Church and StateIn "How Tall the Wall...


Church and State

In "How Tall the Wall of Church and State?" (Dec. 29) Jack Fruchtman Jr. argues that no wall can ever be tall enough to protect the separation of church and state from legislative action designed to accommodate a religious community.

Mr. Fruchtman argues that even when the purpose of such legislation is not to advance or endorse religion, it violates the establishment clause of the Constitution.

Mr. Fruchtman takes issue with the decision by the New York state legislature to create a special school district in Orange County, N.Y., for the Satmar Hasidic community known as Kiryas Joel.

The Kiryas Joel school district furnished secular special education to the disabled children of Kiryas Joel in a program inside the village limits. The only students in the district are children of the Satmar community.

The Court of Appeals of New York struck down the legislation authorizing the school district, holding that vesting control of the school district in the Satmar religious community created the type of "symbolic union of church and state" that is "sufficiently likely to be perceived" as an endorsement of religion in violation of the establishment clause of the First Amendment.

The court also observed that the creation of the school district amounted to an accommodation of the "separatist tenets" of the Satmar community that could be seen as a governmental establishment of religion.

Mr. Fruchtman assails what he alleges to be the "inculcate [ation]" and "teaching" of "religious values" in the public school setting.

However, even a cursory review of the four opinions issued in this case by the Court of Appeals of New York demonstrates that the court did not find that religion is taught within the school district's public school setting.

The Kiryas Joel case is significant precisely because of these facts. At issue is a public school district that was created to accommodate members of a religious community. Yet the school district was formed solely to deliver secular -- not religious -- education.

The Supreme Court will soon address this case and its unique set of facts. In the meantime, this case provides fertile ground for informed and scholarly debate.

In that debate, however, distortions of the facts serves no useful purpose.

Aron U. Raskas


Car vs. Deer

Dianne Nagel's letter (Jan. 12) regarding her car's encounter with a deer (death to the deer, $500 deductible to the lady with her car phone and her country home) is so ludicrous that I believe it's a ploy by an animal activist to get the likes of me to fire off an angry response.

However, if I'm wrong, her letter is truly a picture-book "show and tell" of the deep arrogance of an all-too-large and powerful segment of humankind that waxes sentimentally about the beauty of our fellow creatures as long as these don't interfere with the convenience of their lifestyles.

Ms. Nagel's comments would be amusing if it were not so tragic that her widely prevalent attitude of "me first; nature in its place" hadn't already wreaked havoc with many animal species and with our environment in general.

Perhaps the lady would really do better to leave her woodland state to the deer and the foxes who were there before she was and move into the inner city, where no jumping deer could harm her "beautiful Swedish-made car," and she could see the animals safely on television.

Elke Straub



Clocking Speed

In his Dec. 17 column regarding the use of radar detectors in America, Roger Simon has completely missed the point.

Mr. Simon has wrongfully concluded that the only possible reason for a person to have a radar detector is to "break" the law.

The United States was a nation founded on the principle thapeople are free and that the only way to protect that freedom was through numerous checks and balances. We are unfortunately increasingly moving away from the principle.

The governments of America, which number into the tens of thousands when you add up all the federal, state and local agencies, are ever-increasingly watching over the people.

Whether it is the federal government monitoring overseas phone calls, zoning officials flying over your property or police timing the speed with radar, law-abiding citizens are being watched like criminals.

Speed limits, which should reflect the maximum safe speed to travel, should be based on sound and proven engineering principles. Speed limits currently are not set by any standard except for political expediency.

The agencies you mentioned in your article, such as the insurance industry and various government groups, all profit by keeping limits set low.

For example, here in Pennsylvania we have several "surcharges" that are added to all tickets written. That amounts to just another way to tax us. The insurance companies like it because then they can raise our rates.

1% Average citizens do not only have

a right but also a duty to keep the government in check. No, Mr. Simon, the only reason that people use radar detectors is not just to speed.

Richard J. Piotrowski

Quakertown, Pa.

The writer coordinates the National Motorists Association in Pennsylvania.


A Jan. 5 letter from Mark H. Overstreet refers to unattributed statistics showing that firearms are used for self-defense more than 2.1 million times annually in the U.S.

A letter several months ago recalled the often-cited Kleck-Gertz study at Florida State University, which claimed that guns are used to prevent crime over 2.5 million times a year.

-! The population of the U.S. is

around 250 million. In other words, according to this survey of 5,000 American households in the contiguous 48 states, an average of one in every 100 men, women and children uses a firearm to repel a criminal every year. Or more than 208,000 such instances occur every month. Or 48,000 a week. Or 6,849 a day.

For more than 40 years I scanned a large part of the national news wires almost daily.

I didn't take a count, but I would be surprised if more than two or three such cases a month were newsworthy enough to be reported by the Associated Press or other news agencies.

Offhand I can't recall a single personal acquaintance over the years, in Baltimore or elsewhere, who has had such an experience. Surprising.

John H. Plunkett


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