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Religion AllowedAs the school year is beginning,...


Religion Allowed

As the school year is beginning, this is an appropriate time for parents, students, educators and the general public to be made aware of what kind of religious activity is permissible in and about the public schools.

Unfortunately, Louis P. Sheldon's Aug. 18 article does this issue a disservice in alleging that, "President Clinton has not stopped the government's assault on religious freedom . . ." The writer goes on to advocate a "religious equality amendment," claiming that government is "hostile" to religion and discriminates against religious groups.

Actually, we already are blessed with an amendment to our Constitution -- the First Amendment -- the religious clauses of which provide, in a mere 16 words, that "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof."

Realizing that this language has created much controversy, often resulting in misunderstanding -- especially in respect to the public schools -- a coalition of 34 religious and civil liberties groups, coordinated by the American Jewish Congress, has prepared guidelines entitled, "Religion in the Public Schools: A Joint Statement of Current Law."

The organizations endorsing this statement span the ideological, religious and political spectrum (ranging from the American Civil Liberties Union to the National Association of Evangelicals), but they agree on the substance of the statement. They all share a commitment to the freedom of religious practice and to the separation of church and state that such freedom requires.

What is needed is for parents, students and educators to understand which religious activities are permissible and which are not. What is not necessary is another constitutional amendment.

The Baltimore Jewish Council will be distributing an abbreviated version of the Joint Statement to schools and to interested organizations. Anyone may receive a copy of the full statement by writing to "Religion in the Public Schools," 15 E. 84th Street, Suite 401, New York, New York 10028.

William H. Engelman


The writer is a past president of the Baltimore Jewish Council.


Now that the towers of the Lafayette Courts housing project are down, we can all finally get relief from the media's annoying insistence that what took place was an implosion.

What Controlled Demolition Inc. does when it brings down a building has nothing to do with an implosion. What it is, in fact, is an explosion.

The support beams which allow a building to stand are severed by explosions which causes the building to collapse, not implode. According to my Webster's, an implosion is an inward burst, an unrushing of air forming a suction stop.

Trust me: a vacuum does not exist in these windowless structures. And in order to have an implosion, you must first have a complete vacuum.

In the future CDI will be in town again to provide us with more spectacles as the high-rise at the Lexington Terrace, Murphy Homes and Flag House Courts are demolished. My hope is that by the time the next countdown begins, the press learns the difference between an explosion and an implosion.

Allen R. House


Wrong Message

In their Aug. 19 article, The Sun's writers JoAnna Daemmrich and Joan Jacobson provided some details as to Baltimore City's intended replacement for the now leveled Lafayette Courts Towers. There's one aspect of the reported redevelopment plan that appears, if true, to be both absurd and without logical foundation. I refer specifically to the intended occupancy "for teen-age mothers" of 18 of 228 traditional rowhouses.

The article did not elaborate nor discuss the issues accompanying some critical questions as to how many teen mothers and infants would be able to reside in the 18 rowhouses nor whether the fathers (teens or adults) would also be providing responsible support for their contributed creative efforts and societal shortcomings?

The logic of those planning this redevelopment is certainly not clear. If society believes that teens generally are incapable of raising children, just as it is society's belief they are not sufficiently mature to vote, drink alcoholic beverage or buy tobacco products until age 18, why should society support homes for teen age mothers?

The irony of the proposed 18 row house set-aside for teen mothers is that it provides the appearance of rewarding sexually active teens for their misdeeds.

Letter writer Mary McCracken (Aug. 19) hit the nail right on the head when she chided President Clinton about preaching to our young people to stop smoking when "he recently had a surgeon general who was giving condoms to these young people." The message is that "it seems to be all right to have sex, just don't smoke afterward."

I would also add to not become pregnant because the 18 rowhouses now reserved for teen mothers would be more appropriate to accommodate a more responsible segment of our society.

Sy Steinberg


Wu's Crusade

China-born Harry Wu, the human-rights activist jailed in Beijing on espionage charges and just released, should have stayed home in his own country and not engaged in his illegal incursion, which has created a complicated and embarrassing foreign relations incident for the United States.

The latest exploit of the self-anointed champion of Chinese human rights is reminiscent of Frank Reed, the American University of Beirut teacher with his personal agenda who in 1990 chose to disregard U.S. government warnings and efforts to evacuate U.S. citizens from Lebanon who were obvious targets of the Hezbollah.

The subsequent capture and bondage of Frank Reed also resulted in significant foreign relations complications for the United States.

The Sun editorial of Aug. 25 says Harry Wu "deserves the admiration of fellow Americans."

However worthy and well intentioned is Harry Wu's international human rights crusade, this fellow American suggests he respect and adhere to traditional American practices that prohibit private citizens, including Harry Wu, from the conduct of foreign relations, notwithstanding the lack of foreign policy leadership which now exists in Washington.

Douglas R. Price


Obey Lifeguards

Some of my comments to reporter Peter Hermann regarding Hurricane Felix appeared in The Sun on Aug. 7. Unfortunately, due to the fragmentary nature of the quotation, it may have appeared to some readers that I was body-boarding in defiance of the Ocean City Beach Patrol. It's imperative, therefore, that I provide more information concerning my decision to enter the extremely large waves generated by the storm.

Under no circumstances would I have entered the surf without consulting the OCBP. Before heading out that Wednesday morning I first spoke with the guard posted on my street and then with a lieutenant on patrol.

Both felt I would fare well, considering my previous experience under similar conditions. Lifeguards must not be seen as our adversaries. They are pros and their advice can be invaluable.

Peter Owen

Ocean City

Putting Cart Before House

My wife and I, former residents of Cumberland, recently attended a family reunion while visiting relatives in Lutherville.

(My wife Eleanor, by the way, is the great-granddaughter of Maryland's Civil War governor, Augustus W. Bradford.)

On Aug. 28 I read with interest the article describing the new look in the governor's suite at the State House. I especially noted the supermarket cart in the reception room.

Pray tell, had Maryland's first lady, Francie Glendening (daughter of our old friend, the late George Hughes) just returned from the store with a cart full of groceries or did the errant cart find its way into the State House by some other means?

Out here in the "Wild West" we have a law against "appropriating" (no pun intended) shopping carts. No, we don't "shoot 'em on sight," but we do consider it a crime.

Wilton Syckes

Phoenix, Ariz. My father-in-law is a waterman on the Patuxent River, and for all his 65 years he has returned every female crab he ever caught to the river. To hear him explain it, as his father did before him, he simply says "We have always done it.'

This year he has crabbed more often than before and, for the first time, has allowed my three sons, age 8, 10 and 14 to accompany him. They think it is the greatest thing they could ever do.

Granddad has entered into a modest profit-sharing arrangement with them for each bushel caught, and each is remunerated to the level that he contributes. The oldest gets the most, but he has the most responsibility. He has to help bait the 1,500-foot trot lines every day, a task not nearly as exciting as driving the boat or dipping crabs when they are on every bait.

This year, for some as yet unexplained reason, there have been more females in the river than anyone can ever remember. But catching and keeping those female crabs has caused a problem.

Based on my father-in-law's tradition of letting females go free, and the recently reported evidence indicating a precipitous decline in crab populations, we have had a number of lively discussions about the propriety of keeping female crabs. He says, "You know, I never kept them, but I am wondering why I shouldn't."

Not long ago, he had a talk with his brother, a fisherman in Hampton, Va., who said, "Phil, are you crazy throwing those crabs back in the river? Do you know how many millions of female crabs are being processed here every year? Do you think your bushel or two means anything at all? Why are you throwing away your hard work?"

On top of that, his fellow crabbers (who would be glad to catch any crabs he throws back) tell him, "You know we have never seen a sponge crab up the river. Anyway, those females that are up here, they have already bred, and they are just going to die anyway."

Needless to say, this has caused a dilemma. Should I tell my reluctant father-in-law, "Keep doing the right thing. You've done it all your life; don't stop now."?

Shall I tell my sons, "Keep the crabs, boys, you earned your money."?

Can I somehow explain to my sons that we each bear a responsibility for the conservation of the bay's resources? Can I make them understand that we may each need to sacrifice so that we can all continue to enjoy the bounty we have come to take for granted?

One thing is certain. Despite our good intentions, we don't know what to do, and I will bet there are watermen all over the bay who feel the same.

We all need sound scientific data, good reasons for what we need to do and a clear plan of action. Only in this way can we have a common purpose and support conservation measures that make sense.

We need answers, and we need them soon.

Richard J. Dolesh


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