Just fed up
At a time when we are "at war," to quote President Bush, it is a sad commentary to find that we are being censored for using God's name just when we most need the Mind of Peace.
"Religious folk" are not insecure, just fed up. This is our country, too! And for that matter, one does not have to be "religious" or belong to any temple, mosque, or church to know God. There is such a thing as being innately spiritual.
I take issue with Ms. Towler's statement about using religious beliefs as a litmus test for appointing judges: "Will he (President Bush) refuse to nominate a Muslim or a Hindu? Will he next insist that the judges swear allegiance to Jesus?"
Is this an assumption on Ms. Towler's part that "under God" does not refer to all of us, or that Muslims and Hindus are less sincere in their beliefs than others? She is the one posing this question, not President Bush.
This is not about religious beliefs but censorship. Seems to me we are a "God-fearing people," since speaking the words "under God" is what we fear the most.
Jane K. Faust, Marion Street, Rochester
Mary Anna Towler's response: Religious folk (myself included) may be fed up about a lot of things --- violence, incivility, corporate sleaze --- but no one's taking away our right to practice our faith. And no one's taking away our right to express that faith any way we want.
Many of us believe in a deity we choose to call "God." Many other Americans do not. There's a difference, though, in my choosing to profess my faith, privately or publicly, and in the government of the United States, state governments, and school districts formally endorsing religion and putting that endorsement into something official, which the Pledge is.
Words and action
Words have a lot of power, and so do our thoughts. What good are words without thoughts and deeds to bring them to action? "God" is a beautiful word to many people, full of power and strength. But all who live here do not believe in "one God." A Buddhist or a Taoist would believe in many (or none at all).
Yes, the majority of people in the US are Christian, but what about those who are not? They are quiet and unassuming when it comes to these things. Maybe they are busy practicing life from the heart.
I believe we have a lot to learn from them.
Why do we need the word "God" in anything? Why don't we just practice well in living and treat others kindly? What good is saying "God" if people behave with disrespect toward others? What good is debating about "God" in Washington, when the same people use the power of words to twist the truth to their own advantage or omit it for their own convenience?
Anyone can say words, or write them. A man of true high spirit lives from the heart, and demonstrates the words he speaks to all who he encounters. Our country values words, and the manipulation of them. To use words without heart is an abuse of power.
We must practice what we say.
Charlene Bush, Upton Park, Rochester
When the mayor issued a similar call eight years ago, 2000 of us responded. We were determined to effect change and to make our community's children safer. For what was historically the most violent month in the most violent part of the community, we worked to eliminate killings in July of 1994.
From that experience we learned what works in the short run:
• Intervention of two forms --- crisis professionals in emergency rooms (especially on weekend nights) to prevent repeat violence, and mediators on call in neighborhood safe houses as a resource for officers who come upon conflicts that might erupt into violence.
• Keeping kids busy. We cleaned streets with hundreds of kids during the day and played basketball with hundreds more at night.
What I learned through our experience in 1994 is that volunteering an hour a week won't reduce violence in our community. We need sustained efforts as described above.
Our question now is not what to do but whether or not we have the will to implement these efforts as ongoing programs.
Beth Santana Laidlaw, Seneca Parkway, Rochester(Santana Laidlaw is former moderator of the Task Force to Reduce Violence.)