LETTERS

ORIGINALLY WRITTEN

American values key to winning war on terror

America won the Cold War not with bullets, nor bribes to buy nations, nor rhetoric on the airwaves. America won the Cold War because our values of liberty and equality enabled our economy to produce better products and more satisfied citizens. Many peoples in previous communist-bloc nations want the benefits of those values.

It is sad for me to see America fighting the “War on Terrorism” using the same tools that failed to win the Cold War. I believe dropping bombs will only incite the millions of Pakistani men-and men of other predominately Muslim nations-without viable means to support their families to join the forces against the United States and its citizens.

When the United States bribes the leaders of nations with promises of loans or military support, but fails to touch the lives of that nation’s citizens with greater freedoms or equality before the law, we generate anti-American feelings. Rhetoric that does not supplement changes to improve lives is worthless.

Many Muslim peoples around the world want the American values of liberty and equality to touch their lives. I believe most Muslim governments fear those values. Over the centuries, Islam has failed to come to terms with diversity and secularism. The biblical values of liberty and equality enabled the Christian West to accept diversity and secularism that, in turn, facilitated the West to dominate the globe and those values became the foundation of the United States.

Instead of military options to defeat terrorism, I believe our government should be looking for ways to open dialog with liberal Muslim scholars, clerics and governments.

We hold a common starting point. The Qur’an includes calls for liberty and equality, most likely due to its Judaic/Christian roots. But those values are most often overlooked when power struggles rise to the surface.

As the number of Muslims living in free and open societies increases, I believe the threat of terrorism from that sector will diminish. I believe that only as America promotes liberty and equality while upholding the value of every human life, will the “War or Terrorism” end.

Could the promise of the America Dream open the door for Muslims to learn to accept diversity and secularism?

Mark Rogers

Hillsboro

Jefferson letter spurred’separation’ dogma

A question begs to be answered in light of the June 26 article concerning the city council’s decision about the legality of having a nativity scene in the city park. What does the term “separation of church and state” mean? Since this seems to be the pivot point of the decision, I believe it is worth looking into.

The now infamous “separation” dogma that is thrown at us is of vital concern because the source for the basis of the argument is never fully examined, but rather interpreted based on how others in the past have defined it.

We become consumers of regurgitated ideas rather than generators of original thought. Decisions made by our city council need to be made based on the original intent of the source rather than someone’s assumptions of what they think it should mean today-especially when it affects the complexion of our community.

With this in mind, I will attempt to answer my own question: The Congressional Records from June 7 to September 25, 1789, record discussion and debate of the 90 founding fathers who framed the First Amendment. Not one of those framers ever mentioned the phrase “separation of church and state.”

“Separation of church and state” was taken from an exchange of letters between President Thomas Jefferson and the Baptist Association of Danbury, Conn., after Jefferson became president.

The election of Jefferson-America’s first anti-Federalist president-elated many Baptists since that denomination, by-and-large, was also strongly anti-Federalist. This political disposition of the Baptists was understandable, for from the early settlement of Rhode Island in the 1630s to the time of the federal Constitution in the 1780s, the Baptists had often found themselves suffering from the centralization of power.

Consequently, now having a president who not only had championed the rights of Baptists in Virginia but who also had advocated clear limits on the centralization of government powers, the Danbury Baptists wrote Jefferson a letter on Oct. 7, 1801, telling him congratulations but also expressing their grave concern over the entire concept of the First Amendment, including its guarantee for “the free exercise of religion.”

The inclusion of protection for the “free exercise of religion” suggested to the Danbury Baptists that the right of religious expression was government-given (thus alienable) rather than God-given (hence inalienable). The government might someday attempt to regulate religious expression. This was a possibility to which they strenuously objected.

Thomas Jefferson had no intention of allowing the government to limit, restrict, regulate or interfere with public religious practices. He believed, along with the other founders, that the First Amendment had been enacted only to prevent the federal establishment of a national denomination.

Therefore, if Jefferson’s letter is to be used today, let its context be clearly given-as in previous years. Furthermore, earlier courts had always viewed Jefferson’s Danbury letter for just what it was: a personal, private letter to a specific group.

There is probably no other instance in America’s history where words spoken by a single individual in a private letter-words clearly divorced from their context-have become the sole authorization for a national policy.

Very simply, the Danbury letter was not to limit religious activities in public; rather they were to limit the power of the government to prohibit or interfere with those expressions.

In my mind, this answers the question and puts to rest any doubts of the Hillsboro Methodist Church’s right to display a nativity scene. As a community, let’s put away unwarranted fear and political correctness and instead stand on reliable, unchanging truths that our country was founded on and thus our community exists today.

Marilyn Bartel

Hillsboro

Editor’s note: For clarification, the Hillsboro City Council has not made any decision about the nativity scene referred to in this letter. The issue arose at the June 18 meeting only as an early alert for a decision that will be made at a later date if the project is pursued.

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