It seems as if most of us in Maine just love where we live, whether it’s the mountains of Rangeley, the rolling blueberry fields north of Machias, the coast of Acadia or the farmland in Waldo County. But lately, I have tried to broaden my perspective to the reality that the environmental health of any one beloved place in Maine depends upon the protection of the climate by our vast northern forests. The problem is, I understand that though Maine is the most forested state in the country, less than 10 percent of those trees are on public lands.
As exciting as the passage of the terrific Omnibus Public Lands Management Act was this spring, none of the lands preserved as wild legacy is in Maine.
I want to urge everyone to ask our elected officials at both the federal and state levels to propose and-or support all efforts to increase public land holdings in Maine. The environmental health of our little heaven depends on the vast forests of northern Maine.
• • •
Our state and country were on the verge of losing our manufacturing base and with it, the middle class. The Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009 can reverse this trend. This bill includes a renewable energy standard that will not only create new, good-paying green jobs but also keep the good-paying manufacturing jobs we now have to supply parts for clean energy technology.
This bill has provisions that will prevent the leakage of our jobs to countries with weaker environmental standards. It also allows for a transition phase so jobs with high energy use such as those in the paper industry will have time to develop strategies to stay in business for centuries to come.
This legislation will also help clean the environment we live in so we can continue to enjoy all the activities that living in Maine provide us.
It will reduce our dependence on foreign oil and bring our country closer to energy independence. This bill has the potential to move America to the forefront on clean energy and climate change.
I urge you contact our senators and ask them to support this bill, which will create jobs, clean the environment and reduce our dependence on fossil fuels.
• • •
Regarding a church’s participation in the people’s veto process (raised in a recent letter to the editor), it is neither illegal nor inappropriate.
According to the IRS, a tax-exempt organization “may not attempt to influence legislation as a substantial part of its activities and may not participate in any campaign activity for or against political candidates” (IRS, 2007). In other words, a tax-exempt organization’s primary mission cannot be political in nature, and it cannot be involved in actively campaigning for or against a particular candidate.
However, a church may speak out on an issue, encourage petition signing and even make petitions available for signing at the church (U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, 2006).
People of faith and faith organizations do not forfeit their First Amendment right to free speech. The “separation of church and state” concept so often championed by secularists in an effort to muzzle the religious community has been distorted beyond recognition.
In an 1802 letter to a group of Danbury Baptist ministers, President Jefferson references the First Amendment and agrees that their Legislature should “‘make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,’ thus building a wall of separation between Church & State.” Simply put, no gov-ernment church (such as the Church of England) is allowed.
“What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.” If marriage is not the church’s business, what is? It’s high time we stop discriminating against conservative people of faith in the public square and allow them the same voice allowed all Americans.
Jonathan D. Rice
• • •
Two headlines in a recent New York Times: “Budget cuts force schools to eliminate summer programs” and “4,000 U.S. Marines prepare to clear valley in Afghanistan.” At last count we’re still spending $10 billion to 12 billion a month in Iraq and countless more billions in Afghanistan on meaningless wars to satisfy misguided political egos.
Fact: Forty cents of every U.S. taxpayer dollar goes to the military. And our roads crumble, our schools cut programs, our hospitals struggle for survival, millions of our citizens struggle to make ends meet, and thousands of our Maine children go hungry while members of our House of Representatives vote themselves a million and a half dollar raise, apiece, for “office expenses.”
Bring our troops home, today. And let us work on repairing our own blessed nation before it is too late. As a proud member of Veterans for Peace, I know war is not the answer.
• • •
Times are changing
I find it ironic that those who use religion to challenge the legalization of gay marriage often observe that children are being brainwashed into accepting gays and gay marriage. Five thousand years ago children were being indoctrinated to believe marriage was only between one man and one woman. The forthcoming generation will always be, in some respects, clean slates for their forebears to write upon. The question is, do we want those messages to be of acceptance and understanding, or to feed age-old tensions based on an arbitrary (and private) difference between individuals?
We cannot ignore the fact that a liberal view often correlates to the level of education an individual has. Our world is fast becoming a more sophisticated global society that is harder to control with statutes of fear inspired by a wrathful God our country is no longer forced to believe in.
The general population no longer scapegoats individuals if they declare themselves an atheist. And isn’t it a little more pleasant now without all those witch burnings?
I can only speak as a humanist in favor of lower blood pressure for both sides. Bible-pounding and criticizing gays adds nothing positive to our country, except stifling people into an artificial homogeny that runs contrary to the many paths and terrain the human experience covers. And from what I’ve observed, the bigots and traditionalists of the world earn little satisfaction from stewing over their hostile beliefs. But if a god does exist, he or she created a world that never stands still. Change is always on the horizon.
• • •