Prayer BanThe Sun's (June 17) editorial on the longevity...

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

July 06, 1993

Prayer Ban

The Sun's (June 17) editorial on the longevity of the 1963 prayer ban overlooked the most recent Supreme Court decision on the subject.

Prayer may be back in the schools because the court let a lower court ruling stand which allowed student-initiated prayer at public school events. The decision, in effect, created a legal loophole in church-state law. It also signaled that the court may be blurring the line between government and religion.

The editorial also did not mention another important precedent set in 1971 in Lemon vs. Kurtzman in deciding church-state cases. The Lemon test, a three-pronged test, is an effective gauge in determining if the government is promoting religion.

The Sun is correct in asserting that the issue of school prayer will boomerang. The Supreme Court's silence on student-led prayers public schools has set the stage for more litigation and will eventually force the justices to rule. Until then, there is the protection of the 1963 decision prohibiting compulsory prayer and Bible study in public schools. And there is the Lemon test to protect that standard.

Judith Bolton-Fasman

Baltimore

Guns and Law

In "No Gun Rights" (June 28), Jane F. Caplan again played pick-and-choose with the facts, misrepresenting my points supporting firearms rights for the American people generally and complaining about the National Rifle Association's support for equal firearms rights for women particularly.

Oddly, Ms. Caplan argued against Americans' firearms rights by pointing out that laws of 1792 and 1903 identified the "militia" (mentioned in the Constitution's Second Amendment) as all able-bodied males alone.

Finally, an anti-gun group spokeswoman has admitted that the "militia" is constituted from the general citizenry. But she is behind the times concerning the gender of those who possess firearms rights.

Title 10, Section 311, of the U.S. Code includes some women in the "militia." And in U.S. v. Verdugo-Urguidez (1990), the Supreme Court observed that Second Amendment rights are possessed by all "persons who are part of a national community" including, obviously, women.

The NRA has been generally successful at preventing those with liberal ambitions from passing unconstitutional gun laws the court would be called upon to overturn.

But Ms. Caplan errs in claiming that "no court has ever struck down a gun law" on Second Amendment grounds. In U.S. vs. Miller, the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Arkansas struck down provisions of the National Firearms Act on that basis.

On appeal, the Supreme Court withheld judgment on the Second Amendment question. In fact, the court has never ruled on the specific question of whose rights the Second Amendment protects.

Finally, Ms. Caplan incorrectly claimed that the NRA believes nothing can be done to make America safer. The NRA has long called for an end to the plea-bargaining, probation-granting and early release programs that put violent criminals back on the streets.

But the bad gun laws that Ms. Caplan supports fail to control the acts of criminals and, instead, interfere with the rights of honest citizens.

Such laws protect criminals alone. But they are just the ticket for Ms. Caplan who, in back-to-back commentaries, has said nothing about strengthening the criminal justice system.

Such is the habit of those who pretend to be concerned about crime while working to deprive honest men and women of their

constitutionally guaranteed rights.

Mark H. Overstreet

Washington, D.C.

The writer represents the National Rifle Association.

Complex Laws

Amid the fervor of appointments recently dislodged from 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, one fact seems to be overlooked.

The fact is that our tax laws are so complex, even the lawyers and high court judges can't obey them.

F: Perhaps someone in government should form a committee.

John E. Mullikin

Cambridge

Dialogue Needed

I am very upset with Superintendent Stuart Berger and the Baltimore County school board's treatment of and attitude toward the parents of students in the county school system.

I won't even have a child in the system until 1994. But I care about the education my children will receive, and I plan to be involved.

In these days when not enough parents are involved with their children's education, I would think Dr. Berger and the board would welcome the opinions of parents who are concerned.

Dr. Berger and the board's arrogance in making decisions without explaining or giving parents the opportunity to question or express concerns is inexcusable.

Those parents pay taxes for the school system and, most important, entrust their children to the system every day of the school year. They have every right to be angry when their questions are not answered and their concerns are not addressed.

It is truly sad that people, educated enough to decide how our children are educated, didn't have the foresight to avoid this controversy by simply having a dialogue with the parents.

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