our country should have no official state religion, I would resist the thought that this means values and ethical principles which arise out of religion should be excluded from public life and discourse. Separation of church and state has never meant that ethics should be absent from public life, or that principle should be abandoned. What our candidates believe is likely more important than policies, programs, and promises.

Karl F. Langrock Portland, Ore.

One approach to school cheating

I enjoyed Tito Morales's Sept. 5 opinion piece, "School cheating as social corrosion." In my teaching career, I made it a point to discuss cheating before and after tests with my students; I told them I would deal with it swiftly and constantly, and all guilty ones would suffer the consequences. During tests I refused to take my eyes away from test-takers. I did not talk, I answered few questions, and I became a sentinel for the entire time. The only ones who criticized me for "staring at them" were the ones who wanted to cheat. I had few problems this way.

Henry Rutledge Davis, Calif.

Responsibility for child care

Your Sept. 5 article "Who should pay for child care?" states that "a number of cities are moving towards making some children's services the equivalent of a social responsibility, like public schools, rather than an individual family's burden." I suggest rephrasing the sentence with "a social burden" and "a family's responsibility." This subtle word transposition changes the reader's perspective entirely and raises a far more fundamental issue: Who will raise our children, the village or the family?

Jim Remillard East Falmouth, Mass.

Editorial cartoons appreciated

I thoroughly enjoy Clay Bennett's political cartoons. The recent one that showed American corporations continue to donate to the Republican Party was particularly interesting. It provided a contrast between corporate donations to American political parties and the international and illegal donations (Chinese) to the Clinton/Gore reelection of 1996. I look forward to a new work by Mr. Bennett each day. Thank you.

Walter Lang St. Louis, Mo.

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