Wrong and Right Times for Democracy

Regarding "Move From Bullets to Ballot Box Stalls Around the World" (June 17): Let's stop forcing young cultures into democracy. Democracy is more than voting precincts and open markets. Cultures mature through ages and stages similar to people - from youth, to middle-age doers, to the elderly with wisdom. There is a maturation readiness of the people that enables democracy to succeed.

If over half the population of a culture is preliterate, solving problems with physical force, an attempt at democracy is premature and will only escalate into civil war. But if over half the population of a culture has matured to the point of using truth and honesty, developed a patriotic oneness, and settles differences with logic, reasoning, and negotiations - the majority rules. And history indicates democracy will succeed eventually, even if it wavers for a period of time.

Don and Locky Schuster

Ames, Iowa

Churches should obey the law

"Coalition Considers Ways to Broaden Religious Rights" (June 30) implies that the Supreme Court's overturning of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act would have the effect of requiring a Presbyterian church in Washington to close a feeding program for the homeless that violates local zoning laws.

To me, that is not a restriction on religious practices. Churches should be required to abide by local law. Is the requirement that a minister have a driver's license in order to drive around and carry out his pastoral duties a restriction of religious practice? Clearly, no. Churches should not be hindered in the conduct of their religious activities, but neither should they have special status in the community, unless the community specifically bestows it on them.

Thousands of years of history have shown that giving churches special privilege usually results in abuses.

Richard P. Schneider

Springfield, Va.

Making minority votes count

Regarding "High Court Hands Setback to Minorites on Voting Districts" (June 20): I think most commentators have missed the most important point. Racial gerrymandering actually decreases minority voting power.

Voting power is determined by the ability of one's vote to change the outcome. It is obviously greatest in close votes, which in a democracy tend to be the most important.

Concentrating minority voters into a small number of districts makes it impossible for their votes to affect the larger number of white majority districts. This is most obvious when whites support an issue by a small majority and minorities overwhelmingly oppose it.

Racial gerrymandering may have important symbolic functions. It almost guarantees election of minority representatives. This is undoubtedly why most minority politicians favor it. However, its actual effect on the voting power of minorities is pernicious and it should be abolished.

Mark Hauswald

Albuquerque, N.M.

Boycotting for moral values

With regard to the Southern Baptist Convention's boycott of the Disney company ("Boycotts: New Tool in Moral Crusades," June 23), it seems to me that a nationwide boycott is the only way to handle such issues in our society. As Americans we pride ourselves on our tolerance of diversity and on our constitutionally guaranteed freedoms. Attempts to legislate moral standards seem to create quagmires of national conscience. The marketplace is the best arena for citizens to take a stand, each individual, for their own moral values. Those who compromise their conscience by not making a statement this way inevitably get what they deserve, a society that requires daily compromises of their conscience.

It seems the Walt Disney Company feels it is so large and so well-established in our national consciousness that is is beyond reproach. It's time it was held accountable for betraying its family-oriented faade.

Marie (Shih) Caldwell

Coolidge, Ariz.

* Letters should be mailed to "Readers Write," One Norway St., Boston, MA 02115, faxed to 617-450-2317, or e-mailed (200 words maximum) to oped@csps.com

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