Traverse City Record-Eagle

December 5, 2012

Letters to the Editor: 12/05/2012


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Disappointed, shocked

The Episcopal Peace Fellowship at Grace Episcopal Church has reviewed the decision by the pastor of First Congregational Church to ban the Islamic prayer from the presentation of "The Armed Man — a Prayer for Peace."

While attempting to be respectful of this decision, we are surprised, disappointed and shocked. This decision did not convey Christian love and respect for others' views.

The Episcopal Peace Fellowship holds an annual service to honor and commemorate Michigan soldiers who were killed in the past year. Members of different faiths, including Jewish, Native American, Buddhist, Christian and Islam, present prayers for peace. Including all people and faiths as we pray for a less violent world is one way to work for peace.

This work by Karl Jenkins is dedicated to the Kosovo war victims. It is an anti-war concert. In addition to portions of the Mass, it uses words from other sources, including the Islamic call to prayer, the Bible and the Mahabharata, and quotes from Rudyard Kipling, Alfred Lord Tennyson, and Sankichi Toge, who survived Hiroshima.

The concert is an integrated professional work of art, the integrity of which is debased when portions are removed.

Betsy Davidson

Traverse City

The writer is Chair of the Episcopal Peace Fellowship.

Military has led the way

It's insulting to me that leaders of Traverse City's First Congregational Church think veterans like me might be as intolerant as they appear to be. Our military has often led the way toward tolerance in society, although admittedly sometimes only after controversy and struggle.

In my 20-year Navy career, my shipmates were of all races, ethnicities, religions, and even some whom I thought might be gay long before "Don't Ask, Don't Tell." None of that mattered because they did their jobs well and with mutual respect.

The church's leadership group apparently doesn't understand that President Bush declared a global war on terror, not on Islam; but I think most veterans do understand this. Our Constitution (which I swore an oath to support and defend) gives that church the right to be as intolerant as they wish, but that doesn't make their intolerance right.

Moreover, the article infers that the artistic work wasn't being "espoused from (their) pulpit" as part of a worship service; rather, it was a secular concert to honor veterans, presumably even non-church-member veterans.

Kudos to Alya Nadji, a teenager who seems to understand "E pluribus unum" better than do the adult leaders of that Traverse City church.

Roger Dewey


The writer is a retired Commander with the U.S. Navy.

Not on Nov. 11

All combat vets need time to decompress. I learned to admire the Vietnamese people during my time in Vietnam, but I chose to avoid all things Vietnamese for at least a year after my return. Had I gone to a program to honor my service on Veteran's Day and discovered part way through the service that Vietnamese culture and religion was being celebrated along with my sacrifice, I am not certain how I would have reacted. At the very least, I would have left the building. By all means perform the program, but not on Nov. 11th.

Robert Barr


The root of all wars

We were offended by Pastor David Walls and the other officials at the First Congregational Church by their lack of understanding of today's U.S. military and their disregard of the First Amendment by barring the Muslim Call to Prayer portion of the Mass for Peace, and shame on director Jeffrey Cobb for his spineless decision to continue the performance piecemeal.

This country's military is not a "Christians-only" organization and one needed only to visit our Veterans Day Memorial to the Michigan Fallen at the Open Space to see the names of Muslim-Americans along with Christians, Jews and others who gave their lives for freedom and peace.

Censoring their religious beliefs as though it were somehow offensive to veterans makes a mockery of their sacrifice and reflects a shameful benightedness and bigotry not welcome in this community. Former Air Force Officer Michael Weinstein said, "When one proudly dons a U.S. military uniform, there is only one religious symbol: the American flag."

Pastor Walls' intolerance in a forum dedicated to the celebration of peace illustrates to our community how ignorance perpetuates the tribalism at the root of all wars.

James A. Kulczyk

Traverse City

School has obligation

The Benzie School Board's response to the mother who reported her daughter had been bullied was unsatisfactory. A parent doesn't want to hear, "We followed policy." We want to know the school takes seriously its obligation to provide a safe environment for each student.

Bullying is almost by definition a violation of the safety and security schools say, and parents hope, each child is entitled to. "Policy" is something bureaucrats hide behind. This policy is not to make the school safer or reduce bullying, it's to provide shelter and safety for administrators. Policy is not as good as officials say it is.

The American Psychological Association reports that 40 to 80 percent of school children are bullied over their educational career. The National Institute of Child Health and Human Development reports 5 to 15 percent of children are bullied continually. Schools report about 1 percent to the state.

If you believe these statistics, schools miss the vast majority. It could be that the APA and the NICHD data are wrong and the schools are right. We don't know because schools don't check to see if their policy is deficient. They benchmark themselves to each other and declare every policy successful.

Bradley Evans

Traverse City