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Friday, Oct. 26, 2012: Freedom of religion, free speech and safety

Freedom and religion

A recent letter writer (“ Republican Party platform,” BDN, 10/1) chastised Republicans for “reasserting” the principle that “freedom of religion” does not mean “freedom from religion” and delivers a speculative parade of horrors. The writer seeks clarification.

As a professor of constitutional law for 25 years at the University of California, I know something about this subject. “Freedom from religion” is another way of saying that governments may not aid or acknowledge religion in any way. The logical end of this position is absurd: If a synagogue catches fire, the fire department can’t respond. Less extreme results would include excision of “So help me God” from the end of the traditional presidential oath of office or denial of tax exemptions to churches.

Freedom of religion means that the people are free to believe as they wish without state compulsion to the contrary and that the state may acknowledge their beliefs by, for example, making Christmas a holiday. Extreme secularists, such as the letter writer and, apparently, the Democratic Party, which begrudgingly admitted the possibility of a God (over the vociferous objections of many of the party’s convention delegates), would require a stern, perhaps Calvinist, rejection of any religious belief in the public square. That’s not what the founding generation had in mind.

Calvin Massey

Deer Isle

A remarkable community

We at Treworgy Family Orchards want to thank our customers on both sides of Question 1 who have treated us with respect after the unfolding of events on our Facebook page (“ Treworgy family farmers take down ‘No on 1’ sign after Facebook flap,” BDN, 10/22). To those who have been less than respectful, we bear no hard feelings.

Our farm’s mission is to be loving and welcoming to all our guests. Some of our guests expressed that they felt unwelcome and hurt by our sign. We decided to remove our “No on 1” sign because we wanted to demonstrate that we can maintain our convictions, while showing love and respect for those who disagree with us.

Many people have suggested that it was unwise for us to bring our personal convictions into our business. We do not separate our personal lives from our business. Our farm is an extension of who we are, and when we welcome people to our farm we welcome them to our home.

We are grateful to be a part of this remarkable community that values real relationships more than political positions.

Gary Treworgy


It’s only fair

There being too much money in politics and not enough to balance our federal budget may seem like two different problems, but they’re actually related.

Both are a result of immensely wealthy individuals and huge multinational corporations gaining too much power in our society. But there are steps the middle class can take to regain control of our democracy.

Maine, of course, has already gone a long way toward draining “big money” out of politics with its Clean Elections system. Stellar state Senate candidates such as Geoff Gratwick of Bangor and David White of Bar Harbor, both Democrats, have as a result emerged. Now if Congress would get about overturning the awful Citizens United Supreme Court decision, which opened the door for billionaire kingmakers, we could demand some accountability from the supposedly independent committees that plague our elections with endless attack ads.

By the same token, Congress could get a start on reducing our national debt by asking a little more from those with the most to give. Tax cuts should be allowed to expire on the 2 percent of American households with annual income over a quarter million dollars (while extending middle-income cuts). This would bring in hundreds of billions of dollars over the next decade for deficit reduction and strengthen middle-class programs such as Medicare.

U.S. Sens. Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe should help forge a bipartisan budget deal now that includes such slightly higher taxes on the rich. Let’s get the money out of politics and do some good for our national finances. It’s only fair.

Phil Bailey


Safe streets

Once again, Renee Ordway was right on target in her recent column about not feeling safe in certain areas local to Bangor and Brewer ( “Bangor drug problem makes residents feel like ‘hostages’ in their own homes,” BDN, 10/6).

Neither do I. I live in Brewer and am in my mid 60s. I no longer walk the streets of our local cities and feel totally safe. She was right about people coming up to you who you don’t know. Some look and act intimidating, like they want to start something. I carry a 9mm pistol most of the time these days, sometimes concealed, sometimes not. I also carry a mace gun. The last thing I want to do is actually have to shoot someone, so I have options. Of course I’ll always try to walk away, but sometimes that is not a safe alternative.

The police do a great job but can’t be everywhere. The average arrival time can be up to six minutes. Sometimes we have to do what we need to do to protect ourselves, loved ones and, yes, even strangers.

David Winslow


Elections have consequences

Two years ago residents of Bangor and Hermon chose Republican Nichi Farnham to represent us in the Maine Senate. Now her first term is drawing to a close. It would be wise to review her work.

Farnham is a likable person and has worked for what she feels is the best interests of her community. Recently in the BDN, Farnham touted some of her accomplishments. Much was left unsaid, however.

Farnham failed to mention that she helped spearhead the attempt to end same-day voter registration. She also failed to mention her support of Maine’s new insurance overhaul bill that has increased rates for older Mainers.

She opposed issues important to women, earning a 33 percent rating from the Maine Women’s Lobby for the second session of the 125th Legislature. She opposed the right of child care workers to collectively bargain, sought to put unnecessary restrictions on Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Programs and supported restrictions on unemployment benefits.

When faced with the choice of supporting her Republican colleagues’ budget or standing up for the greater Bangor community, she voted along party lines, even when it meant cutting programs.

Farnham has supported policies that make it harder to live and work in Maine. I urge residents to send Democrat Geoff Gratwick to the Senate to help reverse the harmful policies that have come from the LePage administration and senators such as Farnham.

Mike Dunn

Former state representative


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