Letter for the Editor for the August 5, 2013 weekly print issue:
Shorthand references in headlines to a Supreme Court 'ban' on school prayer are misleading. The meat of the recent cover story makes clear the court did no such thing. The 'ban' language is part of a campaign by those who want to return government-mandated religion to public schools.
Can Afghanistan defend itself? The more important question to ask is whether the people of Afghanistan can defend themselves from themselves. Americans can never force Afghan citizens to treat each other in a certain way. They can only model respectful treatment.
Albuquerque, N.M. and Dallas
The June 17 cover story on prayer in school is excellent (" God expelled?"). But the headlines and references to the article continue to propagate the myth that the Supreme Court "banned prayer" or similar outrageous falsehoods. The court did no such thing, as the meat of the article makes clear. All the court did was to forbid government employees (teachers, principals, etc.) and public officials (school board members, legislators, etc.) from telling children to pray, when to pray, or how to pray.
This is not an academic difference. The "ban" language is part of a long-term propaganda campaign by those (mostly fundamentalist Christians) who want to return government-mandated and prescribed religious practices to public schools. Headlines and references to a longer article are important. That is all some will read, and it sets the tone that specifics in the article may not dispel.
A July 1 Focus article headline asks, "Can Afghanistan defend itself?" Defend against whom – an external enemy? As I don't see Pakistan, Iran, or any of its other neighbors about to attack it, I would have to say the answer is yes.
The more important question to ask is whether the people of Afghanistan can defend themselves from themselves. For a young Afghan girl, whose father looks at her as an asset to pay off a debt to an abusive elder, the answer is a definite no.
Americans can never force Afghan citizens to treat each other in a certain way. They can only model respectful treatment. Has America acted toward the people of Afghanistan in respectful ways? Has our mission there been one of compassion or one of revenge? Have we shown demonstrations of compassion and forgiveness that will encourage Afghans to treat their fellow countrymen with respect and dignity?