Searching for Objectivity in the Mideast

Trying to maintain an objective course while navigating the geopolitical waters of the Middle East is probably impossible on a consistent basis. The Monitor does try, but the opinion-page article "Needed: an Overall Mideast Policy," Oct. 22, does manage to use the code word "Palestine." It is not only technically incorrect but is sure to be a biased and inflammatory word on both sides. Peace comes through working together and respecting each other, such as through the school for peace set up in a village located between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem known as Neve Shalom/Wahat al'Salam. There Arabs and Jews live together, not through the same old patterns of provocation and disrespect.

Stuart M. Kaplan

San Francisco

Reliance on oil is crude

Our growing problem of imported oil is entirely our own fault ("Alternative Energy Now," Oct. 18). Yet one technology not mentioned by the author that is already saving vast amounts of oil needs to be recognized - nuclear power. Since 1973, nuclear power plants have saved 2.2 billion barrels of oil in the US by replacing oil-fired power plants, or through their electricity, replacing oil-burning in homes and industry.

A new generation of nuclear power plants is on the drawing boards, and Japan has just completed construction of the first advanced plant that is American in design. The Japanese are heavily devoted to nuclear energy, since their reliance on foreign energy sources is total. They understand both the economic and strategic importance of self-sufficiency in energy.

Nuclear power needs to be a part of any successful future mix of energy technologies. Between the possible surprises looming in global warming and the uncertainty of a world where OPEC controls the oil, it is at our peril that we neglect a domestic energy source.

William H. Miller

Columbia, Mo.

The unquenchable thirst for data

The Global Report in the Oct. 9 Monitor with statistics relating to international economies was fascinating. It illustrates the Monitor's practice of looking beyond the obvious and presenting in-depth reporting.

With our growing and increasingly accessible data banks we should be able to find a lot of data, but much of it can be obscure and of uncertain accuracy. I have a "World Watch" data disk which, with all its good information, just scratches the surface of what's needed, because third world countries don't collect the needed information. More demand for good data should create a better supply.

Paul March


Protecting religion

The page 1 article "Does Congress or Court Define Religious Rights?" Oct. 22, raises several important points, but it gets one important point wrong and unfortunately misses another point altogether.

Most important, religious liberty is protected under the First Amendment, not the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment. The 14th Amendment does protect "life, liberty, and property," but that is in the due process clause, not the equal protection clause.

Since religious liberty is a fundamental right under the First Amendment, whenever a governmental action has been challenged in court because it affected religious liberty, the court has required that the government show a "compelling interest" and that the government action was the "least restrictive" means possible of satisfying that interest. These tests were devised by the Supreme Court and have always placed an enormous burden of proof on the government. As the article points out, the Supreme Court in Smith v. Employment Division changed all that. The Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) requires that the courts return to the previous, strict legal standard.

The point that was missed is that the RFRA is a case of the legislative branch telling the judicial branch what legal standard to apply. The constitutional question before the court, then, is one of separation of powers.

David Rienzo

Grafton, N.H.

Send letters to "Readers Write," One Norway St., Boston, MA 02115, fax to 617-450-2317, or e-mail to OPED@CSPS.COM.

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