The rev is right

To the editor:

In the Nov. 9, Baker City Herald, the Rev. Susan M. Barnes of the First Presbyterian Church responded to an anonymous letter questioning whether the separation of church and state had been violated when Gov. Kulongoski spoke at their fellowship hall.

Rev. Barnes correctly reported that the event was held in a hall used as a rental where the renting party pays the rent, cleans up after themselves and is respectful of the building. Governor Kulongoski or the Democratic party have the right to rent such a building. I think that Rev. Barnes appropriately answered the anonymous letter.

However, I would like to commend the anonymous letter writer for bringing out the question of separation of church and state. I do wonder why that person felt it was necessary to be anonymous.

The violations of the separation of church and state have been on the upswing for the past few years and it is time to get questionable situations clarified.

The question of Christian prayers at the Baker City Council openings is one of those situations that ought to be clarified either by resolution by the new City Council or by a law suit through Americans United for the Separation of Church and State. Americans United has shown an interest in this situation already.

Anyone interested in joining Americans United for the Separation of Church and State can contact Americans United on the Internet. The Rev. Barry Lynn has done an outstanding job in representing AU and all of us.

Richard Harris

Baker City

Happy with

election results

To the editor:

Few people can be more ecstatic over election results than yours truly. Congress has a new mob on the block. Unfortunately, we will still have the same strut and swagger of King George, but he has been reduced to a figurehead, no longer the dictator of the past six years.

The new Congress (both Houses Democrat controlled) can apply pressure that commander-in-chief bring home the troops. Apply pressure closing down Guantanamo torture chambers.

The warmonger figured lying and deliberately starting a war would make him a big shot. That backfired. Not only that, Bush invaded the wrong country. Osama bin Laden's 15th on 19 al-Qaida terrorists leveling Twin Towers, all hail from Saudi Arabia. The Bush Administration attacked Iraq apparently for the well-known fact that the Saudis did not have weapons of mass destruction. All they have is oil, oil, oil.

They knew Iraq didn't either, but must have felt Hussein's brutality would be easier convincing the world that Iraq did.

Personally, I feel each American soldier and Iraqi person's death lie on Bush's shoulders. It is he who is responsible for an unnecessary war. It is he who has to be accountable. We cannot let him walk away free and clear. We knew his mind-set as governor, signing 52 execution orders, never inquiring about guilt or innocence.

Two weeks before the election it was like music to my ears. Wolf Blitzer's andquot;Situation Roomandquot; guest remarked, andquot;Bush was stupid and arrogant starting the Iraq war.andquot; My exact words. I've been preaching that all along.

Three days prior to the vote, Bush told constituents, andquot;Democrats have no plan.andquot; Yes, they do. Returning American democracy, civil rights, relive Martin Luther King's joy, andquot;Free at last, thank God Almighty we're free at last.andquot;

No more andquot;Stay the course,andquot; Patriot Act, telephone-bank snooping, rich tax cuts, ignoring the Constitution, separation of church and state.

Nancy Pelosi will make a tremendous House Speaker. A gutsy gal, intelligent, determined.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid will make efforts to get along, but he won't be intimidated.

Ronald Chaney

Baker City

We have a right to pray at meetings

To the editor:

This letter is in response to Richard Harris' letter Nov. 13. Mr. Harris stated that the question of Christian prayers at the Baker City Council openings should be clarified either by a resolution by the new City Council or a lawsuit. It is interesting to note in this issue of andquot;separation of church and stateandquot; that the historical precedent for prayer before a civil meeting goes back to our Founding Fathers when our nation was being formed and our Constitution was being drafted. It is also interesting that almost every state constitution, including Oregon's, mandates opening sessions of the legislature with prayer.

We just spent the weekend in Newport, and in a park I read an inscription on a large stone; I'd like to quote part of it, andquot;prayer was given, and the power of the Almighty God invoked over the proceedings of this dedication.andquot; We are a culture with a rich Christian heritage and even a memorial stone in Newport speaks of our tradition of prayer at civic meetings and events. How this could become a matter for a lawsuit amazes me.

But I would like to give some historical background to this issue. The term andquot;separation of church and stateandquot; does not occur in the First Amendment, which grants us religious freedoms, or in any part of our constitution. However, that term was used in the former Soviet Union's constitution. It in fact comes from a letter written by Thomas Jefferson to the Danbury Baptists who wanted to be sure that the federal government would not restrict their religious freedoms. It has been taken out of context and misused by many in our nation to promote an atheistic agenda.

This is what United State Supreme Court Justice William Rehnquist said about it. andquot;The 'wall of separation between church and state' is a metaphor based on bad history, a metaphor which has proved useless as a guide to judging. It should be frankly and explicitly abandoned.andquot; Prayer before civil meetings is a well established tradition in our Christian nation and we have the constitutional right to continue it.

Billie McClure

Baker City

Golden years?

To the editor:

I rode my bicycle today. Wow! Alert the media, you might be thinking. Well, for me that was quite a feat. My husband bought me this bike after I andquot;promisedandquot; to ride it if he got me a good one. In my defense, I did ride it once or twice, and then it sat sadly in the corner of our yard until today when I dusted off the cobwebs and took it for a spin. OK, a short spin, but it's a start. What brought on this madness, you might ask? Well, another one of my old friends ( a classmate and neighbor) Bud Jensen passed away. Am I imagining things, or are there an alarming number of andquot;young kidsandquot; my age dying off?

I can think of quite a few of us who have andquot;left the planetandquot; recently. My best buddy from grade school, Doreen Hubble, had a stroke, another great friend, Debbie Wimp, died of a brain tumor, my brother died of cancer, along with Don Scott. Amanda Wright passed away and Myron Schock. There are many more who I haven't mentioned, but you get the idea. I just found out my stepbrother has terminal cancer and another stepbrother, an aneurysm.

Whatever happened to the golden years? If these are them, I'd better turn off the spider solitaire, get off my rear and start living it up. I thought I had another half century to look forward to but I'm beginning to wonder.

I thought I had plenty of time to enjoy the grandkids that I don't even have yet! The time of putting off until tomorrow what I should be doing today has got to end. I am in a perpetual state of doing something andquot;somedayandquot; but how many andquot;somedaysandquot; do I have left?

I don't condone quitting our jobs and running off to some tropical island (even though that does sound inviting) but I think we just need to say what needs saying, live what needs living and play what needs playing while we still have a chance.

See you in the old folks home ... Lord willing.

Debbie DeMastus

Baker City

Independent task force is needed

To the editor:

There have been many concerns regarding Mountain Valley Mental Health and how they spend their money.

In order to get press coverage, ads were placed in the Baker City Herald from Sept. 20 to Oct. 24 regarding Mountain Valley Mental Health. The ads were placed by the Healthy Mental Health Citizens Advisory Committee. You may have seen their ads and wondered what it was all about. Citizens were concerned with how their tax dollars were being spent (97 percent of MVMH funds come from public support) and concerned, in some instances, that clients were not being well served.

MVMH's andquot;mission to provide quality mental health servicesandquot; is a worthy one. But it is difficult to pick up the pieces and follow the newly appointed leader over a field strewn with broken promises to clients, missed opportunities with deserving families and the loss of nine experienced staff members. An independent task force and full accounting to the community is the best place to start.

Janis Burgderfer

Baker City

There's no freedom from religion

To the editor:

In recent letters and all to often in the political arena I have heard a misuse of the term andquot;separation of church and state.andquot; We have grown so accustomed to thinking of it as something constitutional or as a legal right.

The concept of separation of church and state comes from a letter from Thomas Jefferson and is speaking to keeping the government from controlling churches and visa versa. It was in no way talking about keeping God out of schools, preventing those running from public office from using a church building for the campaign, or for keeping prayer out of public meetings. In fact the only thing the constitution guarantees is freedom of religion, not freedom from religion.

We as a people need to start educating ourselves on our rights instead of assuming we know them and that they are being violated.

The biggest detriment to any society is ignorance. We need to learn the facts and learn to respect the rights of others as well.

Rob Dennis

Baker City

Thank you for voting 'Yes' on Measure 43

To the editor:

As members of the andquot;Respect for Life Groupandquot; at St. Francis De Sales Cathedral parish, we would like to acknowledge the 56 percent of the voters in Baker County who voted andquot;Yesandquot; to adopt Measure 43. Even though it was defeated statewide, we are grateful for those who voted in favor of the measure to have the parents of teenage girls notified when their daughters are requesting an abortion. We are happy that the majority of our community sees the value of life to be protected and safeguarded from its first moment of conception.

Fr. Julian Cassar

Respect for Life Group

St Francis De Sales Parish

Tap-dancing at the middle school

To the editor:

I would like to thank those who complimented me on my recent letters to the editor. A little humor goes a long ways even at the dinner table. All cut and dry doesn't do it alone by itself. At least our menu doesn't have to contain spinach all the time. Popeye was sure to blow his pipe, though, when it did wonders for him. I could see many of you chuckling in reading this about that time of day. Enjoy.

Back in the early 1960s or maybe a little earlier than that, a number of us took tap-dancing classes, once taught by Mrs. Helgerson at the middle school. The once-famous song and the lyrics to it apply not only back then but in the here and now, which is andquot;school days, school days, dear old golden rule days, reading, writing and arithmetic.andquot; I still remember the uniforms, etc. My husband and I like collecting old history pictures. A friend of mine and I who took that class would like to obtain copies of pictures. That class I know did not last very long.

Now with elections, etc., over and all, it will be interesting to see what our next pursuit and agenda contain in the future.

Many buildings down Broadway should either be torn down or refurbished, it is a fire hazard to our firefighters to fight as well. I see some of them to be eyesores. But a few are making progress in that direction. Why don't the developers help rebuild Broadway and given an offer that would be hard to say no to?

Why not a shopping mall, or maybe a rollerskating rink, etc., for our young people? I feel pretty fortunate that we are in many ways protected here from problems that the bigger cities encounter all the time.

Our young people do need a boost, morale, character, etc., and things to make them do better in our society these days. Not that they already are. But more the better!

So now back to the drawing board to see what our homework has done to us this time around and to see how many happy campers and not so many happy campers face reality as it is!

Brenda Dickison

Baker City

No special sanction for one religion or another

To the editor:

In her Nov. 15 letter to the editor, Billie McClure invokes this nation's andquot;rich Christian heritageandquot; as justification for prayer at government meetings, as if that heritage has some special government-sanctioned standing above the many religions practiced in this country. That's flat out wrong. The First Amendment prohibits the religion of the majority being thrust upon the minority through the power of government.

For example, the U. S. Supreme Court in Santa Fe v. Jane Doe (2000) said a public school microphone may not be used at a high school football game for the purpose of giving an invocation. Practitioners of Christianity may not use tax money to promote their religion. That's separation of church and state whether those words are in the Constitution or not.

But let's talk about Baker City's and Oregon's traditions regarding prayer at civic meetings. McClure must be unaware that until 1980 when Mayor Bill Gwilliam started praying at City Council meetings, Baker City had held council meetings for over 120 years without bringing religion into the conduct of city business. As for Oregon's tradition, out of the over 200 incorporated cities in the state, there are only about half a dozen that begin their meetings with prayer.

Does McClure know that most of the prayers said at Baker City Council meetings since 1980 have invoked the name of Jesus, in spite of this town's rich Jewish heritage? And City Council kept saying its explicitly Christian prayers during the years a respected Jewish businessman was serving on City Council.

That insensitivity to the religious practices of others did not change until I became aware of it when elected to City Council in 1998. My complaints, with which many citizens concurred, led to a city-wide hullabaloo and a threatened lawsuit. As a result, today's Baker City Council meetings no longer begin with explicitly Christian prayers.

As for McClure's bold assertion that the Oregon Constitution andquot;mandates opening sessions of the Legislature with prayer,andquot; perhaps she could provide the Herald's readers with citation to chapter and paragraph.

Gary Dielman

Baker City

Harveys made offer

on Helen M. Stack

To the editor:

Our purpose for submitting a bid to the 5-J School District for the purchase of the Helen M. Stack building and grounds, commonly known as the middle school are the following:

We have lived in Baker County for many years and it has always been our vision and goal to reinvest in the community whenever and wherever possible. This is our home and we want to see Baker City grow to its fullest potential in economic and community development. We strongly believe that if the Economic Development Council took a closer look, they would find a lot of potential in the existing Baker City businesses and what they are already bringing to the local economic strategy.

We also believe that the middle school is not a suitable building for the purpose of a school, but it has great potential. We would like to revitalize the building and develop it for a good and useful purpose. This would directly help in the efforts of restoring the surrounding downtown area.

We support the school district in their efforts to work toward a better school system for the children of our future. Our four children are grown and out of school, but our grandchildren deserve our best efforts. We intend to work cooperatively with the school district's effort. We will allow as much time as they need to fulfill their purpose and goals of securing a safe and healthy place for andquot;our and yourandquot; children to learn and grow to become responsible and effective citizens for our community and our country!

We love where we live and plan to stay for a very long time.

Bill and Lorrie Harvey

Bill Harvey Custom Builder, Inc.

Baker City