The civic role of religion has resulted in large part, from the unique
constitutional status afforded religion. The first Amendment to the
U.S. Constitution states that Congress will not endorse, or
establish a religion. In the immediate wake of the nations
founding, this clause did not preclude states from supporting
particular denominations by, for example, allowing clergy to be paid
out of the public purse. By the early 1800s, all such public
subsidies for religion ended and the no establishment was taken to
mean that all levels of government are precluded from providing
financial support to any particular religion. Likewise, the U.S.
Constitution also prohibits religious tests for public office. At the
time of founding, it was a significant issue, given that England had
employed the Test Acts to limit public office to members of the Church
No founding father is more closely associated with religious liberty
than Thomas Jefferson who summarized the way many Americans think
about religious differences: It does me no injury for my neighbor to
say there are twenty gods, or no gods. Americans today hold to
Jeffersons philosophy. 85% agree, that morality is a personal matter
and society should not force anyone to follow one standard.
Americans have gone beyond the Jeffersonian conception of religion as
personal and private. Americans endorse religious diversity for its
own sake. 84% of Americans agree, Religious diversity has been good
for more America. Even among the most religious, 74% see the good in
Unfortunately, when one listens to the media one does not get the
impression that there is religious acceptance of others, but rather
one of religious intolerance. This view of religious intolerance only
describes 11% of all adults. Our country has come a long way in
overcoming religious intolerance. Perhaps our media needs to reflect
the American endorsement of religious diversity as our redeeming
Ronald Marshall Petoskey
The Sky is Still Falling
In your Jan. 24th issue, Stephen Tuttle inundates us with the bad news
about The Sorry State of Our States, yet offers no real insight as
to how we as individual States within the Union might begin to
extricate ourselves from the quagmire of spiraling debt. Perhaps what
Mr. Tuttle had in mind was a bit of shock therapy intended for those
who still have their heads in the sand. If so, I think its a little
late for that, although I was comparatively un-displeased to see that
our own State of Michigan, while indeed one of 46 states operating on
a budget deficit, was less than 10% off the mark.
I find it interesting that there is so much State-baiting, i.e., My
States better than yours, going on in the country right now.
Perhaps this has always been the case, but never has it been made so
evident as lately, e.g. Arizona, with its political violence/gun
control issues and border problems; Nevada, with its real estate and
water crisis; Alaska, with its controversial ex-governor - I could go
on and on.
What I find of unusual interest regarding the state-of-our-States is
readers commentary on internet sports stories. For example, many
Yahoo Sports respondents thought new U of M football coach Brady Hoke
was foolish to leave San Diego State because, as one reader believes,
compared to California, Michigan is the armpit of the nation.
Comment threads following other sports such as basketball and hockey
are eerily similar, focusing on each others States in a hateful
manner not so much about sports as about everything else: Cities,
environmental issues, economic hardship, social class, and that old
Clearly many individual States of the U.S.A. are having serious
self-esteem issues, primarily because of the several contributing
factors Mr. Tuttle outlines. But what to do about them?
If Mr. Tuttle would care to read through the paper to which he
contributes, he might find some ideas; first off, I suggest he read
astrologist Rob Bresznys advice to Sagittarians in the same issue of
NE in which Breszny quotes 20th-century British philosopher Bertrand
The greatest challenge to any thinker is stating the problem in such
a way that will allow a solution.
With that in mind, instead of beating the old Chicken Licken Sky Is
Falling horse, I suggest Mr. Tuttle research some of the concrete
ways in which the State of Michigan is actually addressing its
economic woes - such as the Film Industry incentive program (it was
announced today, for example, that Disney Films will most likely be
producing its prequel to The Wizard of Oz, starring Johnny Depp, in
Pontiac - to the State film industry record tune of $105 million), or
the Wind Power initiative currently being investigated along the Lake
Surely each and every State in this Union possesses unique and
uniquely sustainable resources, either natural or intellectual, that
can be developed and brought to bear on their economic woes. All we
need to do is what Americans have always done when the going gets
tough: Brainstorm and get to work. Is there really any other choice?
Michael Nunn Traverse City
If It Quacks Like a Duck...
I had to chuckle out loud when I read Mr. Paul Nepotes letter in the
last edition of the Northern Express. Its like a child crying when
he gets their hand slapped, after being caught in the cookie jar!
I remember my conservative grandfather telling me as a child, if it
walks like a duck, swims like a duck, and quacks likes a duck, IT IS A
DUCK! Well, I appreciate him trying to wrap his warped idea of
patriotism around his bigotry; however, the reality is, if you preach
hate like a bigot, encourage discrimination like a bigot, and squawk
bigotry, YOU ARE A BIGOT! He choose his actions and they clearly
show his bigoted, homophobic, and hatred of diversity; by fighting an
anti-discrimination ordinance. Sorry Paul, it is just the
consequences of your actions and your choosing.
I will pray for you Paul.
Brian Simerson Traverse City
Im writing to comment on Robert Downes recent Random Thoughts column
on Natural Gas drilling and mineral rights.
The financing is obviously fishy. There is a much greater concern
people should have regarding this potential gas bonanza Up North. And
that is disaterous pollution potential.
The process for accessing the new found natural gas is called
Hydraulic Fracturing, or Fracking. This involves drilling down to
sometimes 10,000 feet, then possibly horizontal drilling another 5,000
feet. This is then pressure flooded with ground water mixed with a
secret combination of chemicals, many of them carcinogens (the exact
chemicals are a trade secret). Roughly half the mixture is then
removed and disposed of, well, where exactly? Right now injection
wells in Antrim county are a good bet, but that is still in process.
But every well drilled will need that now tainted water taken away,
and that can be up to millions of gallons per well. Multiply that by
hundreds, maybe thousands of wells thru our part of the state. Divide
that by 9000 gallons per tanker truck, and that is using a big tanker
truck. Do the math - now you have thousands of big trucks continously
hauling tainted water. Add to that lost forest/farm area and noise
from the operation, and maybe you could reconsider the value of that
There have been problems nationwide. Go on line and check outDimock,
Pennsylvania. Look up articles in Vanity Fair and Audubon. Check your
local theatres for presentation of a movie called Gasland. Do your
homework before you go along with Fracking.
Contact natural resource groups near you. Many are getting behind
increased oversight of these businesses.
Clean water is a greater natural resource than natural gas. Lets protect it.
Mark Contrucci Boyne City