Editor: I would like to respond to the letter printed in The Commercial-News last Thursday

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Editor: I would like to respond to the letter printed in The Commercial-News last Thursday by Lille Delva of Westville. Mrs. Delva's letter was encaptioned "Atheists seem to be taking over control of our country." I will not delve into a discussion of my personal religious beliefs, such as they are, because I consider them to be an extremely private matter, and it is not something that I feel is relevant to this particular situation. Apparantly, Mrs. Delva has not studied very much history, nor does she know her constitutional law very well. Both cases that she has cited were argued and decided numerous times before The United States Supreme Court. These men and one woman have all been appointed by the President of the United States and confirmed by our duly elected Senators. Even our former President George Bush, and his predecessor Ronald Reagan, both of whom were devout Christians named Justices to the Supreme Court. For rather obvious reasons, I cannot imagine President Bush nor President Reagan ever naming an Atheist to the Supreme Court, I do not see how Mrs. Delva can complain about the recent Supreme Court decisions, as they were made by Christians, like herself. A substantial number of our forefathers fled to the New World from the Old because they were escaping some sort of persecution, be it political or religious. Many of these groups came to the New World, established colonies, and then promptly started doing to others what they had run away from to begin with. There are many documented cases of cruel and unusual punishment arising because one group or another would not conform to the religious beliefs of the majority in a region of the New World. Is this the kind of religious freedom that Mrs. Delva is referring to? Mrs. Delva asks, "What has become of that freedom?" Well, Mrs. Delva, what have you lost? In the first case, involving prayer in school, there are actually several examples. One example was when a state legislature mandated a prayer that MUST be said at the start of every school day. Well, what would happen if we wrote the prayer as a prayer to Satan? I bet that Mrs. Delva would be one of the first "concerned citizens" at the door of the schoolhouse to complain. But to a Muslim, or to someone who does not believe in a God, this is a violation of their constitutional rights. The second case, involving prayer at graduation ceremonies, is simply an extension of the first. How can we go about mandating that we will have a prayer at our graduation ceremonies for Christians? I would not hestitate to bet that less than 1/2 of most graduating high school classes even believe in God, let alone want to be forced to pray to one. My own graduating class was less than 20% Christian, according to a survey of 160 seniors. Our Constitution was written by many great men, including George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and others. They were NOT the "Religious leaders" of our country. Jefferson is well know for his opposition to many organized religions, and was once the target of a church who wished to keep him from being elected. Jefferson also authored the Declaration of Independence, another document that Mrs. Delva claims to have been written by religious leaders. This is false, as well. Jefferson was a strong beleiver in the separation of church and state, and he stated so very eloquently in a series of letters to Virgina churches. Your right to worship as you wish in your home, and in your church shall never be impeded in this country. I, even though I do not profess a belief in your brand of religion, would gladly lay down my life in order to defend your rights and freedom of religion. However, organized prayer and other mandated religious activities have no place in public schools, nor anywhere else where the rights of others may be impeded. Finally, I for one, do not want this country to become an atheistic country, but neither do I want it to become a God-fearing country. I want the United States to become a country of tolerance and acceptance, instead of a country that breeds contempt for those whom are different, bigotry, hatred, rascist, and extremely intolerant. We are all Americans, be we Christian or Atheist, and we need to start loving one another. Bryan Strawser, Covington, Indiana

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