Expelling religion from the classroom You report that a federal appeals court determined that an English teacher "had a right to say that she was uncomfortable grading a paper dealing with Jesus" ("First-grader tests ban on religion in class," June 15). Doubtless the teacher had the right to say it. The question is, what did she mean?
Perhaps as a Christian she was so moved by her love of Jesus (or, as an anti-Christian, by her hatred of him) that she was emotionally incapable of performing her duties of correcting spelling and syntax. Not likely. Perhaps a certain warmth of spirit in the paper - to be sure, all too rare a thing in student papers - upset her by awakening in her the unfamiliar, if not unprecedented, feeling that the student believed and cared about what he was writing. That would be sad.
The truth is, we don't know what made the teacher "uncomfortable." In fact, we don't even know for sure what the word is supposed to mean in this context. But we do know now, however, that when we are confronted with an idea we don't understand, an opinion we don't share, or a belief we find incredible, there is now legal precedent for taking the person responsible for the offending idea, opinion, or belief to court on the grounds that his position has made us "uncomfortable."
On the other hand, perhaps the teacher was only concerned she might be doing something unconstitutional. In that case, the difficulty is easily removed: The Supreme Court need only affirm that there is nothing in the Constitution preventing teachers and students - even in public schools - from talking and writing about Jesus and Moses and Muhammad and Gautama and Lord Krishna and Laotzu and Confucius and others. Jon Barlow, Portland, Conn.
Reconciliation in Northern Ireland Regarding your series on interfaith dialogue in the north of Ireland ("Peace is more than hope - it's a strategy," June 3, "Halting force and intimidation," June 10, and "Religious nationalism in retreat," June 24): The stories were refreshing in their honesty and brimming with hope. The programs cited by the author actually have antecedents in projects initiated 30 years ago when the subjugated Catholic minority community began rights rallies in protest. This good news is often obscured by the bad news, which is that politicians are still exploiting the situation for power. The reporter correctly makes the distinction between disputes over "allegiances" and differences over religious beliefs or practices.
Unfortunately there is no reference to the military/security complex in the North funded by the British government. We hope that those seeking to sustain the calm of this cease-fire will be as strategic about dismantling the "emergency" apparatus of war as they are about breaking down the barriers to dialogue, mediation, and reconciliation. Andrew Somers, Washington, National president, Irish-American Unity Conference
Clear separation of church, state Regarding "IRS deals blow to Christian Coalition" (June 11): I say thank you God for a time that has come. This country was founded on the principle of separation of church and state. I have felt all along that the Christian Coalition is nothing more than a political action committee. Jon M. Lellelid, Seattle
'Buying' nomination not so easy Just a comment on Daniel Schorr's "Buying the Nomination" article (June 18): Did Mr. Schorr forget about a Texas Republican who, four years ago, had a boatload of money and couldn't buy a primary at any price? Scott Brown, Salt Lake City
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