Readers Write: Religion isn't exempt; A racist, 'civil' past; Guns and domestic abuse

Letters to the editor for the weekly print issue of March 19, 2012: Supporting Obama's birth-control mandate, one reader says, Religious liberty doesn't give you liberty to impose your views on others. Another asks, Was America's anti-Semitic past really more civil? Another flags an omission in a piece on US gun culture: A woman is more likely to be killed if her abuser has a gun.

Religion isn't exempt

The Monitor's View of Feb. 20 ("The birth-control mandate") suggests that the federal government is for the first time entering the "business of defining religion." But that boundary is already long settled.

To the exact degree that practicing an employer's religion is a legal condition of employment, the religious authority controls the conditions of employment. But if religion is not a condition of employment, even a religious employer must obey the public laws on equal-opportunity hiring and health insurance.

Jim Eychaner

Carmichael, Calif.

The mandate was to provide employee insurance coverage that includes birth control. Our tax system has always made us pay for things majority rule deems necessary regardless of our moral objections.

For example, one could claim conscientious objector status, but not withhold taxes from military spending. One is free to keep kosher or halal, but cannot withhold taxes from pork subsidies.

Religious liberty does not mean you have the liberty to impose your religious restrictions on others.

Dan Biemer

Portage, Ind.

A 'civil' past of racism?

Regarding the March 5 cover story on civility ("The civility gap"): I agree with those concerned that we need more civility in government, media, and new technologies.

But when comparing the present with the past, let's not forget the routine incivility and even violence toward minorities for much of the 20th century, when "decent" meant not sharing clubs or summer hotels with Jews.

Compare the civility of today's "Occupy" movement with the rudeness of 1960s protesters. And compare the relative good manners of police in response to Occupiers with those police who beat up demonstrators in the '60s.

Incivility seems to move around, but I find American society today far kinder, gentler, and more respectful today than in my youth.

Kathe Geist

Brookline, Mass.

Guns and domestic violence

Thank you for the informative and thoughtful March 12 cover story, "Inside America's gun culture." I am curious about a set of statistics that was not mentioned: domestic violence rates and guns.

Part of the problem is that domestic violence crimes are not recorded as such in many municipalities. However, I do know that a woman who is in an unsafe home situation is at much greater risk to be harmed or killed if her abusive partner/spouse has a firearm.

That is an important topic worth covering.

Susan George

San Francisco

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Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to CSMonitor.com.