Constitution recognizes that religion is a private matter
The Jan. 4 letter to the editor, in which the writer suggested that all persons who disagree with her vision of America should leave, is antithetical to the core of this great nation. The text of our Constitution purposefully makes no mention of God. Instead, the First Amendment gives all citizens the right to freedom of religion, as embodied in the Free Exercise Clause, and freedom from imposition of religion, as embodied in the Establishment Clause.
The framers did this, not to preclude future Americans from celebrating Christmas or any other holiday, but because they knew that the society they envisioned would be best protected if religion was kept a private and not a governmental matter.
This year we celebrate 350 years of Jewish life in America. It is neither political correctness nor a lack of deeply held beliefs that temper the celebration of religious holidays in the public square. Rather, it is quintessential American values that entitle us to worship in our churches, synagogues, and mosques, not in the public square.
We thank God that we live in a nation where we are each free to celebrate our religion to the dictates of our own conscious, and that the Constitution allows room for people of all religious beliefs -- or even not religious beliefs -- to participate fully in our society. And, we also are thankful that the framers created a system that protects the rights of minorities from the tyranny of the majority. With Americans fighting and dying for the stated purpose of bringing freedom to citizens of foreign lands, no lesser standard is acceptable in our own nation.
Atty. ALAN KRETZER
Atty. BONNIE DEUTSCH BURDMAN
Jewish Community Relations Council
Reaction to tsunami could promote world peace
Nature's mass destruction of cities and the loss of life in South Asia is unprecedented since Noah's time of the great flood. It seems senseless; it looks gruesome; it feels painful. The human suffering in all its dimensions, is beyond comprehension. But is there a silver lining to this calamity and the dark cloud of human suffering? Most important, could this be a wake-up call for the human race to recognize the meaning of life on this planet, and perhaps to look at its inhabitants as one human family?
For one, I see that this human tragedy has put the word "United" back into the United Nations. For the first time in memory, we see the whole world has united without affiliation or cultural differences. It is no longer "you are with us or against us," but rather we are all in this together to help our fellow humans -- all those families -- sons, daughters, mothers, fathers and grandparents. For the first time, we see all nations and all people working together for a noble cause -- a tragedy that has brought the best in us, including the various branches of the media, who have done an outstanding job -- to inform and to educate.
We have witnessed America's powerful war machine turn into an instrument of mercy as we watched American sailors make water on the carrier Abraham Lincoln so that their fellow humans can drink and live. We saw U.S. helicopters ferrying back and forth, bringing food to the hungry, water to the thirsty, medicine to the injured, and warmth to those who are cold. We saw American warriors carrying the injured and giving them comfort, and helping bereaving families bury their dead. I heard a United States general, who was trained to kill, say to Dan Rather of CBS that in his 30 plus years of service this has been his finest assignment.
Because of our response to this human catastrophe, as a nation and as individuals, the world is witnessing America the generous, America the charitable, America with the helping hand. The world sees America the beautiful -- the America I fell in love with at first sight 57 years ago.
I just hope and pray that this momentum of human unity to help those in need sets the tone and becomes the solid foundation for peace in the world, so that all those fellow humans who have perished during this colossal disaster will not have died in vain.
RASHID A. ABDU, M.D.