State's cult task force discriminates against religious...


State's cult task force discriminates against religious minorities

I would like to respond to The Sun's recent article concerning the International Coalition for Religious Freedom's lawsuit against Maryland's Task Force to Study the Effects of Cult Activities ("Unification Church group sues state over task force," Aug. 26).

I disagree with David S. Bogen's claim in the article that "as long as the panel has no power, there shouldn't be a problem."

The University of Maryland System, for example, responding to the state panel, sent a questionnaire to its campuses asking whether certain classes of employees were "cult members."

This is a clear violation of freedom of religious association and federal workplace laws. It and other questionnaires, and the hearings of the panel itself, create an atmosphere of suspicion and intolerance against religious minorities.

Moreover, the authorizing legislation for the panel is itself unconstitutional, in that it favors mainstream religions, while using the derogatory term "cults" to refer to other religions.

Task force chairman William Wood's Aug. 9 statement that the panel had shifted its focus to "destructive groups in general" is false. The panel has made no effort whatsoever to seek evidence about any groups other than religious groups.

Moreover on Aug. 10, the panel formally voted to re-open the question of defining the word "cult," which it had previously voted not to use.

This decision was one of the reasons we decided to sue, as the task force excluded testimony challenging the use of this word as derogatory and unconstitutional.

Dan Fefferman, Falls Church, Va.

The writer is executive director of the International Coalition for Religious Freedom.

Scorn for creationism disrespectful to Christians

Susan Reimer's recent column "Creationism: Some small minds have yet to evolve" (Aug 22), and many similar letters and opinion pieces, show a lack of understanding and sensitivity to the entire creationism/Darwinism issue that is deeply offensive to me and many others.

The hysterical pronouncements, echoed by The Sun and the media throughout the country, regarding Kansas' decision to remove the requirement to teach Darwinism underscore a deep-seated animosity toward Christianity.

Ms. Reimer and those who echo her sentiments not only insult the intelligence and choices of Kansans, but, by extension, all students who are currently home-schooled or attend a private school that emphasizes alternatives to Darwinism.

Wouldn't it be nice to have some real data, or even personal stories from these poor, "scientifically illiterate" students, past and present, on how the "exclusion" of evolution from their lesson plans has hurt their chances to succeed in life?

Once again, to avoid offending the elite, Christians are told to keep their faith (and apparently, their science and educational preferences) under a basket. And once again, vitriol and scorn are the preferred weapons of those pontificating on the subject, perhaps following the lead of their patron saint, the virulently anti-Christian H. L. Mencken.

There's nothing new under The Sun.

Harlan Mimetic, Timonium

The Star of David is only a symbol of Jewish faith

In his recent letter, Philip J. Ohler said: "It sickens me to see someone gunned down because they worship the Star of David instead of the crucifix" ("Protecting hate and guns foster a killing society," Aug. 24).

Mr. Ohler means well, but he is mistaken about Jewish people worshiping the Star of David. This is against our religion.

The Star of David has several meanings. It is taken from the shield of David, which represents God's shield of protection. Also, David is associated with the House of David, from which Jewish prophecy predicts the Messiah will come.

But, like the cross in Christianity, one does not worship the star: It is just a symbol for one's faith.

We worship only one God, our spiritual creator in heaven.

Barbara Ann Bloom, Owings Mills

Interfaith movement will miss Bishop Murphy

The Sun's beautiful article about Bishop Francis Murphy's resignation was a sad one ("Murphy to resign as vicar in Sept.," Aug 24).

As a member of the Baltimore Hebrew Congregation Sisterhood, I am fully aware that Bishop Murphy did not just give lip service to the interfaith movement, but helped further it.

In the past, he attended the planning meetings of the Sisterhood's annual Interfaith Institute, as well as participating in our other meetings. He has been missed the past few years.

Mildred K. Sheff, Pikesville

Ministerial conflict rends Presbyterian congregation

As a member of a family of third-generation parishioners at Second Presbyterian Church, I have had the privilege of hearing Rev. Ernest Smart's sermons for the past four years ("Church rift reduces two pastors to none," Aug 29).

I find it ironic that those who "believe in a process" that led to his forced resignation, do so in the face of a congregational vote in which at least 70 percent of the congregation supported Reverend Smart.

As the matter was not then dropped, this vote was apparently a patronizing and meaningless exercise.

Now, a beloved pastor and community leader is gone. Surely a less punitive process and outcome would have been appropriate and more representative of the congregation's wishes.

We joined in love and sadness last Sunday, hearing Reverend Smart's final sermon at Second Presbyterian, a gracious and eloquent plea for the church to reconcile and face the future fortified.

A wonderful pastor had been wasted, to our great shame.

Barbara B. Levering, Baltimore

As we have come to expect from John Rivera, his story on the sadness at Baltimore's Second Presbyterian Church was very well-written and well balanced.

It seems to me that everyone at Second Presbyterian Church loses from this conflict -- as does the wider community.

The congregation is torn to shreds and the Baltimore ministerial community is very much the poorer for the loss of both pastors, the Rev. Christa Burns and the Rev. Ernest Smart.

The reality is that conflict and congregational rifts with ministers have been a part of ecclesiastical life since the first Christian congregations were established.

We Christians and our governing bodies must do better.

The Rev. David Albert Farmer, Baltimore

The writer is pastor of the University Baptist Church.

Church's stance rooted in principle, not poll

In response to James Pettit Jr.'s letter, "On Cuba and abortion, old policies are outdated," Aug. 31), I'd note that Mr. Pettit, and others who believe as he does, just don't get it: The Catholic Church is not some sort of assembly of public opinion that changes its core values based upon the prevailing public opinion of the day.

The church does not shift its beliefs according to the views of its "constituents."

It would be hypocrisy for the church, through the pope, to condemn capital punishment, yet not afford the same protection to unborn life.

The Church's teaching is simple and consistent: Human life is sacred and only God has the right to deny life.

One either believes in the teachings of the church or does not. One doesn't pick and choose issues of faith and teaching.

Those who choose abortion over life do so, one would hope, after struggling with a tremendously difficult decision. They are not to be judged.

Perhaps Mr. Pettit should afford the same respect to members of the Catholic Church who believe in the sanctity of life.

Robert A. Brocato, Fallston

Pub Date: 9/04/99

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