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LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

Public schools are wrong place to proselytize

I was one of a handful of Jewish children who attended a Jersey City, N.J., public school in the late 1950s and early 1960s. Selections from the Christian Bible were read most mornings. When teachers and administrators addressed classes or assemblies, it was assumed that all of us were Christian, attended church on Sundays and celebrated Christmas and Easter.

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This was not intolerance. Quite the contrary, we were "tolerated" as if our Jewishness was some embarrassing flaw that would be overlooked. We were not excluded. Rather, we were included in the universe of the dominant religion.

I can now look back to such behavior and label it insensitive at best and ignorant at worst. But until recently, I understood it to be a relic of a less-enlightened time.

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I have now been trying to evaluate the article "Christian group sues for access to schools" (July 22) in light of my experiences. And I think using the public school to distribute fliers inviting children to join a fun club with classmates - if their parents let them - is appropriate if it is a computer club or the Scouts. But not if the club's goal is religious recruitment.

What is being attempted in Montgomery County (and elsewhere throughout the United States) is far more than insensitive and ignorant. It is a purposeful attempt to use the public schools for a sectarian purpose, to ignore diversity and marginalize all but one dominant religious group. And I fear that what we are seeing is concerted action based on the assumption that in our present political climate, such action is not only permissible, but commendable.

Judith Horowitz Richter

Baltimore

Backing bigotry toward Christians

The Sun is dead wrong in its argument against Child Evangelism Fellowship ("A higher principle," editorial, July 24).

Public schools allow access to children's backpacks to all sorts of nonacademic organizations and announcements. To suggest that a Christian organization be specifically prohibited is the very height of bigotry and discrimination.

The Sun also suggests that children have "too much on their minds" already to be burdened by this message, "good news or not." But if the Child Evangelism Fellowship can get the minds of children to turn to things that are noble, worthy and good rather than dwelling on crime or drugs, then why would The Sun want to stop it?

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And - to employ advice similar to that which is always trotted out by those who fill our TVs with trash - if you don't like the flier, throw it away.

Scott Appelbaum

Catonsville

Tuition hike holds education hostage

I am a working sophomore at the Community College of Baltimore County who is preparing to transfer to one of the University System of Maryland institutions, and I think a 22 percent increase in tuition is outrageous ("What Price Eminence?" July 20).

The Consumer Price Index has been rising about 3 percent per year, so why is tuition going up 22 percent? Faculty salaries have not been increasing by 22 percent. So which black hole is the revenue going into that is meant "to achieve eminence and excellence"?

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The cost of technology is not going up by 22 percent. Financial aid for needy students is not going up by 22 percent. Graduation and retention rates are not going up by 22 percent. Enrollment is not increasing 22 percent.

I am disappointed that with all of the talent at these "eminent institutions" there is no creativity in managing expenses other than by holding students' education hostage.

What position of great distinction are the regents targeting that requires a 22 percent tuition increase?

Maria-Elena Perez

Dundalk

Bush lets others do the planning

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With all the hoopla about the State of the Union address and the untrue statement about Saddam Hussein trying to purchase uranium in Africa, one thing has become clear: President Bush doesn't seem to do - or even participate in - his own planning. He assigns others to do it for him, and when he later finds out that they messed up, he still has faith in them. Therefore I have no faith in Mr. Bush.

And even if we were right to attack Iraq - and I insist that we were not - the present fiasco in that country is a result of poor planning for the so-called peace.

P. David Wilson

Towson

Procurement change could hobble NSA

The Sun's article on the National Security Agency's procurement reflects how little Congress knows about procurement and is a good indicator of how stupid politicians can easily mess up anything they involve themselves in ("Congress curbs NSA's power to contract with suppliers," July 20).

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I spent many years in government procurement and have a total understanding of how the process works.

And I think placing NSA procurement under the auspices of the Department of Defense will slow down, bog down, delay and in some cases completely thwart the agency's ability to obtain what it needs in time to ensure that the NSA carries out its mission. It will also result in a dramatic increase in procurement costs.

Those who do not understand the process will pat themselves on the back about the level of oversight and the increased visibility of NSA programs to public scrutiny.

However, at the same time, they will be mystified as to why NSA seems to be losing its effectiveness.

Gary D. Ballard

Bel Air

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The writer is a retired procurement professional who worked for Defense Department contractors for more than 30 years.

Reefs in decline for decades

I read with amazement in The Sun's article "Reef coral in Caribbean is dying off, study finds" (July 18) that "researchers were surprised" to find that coral reefs in the Caribbean had declined by 80 percent in the last 30 years.

My wife and I have been snorkeling in the Caribbean and elsewhere for the last 30 years, and I was not surprised in the least to read this. In fact, I thought that everyone knew it. Every time that we go snorkeling it is now heartbreakingly obvious.

In fact, it's hardly worth going anymore. Where 20 or 30 years ago we would be amazed and delighted to be surrounded by a huge variety of thousands of multicolored fish swimming through an incredible forest of soft and hard coral, now we consider it a stroke of luck when we see a half-dozen fish swimming around a piece of dead coral.

If scientists and researchers were surprised, they have obviously been swimming with their eyes closed for years.

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David A. Liddle

Pasadena

A moving account of merciful care

Tom Dunkel's article about the merciful caring of Dr. Nate Schnaper and the courage and strength of Jimmy Minadakis brought tears to my eyes, tears of both joy and sorrow ("The Companion," July 20).

Thanks, "Dr. Nate," for being there, and thanks, "Mr. Jimmy," for having the heart of a lion.

Lawrence J. Simpson

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