Using religion for powerIn the Bible we...

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Using religion for power

In the Bible we are told that Jesus Christ was condemned to death by the Romans after his own people accused him of claiming to be God.

He was hung on a cross for his beliefs. In the 2,000 years since, many of his brave followers also died for their convictions.

We would like to think that the days when you could be killed because of your views are long past.

It is hard for us who are used to the protection of our Constitution to understand why people like Salman Rushdie and Taslima Nasrin must live in hiding while fearing for their lives.

These two courageous people have dared to speak out against others who use religion as a shield to hide their lust for power over those they seek to control.

In Ms. Nasrin's case, she dared to speak out against those who use the great religion of Islam to oppress women.

While they live under death warrants, others in our country who claim to be Christians are conspicuously silent.

They complain that the "liberal press" is biased against them because of their religion but say nothing in defense of those who are so obviously being persecuted for their beliefs.

The so-called religious right is for some reason unwilling to stand up for freedom of speech when those speaking do not hold the same views as they do.

These people should look into their own hearts and ask themselves how Jesus would treat those who disagreed with him.

He taught compassion, understanding and the willingness to turn the other cheek. Surely he would stand with Mr. Rushdie and Ms. Nasrin, because he too was punished for saying what he believed in.

President Clinton has met with and expressed his support for Mr. Rushdie. Where are the leaders of the religious right?

My feeling is they won't, because they too are using religion to gain political power.

If they want to be like Christ, they would give away their millions, not be making millions selling sleazy video tapes accusing the president of murder.

Joe Otterbein Jr.

Baltimore

Worthy successor

Speaking for the African-American Coalition of the Baltimore City Council the other day, Councilwoman Vera Hall managed to get racism and sexism into the same sentence as she explained the coalition's support for Iris Reeves for interim comptroller:

"We're supporting Mrs. Reeves on the principle that the voters elected a black woman to serve in that office," she said.

Suppose, God forbid, that Paul Sarbanes requires an emergency successor? Should we hear from the Greek community that the voters elected a Greek male?

Mrs. Hall is said to be the mayor's candidate for city council president next year. Is Mayor Schmoke sure he wants to run with this woman?

Hal Riedl

Baltimore

Theft art

Artscape or Escape?

On the early afternoon of the opening day of the festival, four chairs were lifted from a neighbor's deck and my fenced-in garden. Later, I learned they were being used by vendors -- to rest or sell?

This is not my first bad experience during the 13 years since the inception of Artscape in Bolton Hill, which has been my lifetime residence (many years).

I appreciate cultural art, but not when personal property is attacked. Perhaps I should move to the county, but then our mayor is always crying to have more city residents.

I realize this is a minor problem. However, while Artscape brings thousands of visitors to Bolton Hill's art corridor, it also invites crime.

Katherine G. Matthews

Baltimore

Spanking news

I read with interest your article "A matter of discipline" (July 10).

Spanking, like many things in life, can be beneficial when used properly and harmful when used improperly.

Appropriate spankings are useful in teaching young children the difference between good and bad behaviors.

What is an appropriate spanking? Here are some guidelines from James Dobnon, a family psychologist and author:

* Discipline children with patience, respect and affection.

* Reserve spanking for use in response to clear, willful defiance, not childish irresponsibility.

* Spank immediately after the offense or not at all.

* There are some children for whom spanking does not work. Know your child.

Children are like gardens, full of potential and wonderful to have.

As parents, we have the responsibility of nurturing the good and discouraging the bad.

Donna J. Sudbrook

Baltimore

Anorexic models

Have you ever noticed that on the covers of model magazines, there are many anorexic or "waif"-looking models showing their bony bodies off?

Many young girls of today are influenced by these unhealthy waifs and feel that in order to be popular they must look like one.

If any women or young girls, like myself, should feel they are over-weight and want help with this problem, they should go to their local doctor or health adviser and find a better way of losing weight than starving themselves.

Nobody should have to change herself because of somebody else's point of view.

Allison M. Vogel

Baltimore

Teachers aren't the enemy

Having just retired from 30 years as a teacher in the Baltimore County schools, I continue to read with interest items relating to education such as Mary Maushard's article, "Teacher's pay raised, rights cut" (July 15).

There are a number of issues relating to that article that need to be addressed. As it states, there have been two other times since 1969 that an impasse was declared and a master program put into place by the school board.

However, in the "Dubel Era," the school board acted with honor and fully implemented all items in the program which had not been a part of the impasse.

I think it is clear that Superintendent Stuart Berger and the current school board have seen the present situation as an opportunity to unilaterally eliminate any items in the negotiated agreement with which they are unhappy.

The decision to eliminate the protection of an independent arbitrator makes it once again appear that teachers are seen by the board and the central staff as the enemy rather than as able, valuable and essential allies in achieving the mutual goal of improving the Baltimore County schools.

It gives total control over a teacher's professional life to the school board and its agents. And, since one becomes an "agent" of the school board only by being a mouthpiece for the superintendent, who tolerates no dissent, it is no wonder that teachers will see this latest move as another attempt at intimidation.

The removal of the independent arbitrator, coupled with the recent ruling by the state Board of Education which, in effect, eliminated tenure, reflects the continuation of what I have long considered to be an interesting phenomenon: the view by public officials and much of the public of the teacher as enemy.

There seems to be a general belief that teachers don't work hard, get paid too much, have the luxury of paid summer vacations, are always looking for some new ways to use their classrooms to subvert the public views on morality and ethics and are never satisfied.

I have long maintained that citizens get the kind of schools and the kind of government they deserve.

An interested, involved, caring and responsive citizenry gets maximum benefit from its public institutions while a disinterested, uninvolved, and unresponsive citizenry gets the current Baltimore County Board of Education and its superintendent.

Until the public becomes more directly involved in the educational programs of its children, becomes convinced that teachers are not the enemy and refuses to allow the unilateral implementation of working conditions and budgetary expenditures which, in a variety of ways, directly impede the quality of education its children receive, the current educational environment will continue its destructive downward spiral.

David M. Clements

Freeland

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