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Saturday, Jan. 25, 2014: Religious freedom bill, generosity, Trans-Pacific Partnership

Religious freedom

I was disappointed with the BDN’s one-sided coverage of the public hearing on the religious freedom bill. Sen. David Burns, the lead sponsor of the bill, and I found it incredible that with supporters outnumbering opponents by an estimated 8 to 1 ratio, the newspaper focused on the arguments of the relatively small number of opponents who testified, in the Jan. 17 article, “Religious freedom bill in Maine would lead to legalized discrimination, opponents say.”

So many people came to testify in support of the bill, the Capitol had to open up overflow rooms.

This newspaper continues to mischaracterize what LD 1428 is. Simply put, it would ensure First Amendment rights are extended to all Maine residents. It is similar to a federal law signed by President Bill Clinton that says an individual’s religious liberty cannot be denied by the government unless there is a compelling state interest.

At the hearing, some testified it would give certain people license to commit outrageous acts, such as abuse children, in the name of religion. It’s nonsense. The compelling state interest clause prevents such abuses.

LD 1428 merely gives residents a means of legal recourse if their religious rights are being violated.

Opponents say this bill attempts to undermine gay marriage. Yet Connecticut allows gay marriage and has a religious freedom law similar to the one I am co-sponsoring. Since gay marriage has been legalized there, there have been no conflicts between the two laws, nor have there been significant problems in any of the other 17 states that have passed similar laws.

Sen. Roger Sherman


Generous people

Friday evening, my wife and I were celebrating our 44th anniversary at the Schooners restaurant in Brewer. We were combining our anniversary with a little shopping trip and picked Schooners as we like seafood. I called the restaurant from our hotel and requested a table by a window, indicating it was our anniversary. Although the hostess couldn’t guarantee it, she said she would note our request.

We arrived at our requested time and coincidentally were seated at table 44 by a window, as it was made known to others that we were there celebrating our anniversary.

After a delicious and filling meal I asked for the bill. Both I and my wife were shocked to see the bill only contained our dessert. When we asked our waiter about the mistake, he indicated that it was not a mistake. Rather, another patron had looked after our bill as an anniversary gift to us.

All we can say is: thank you! We don’t know you. You didn’t know us. But you made an anniversary remembrance even more memorable. There are very nice and generous people in Brewer/Bangor.

Chris and Dennis Taylor

Fredericton, N.B.

Full committee hearings

Allowing tobacco companies, under the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement, to challenge tobacco control measures is unacceptable, as is the secrecy surrounding this treaty. I urge the TPP agreement to be made public, and lawmakers should block any proposal to fast-track it. Dirty tobacco deals won’t survive the light of day.

If the public knew what was going into the treaty, they would be outraged. It will send jobs overseas and, to add insult to injury, keep the current method of having the taxpayers pay the costs of sending jobs overseas.

The treaty is a huge power grab for corporations, with tax loopholes that will enable corporations to under-report profits and hide their money in offshore accounts where they will pay little or nothing in taxes. They will be able to circumvent the laws of this country and all other countries involved.

If we do not get all parts of the TPP agreement in the open, it will be a great day for worldwide corruption.

Michael MacPherson


Incredible speaker

I was so very fortunate to be able to attend the Portland Chapter of the NAACP Martin Luther King Jr. Breakfast this year. I was particularly interested in what the Hon. William Cohen would have to say. He was an incredible speaker, telling stories of being at Nelson Mandela’s home, being discriminated against in Bangor as a boy for being half Jewish, among others that were equally engaging.

One thing he pointed out was that that day of celebration and the spirit of equality and freedom should be practiced all year long. He also noted that the NAACP is not a “special interest group,” as stated by Gov. Paul LePage, but an organization that fights for the rights of everyone, of all colors, free or imprisoned.

But the day was about compassion and morals, so I want to end with that note. Bring that message to your families, workplaces, communities and our politics, and we can’t lose.

Sheryl Lee


Fast track

A bill by U.S. Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, D-Mont., Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp, R-Mich., and Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, would allow a fast-track approval process for pacts such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership. It would allow a trade deal to be signed by the president before the public has the opportunity to review it and would rush it through Congress. It would circumvent ordinary review, not allow amendments from the floor, and stifle debate, and should be opposed by all Americans.

Haven’t we experienced enough offshoring of American jobs? The U.S. lost nearly 700,000 jobs because of the North American Free Trade Agreement. Although I am a supporter of the president, this secret trade agreement is not in the interest of American workers. Let’s contact our senators and representatives to ask that they vote against fast-track authority.

Robert Toole Jr.


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