Email letters, June 12, 2012

Henry more conservative than Justman

I read Josh Penry’s opinion piece on whether John Justman or Ken Henry was the more conservative candidate for county commissioner. I’m not sure what Penry’s definition for conservatism is, but Webster’s Dictionary defines it as a philosophy calling for lower taxes, limited government regulation of business and investing, a strong national defense and individual financial responsibility for personal needs (as retirement income or health-care coverage).

Justman has campaigned on a smaller and more limited government. I find his argument compelling, but his actions may speak louder than his words. Justman has accessed government farm subsidies in excess of $167,000 over the last 15 years. In fact, Justman makes the top 10 list for all recipients for Mesa County during this period (he ranked sixth overall). You can check this fact at the website at http://www.farm.ewg.org for yourself.

There was a recent report that Justman has a larger campaign war chest (some $22,000) and more than Henry by nearly double. Interestingly, his largest contributor is his wife with approximately $13,000. I wonder if Justman would like to see cuts to the federal farm subsidy program as part of his vision of a smaller and more limited government. I would have to disagree with Penry’s opinion that Justman is more conservative than Henry, and I think Merriam Webster might agree with me.

JOHN SKILLICORN
Fruita

Mandate to provide contraceptive drugs violates religious organizations’ First Amendment rights

On Friday, June 8, 2012, concerned citizens from across the United States, including those in Grand Junction, gathered to protest the infringement on religious freedom imposed by the Obama administration’s Health and Human Services’ mandate. It requires religious organizations such as schools, universities, hospitals and other health institutes operated by religious organizations or their insurance providers to provide contraceptive drugs (including those that cause abortions) and sterilizations for their employees.

This is mandated under the Affordable Health Care Act (often called “Obamacare”). In that same mandate which was finalized earlier this year, the federal government also defined what it considers a “religious organization.” On May 21, forty-three Catholic dioceses and organizations simultaneously filed a suit in federal courts across the U.S., challenging the federal government’s “contraception mandate.” Little regarding this action and issue has been published in mainstream newspapers or reported on network TV news.

So what is the “big deal” about the federal government forcing religious organizations to provide contraception services, including abortifacient drugs and sterilizations, to women as a part of their health care insurance when those activities are contrary to religious tenets, teachings or convictions?

The suits filed in the courts assert that the mandate violates the First Amendment of the Constitution (“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; …”) and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 (signed into law by President Clinton) and that the mandate was established in violation of the Administrative Procedures Act.

These suits challenge whether the government may force religious institutions and individuals to fund or otherwise provide services that violate their religious beliefs. This is not an issue about contraception, but is an issue about the federal government’s constitutional right to force individuals and religious organizations to take actions that violate their own religious beliefs.

All of us who hold views based on religious teachings, tenets and doctrines should be concerned about these mandates, whether we profess Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Buddhism or any of the other religions. This mandate opens a very dangerous “door” to the government’s ability to interfere with the freedom to practice our professed religion even when no civil laws are broken, a freedom which is expressly guaranteed under the First Amendment of the Constitution.

In addition to forcing religious organizations to provide these services, the federal mandate provides criteria that define the “religiousness” of an organization. In other words, the federal government is now telling religious organizations whether they really are “religious enough.” For example, to qualify as a “religious organization” and thereby be exempt from this mandate, the government requires that, among other criteria, the organization must primarily serve persons who share the same religious tenets as the organization.

Think this one through carefully; if a Christian university or hospital admits students or provides services for non-Christians, agnostics or atheists which exceeds a yet to be determined percentage of their students or patients, they are then required to provide services for their employees which violates the religious tenets of that Christian faith.

Since most Christian organizations and other religions have as a basic belief that they should be involved in relieving human suffering, how can they provide these medical services if they must first ask any potential patient to prove they are indeed believers of the same tenets? And what laws will the hospital be breaking if it refuses to treat a patient because someone is not Baptist and it happens to be a Baptist hospital?

This produces a very unworkable and potentially life-threatening situation. There are some very real ethical, moral and legal conflicts created by the implementation of these mandates. It is not hard to fathom that letting these HHS mandates stand will result in the closing of or scaling back of the services of many of these religious hospitals, schools, universities and other institutions. Just how does that facilitate the provision of health care and educational opportunities in this great country?

So, yes, I believe that this mandate is a “big deal” and that hopefully, this mandate and “religious definitions” will be overthrown in the courts. That is why concerned persons from across the U.S., including those in Grand Junction, gathered on a Friday afternoon to express their sincere concerns.

JOHN ANDREWS
Grand Junction

City park could symbolize White Hall’s spirit

In response to Rick Wagner’s recent rant about the city buying White Hall, I would like to commend the city for this action. Not all transactions are for the purpose of economic reward. This purchase is for the common community good to take care of a large historic but now dangerous and unsightly structure.

I would like to see the city make it into a small city park, utilizing the existing mature trees, preserving some of the historic architecture such as the beautiful arches on the west side and possibly recycling the old bricks for paths. This has been dedicated and sacred space for many years, and a park could symbolize that spirit and memorialize its community service.

Additionally, how was Home Loan able to give a mortgage without fire insurance?  We homeowners are not exempt from this responsibility. If Home Loan dropped the ball in providing insurance shouldn’t it be held financially liable to pay for the cleanup rather than the taxpayers?  Surely a loan and insurance company has insurance to cover these catastrophes.

MARTHA BARRETT SCOTT

Grand Junction

Pugliese gains voters’ trust as fiscal conservative

We wanted to bring to light some items that were not mentioned in Gary Harmon’s article on campaign finance reports printed Saturday, June 9. I see from the recently released reports available to the public (http://tracer.sos.colorado.gov/PublicSite/Homepage.aspx) that Rose Pugliese has raised $7,700 from individuals who support her efforts to be the next county commissioner.

In addition, she has also received over $1,700 of non-monetary contributions (in-kind support). Equally interesting, her opponent has only raised $1,875 from a handful of supporters with zero in-kind support listed. Looking further, it was also reported that Pugliese has only spent $6,900 with a surplus of almost $800 in the bank with no debt. Her opponent has debt of more than $16,000.

One of the most important things we need at our local government is someone who understands what it means to be aboveboard and fiscally mindful of taxpayer dollars and can stand behind what he or she does without confusing the facts. I would encourage people to look online for themselves; it takes only a few minutes, but the information found there is astounding.

Pugliese would be as fiscally conservative as county commissioner as she has been with running her campaign. Clearly, when delving further into campaign finance reports, it is obvious who the desired choice is from the voters in Mesa County – Rose Pugliese.

DAN AND SUSAN REDMOND
Fruita

City needs safe, clean camping site for homeless

I disagree with The Daily Sentinel’s assessment of the challenge of dealing with riverside homeless camps (June 8 editorial). I believe you were mistaken when you stated that homeless advocates would prefer that illegal campers not be forced to move at all but the city create a make-work program.

However, your acknowledgement of the “real problems facing the homeless and a limited number of services available” is on target. I, for one, would support an effort to create a safe, clean, temporary camping area so that when campers are told to evacuate, they have somewhere to go, besides on down the river.

Although local social service agencies and others have worked tirelessly to provide housing and other services for homeless families, children and teens, not as many opportunities exist for chronically homeless men and women coping with mental and/or physical disabilities and living in fear (Catholic Outreach’s St. Benedict and St. Martin Place being notable exceptions).

KAREN SJOBERG

Grand Junction

Polis inhibits Western Slope energy progress

Once again, a Boulder politician sticks his nose out to tell us plebeians in the hinterlands how to run our lives. Rep. Jared Polis, D-Boulder, introduced an amendment to an energy funding bill that would strip oil shale – and only oil shale – funding from the bill. Polis said that oil shale research didn’t make sense because “there isn’t commercially viable technology that will turn it into oil.”

Does he think that such technology will magically appear without research? Besides, there are several commercially viable oil shale projects operating in other parts of the world; is he suggesting that Chinese, Estonian and South American engineers are that much better than ours?

And, if he was so concerned about taxpayer dollars, why not cut funding for all other forms of energy, instead of singling out one for punishment—one that happens to hold the key for economic growth on Colorado’s Western Slope, and for American energy security.

This is the kind of undue interference in Western Slope economic issues, and industry favoritism, that we have come to expect from eastern Colorado liberals. Rep. Polis would be well advised to stick with issues he is either more familiar with, or which might actually solve some of our nation’s – and his district’s – problems such as chronic unemployment.

LINDA GREGORY
Grand Junction

Civil unions between homosexuals should not be termed marriages

I am truly blessed to have grown up in this “land of the free because of the brave,” having reached a ripe old age while remaining reasonably sane and in exceptionally good health.

Actually, I’m so old I can remember when politicians were elected based upon their qualifications and their campaign commitments. This was back before elections were bought by big money interests and those elected merely became pawns of special interest groups. Obama raised $746 million to win in 2008. I wonder if the 2012 election will cost $1 billion dollars to buy the presidency?

Now that we are in the PC age, the whole spectrum of “values” is muddled with political correctness that is simply beyond the scope of common sense and reason. This absolute nonsense ranges from being alive as “ temporarily metabolically abled” to dead as “metabolically challenged.” Being old, I am “chronologically gifted”—now that is a compliment!

I also treasure the good old days when life’s fundamental values and family moral values were clearly understood and wholeheartedly accepted. Back when there was absolutely no doubt that marriage could only be between a man and a woman. Now we have “civil unions” about which one of our Colorado state senators says, “It is not gay marriage. It is a different thing.”

Although William Shakespeare wrote in Romeo and Juliet “A rose by any other name would smell as sweet,” that does not mean that a marriage by any other name would still be as genuine.

So, I am saying it now: A same sex marriage by any other name is still a union between lesbians or male homosexuals! It is not a “different thing!”
What’s more, in accordance the latest PC definitions, even if I am wrong I am simply “differently logical.”

God bless America!

RICHARD DORAN
Parachute



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Juxtaposition of John Andrews’ on-line letter – “Mandate to provide contraceptive drugs violates religious organizations’ First Amendment rights” (June 12, 2012)—and the AP’s story – “Largest insurer in U.S. plans to keep health law elements, however court rules” (June 12, 2012) – provides ample evidence as to why the Roman Catholic Church should forfeit its tax exempt status in the U.S.
  Apparently, the same Catholic bishops who countenanced widespread child abuse and shielded pedophile priests from prosecution – and are now demeaning the wisdom of thoughtful and selfless Catholic nuns – are determined to impose second class health care on female Catholics (98% of whom have used contraception at some time in their lives) and on non-Catholic female employees (all of whom are capable of making their own life decisions and following their own consciences, Catholic dogma notwithstanding).
  Contrary to Andrews’ assertion, the Affordable Health Care Act (“AHCA”) does not force religious institutions to directly provide contraception to its employees.  Rather – if the institution provides health insurance thereto – such insurance plans must include free “preventive care”, which appropriately encompasses contraception (even if including abortifacient drugs and sterilizations – both of which are entirely legal for adult females).
  Nor does the AHCA force religious institutions to “pay for” such preventive care – because, actuarially, insurance plans with contraception coverage should cost about $400 more per year than those without (due to the increased probability of pre-natal and maternity costs).  Thus, the bishops are welcome to pay more for less.
  Nor does the AHCA violate “religious organizations’ First Amendement rights (i.e., the Establishment Clause).  It is long settled – even by Justice Scalia—that the government can enact and enforce “laws of general applicability” even when such laws “abridge” a particular religious belief.  To do otherwise would allow disparate beliefs to trump the Constitution itself and invite anarchy.  Thus,while the bishops are entitled to use the courts to “unsettle” the law, that is a political – not a religious – undertaking. 
  While religion depends on sincere beliefs, public policy should be based on facts and reason.  Thus, the UnitedHealth Group publicly recognizes that much of the AHCA – particularly including “preventive care”—makes good business sense, requires only a 3% premium increase, and is thus both actuarially and medically sound.  Only disregarding “preexisting conditions” remains actuarilally unsound, because – without a “mandate” and all insurers doing so – “free-riders” would migrate to any insurer willing to take that risk and only at the last minute, when they knew they were sick and needed coverage. 
                Bill Hugenberg

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