Letters to the editor

Obama at Notre Dame

Re “Catholicism and politics,” editorial, April 1

The Times makes a poor case against well-founded Catholic criticism of Notre Dame's decision to invite President Obama to speak at graduation.

A commencement speaker should embody the ideals and mission of the university. By reversing stem cell research and abortion-related policies, the president put himself in direct contradiction with important church teachings and is therefore not an appropriate choice.

No one is advocating the stifling of ideas. I encourage the university to promote debate by inviting Obama and others to the campus to speak at a separate time.

The Times rightly defends Columbia University's decision to invite Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to speak on campus in 2007. Would you have defended Ahmadinejad as a choice for commencement speaker?

Nicholas Engler

Los Angeles

The Times' editorial board presumes competency to determine what is an unwelcome intrusion of religion into academic life at one of the nation's leading Catholic universities. To the contrary, Notre Dame's decision to honor the most pro-abortion U.S. president in history -- note this is not an opportunity for dialogue but an honors ceremony -- is a betrayal of one of the most basic principles of Christianity and of civilization: respect for the dignity of human life.

Yes, Cardinal Francis George, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, sent cordial congratulations to Obama upon his election. The cardinal also has urged Catholics to write, call and e-mail Notre Dame to protest the honor to Obama. You failed to mention that.

The Catholic bishops and Catholic faithful have every right to insist that Catholic institutions not betray their Catholic values.

Patrick J. Reilly

Manassas, Va.

The writer is president of the Cardinal Newman Society.


Re “Is Obama a bad choice for Notre Dame?,” Opinion, March 28

Thank you, Tim Rutten, for exposing the conservative Cardinal Newman Society for generating much of the flack surrounding Notre Dame's invitation to Obama. The society may have a large megaphone, but it is a small group, hardly representing the views of the majority of Catholics.

We have to encourage dialogue to resolve our differences, not stifle it, as the Cardinal Newman Society proposes. Sadly, I worry that these cries over the president's views on stem cell research and abortion are a red herring, to give cover to political differences over such issues as the Iraq war, taxes and the stimulus package -- or, even more sadly, what the protesters really don't like about Obama but are unwilling to acknowledge. Yes, there are bigots in the Catholic Church.

Interestingly, in 2001, Notre Dame did invite and host a commencement speaker who sanctioned torture of human beings without regard to human rights: President George W. Bush.

Donald Bentley

La Puente


It has always mystified me how so many Catholics can ignore years of Catholic teaching addressing pro-life issues beyond the womb: child poverty, economic justice, environmental integrity and war and peace. Obama bonds with the church's "preferential option for the poor," which states that "the moral test of a society is how it treats its most vulnerable members. The poor have the most urgent moral claim on the conscience of the nation."

Past policies enriched the few and stifled the incomes of the poor and middle class. We now have a president who is changing the dynamic from a "preferential option for the upper crust" to one that focuses on the needs of those who struggle.

Can all of this have simply escaped these protesters, or don't they care?

Dan Jiru

Long Beach

Responding to Iran

Re “Where we go now,” Opinion, March 31

Iranian official Ali Akbar Javanfekr starts his response with a marginal amount of reason, bringing up the United States' unfortunate history of coups and proxy wars against Iran. But then he reveals himself to be not worth another serious thought.

Complaining that U.S. policy has fallen to "Zionism's manipulation" is the Islamic version of a "Godwin," when a person undermines his own argument by inappropriately bringing up Hitler.

Javanfekr writes that Iran does not covet the land of its foes and even prays for its enemies. I guess we are supposed to forget that it wants to wipe Israel off the map.

To finish with a veiled threat is the height of arrogance. America should reward Iran with irrelevance until it shows it can handle a grown-up conversation.

Terrence Hartwell

Toluca Lake


Javanfekr says Iran's president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, is "one of the most beloved dignitaries in the world." Really?

Steven V. Behm



In many ways, the Iranians are correct. It was the U.S. that attacked and destroyed Iraq, not Iran. It was the U.S. that tried to intervene in the internal affairs of Iran and other countries. It is the U.S.' friend Israel that occupies Palestinian land and recently attacked Gaza, killing hundreds of civilians. What country did Iran attack or occupy?

As Javanfekr points out, there are anti-American and anti-Israel protests all over the world. Where are the anti-Iranian protests? America is losing its role as a world leader and has turned into a world bully.

Victoria Afonina

West Hills

What do ethnic labels say?

Re “UC urged to expand ethnic labels,” March 31

We know how the Irish became white. How exactly does one become unwhite? The Times offers a poignant look at the creation and unraveling of identity in a multicultural society.

There was a time when it paid to "pass," but it is exciting that Middle Eastern Americans are now ready to stand up and be counted. Without a box to check or a category to belong to, Middle Eastern, South Asian and Iranian Americans have been silenced by their invisibility.

Middle Eastern Americans are part and parcel of the country's fabric. It is time that our society is ready to recognize that -- and even more hopeful that universities may be ready to collect data to let this population be heard, counted and included.

Hebah Farrag

Los Angeles

The writer is a project specialist at the Center for Religion and Civic Culture at USC.


College applications should have no place to check race, let alone a steady stream of expansions to which there can be no logical end. As long are we are differentiated by race in the public sphere, racism will continue to be perpetuated ad nauseam.

Robbie Roy

Palm Springs

A vote for voting

Re “Checks on the chief,” editorial, March 31

The Times revealed what it thinks of voters when it called the Los Angeles Police Protective League's plan to have residents vote for their police chief "cynical and corrupt." In fact, nothing could be more cynical than besmirching the notion that citizens should be allowed to vote for their government leaders.

And speaking of corruption, let's not forget that the citizens of this state opened up government positions to direct vote a century ago in an effort to stamp out the corruption in state and local politics at the time. If we apply the lessons of history and give our citizens a choice, I believe we can create an even better LAPD that will be even more responsive to this city's needs.

Paul M. Weber

Los Angeles

The writer is president of the Los Angeles Police Protective League. An expanded version of this letter is available at latimes.com/opinion.

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