Peace activist is a peculiar target for a judicial...


April 08, 2000

Peace activist is a peculiar target for a judicial crackdown

Local jurists, battered by much criticism of alleged lenient sentencing practices, must be buoyed by a recent decision by one of their colleagues.

Soft on crime? Not James T. Smith Jr. a Baltimore County Circuit Court Judge who demonstrated his machismo by sentencing activist Philip Berrigan to 30 months in the pokey for yet another of any peace protests ("Activist sent to prison for warplane damages," March 24).

Even the prosecutor in the case suggested guidelines ranging from probation to one year, but the intent of the bench was clearly to remove this troublesome priest and his dedicated colleagues from our midst for a long while.

Now 76 years old, Mr. Berrigan will be approaching the biblical four-score years should he serve his full sentence.

Until that time, the public purse will be protected, property rights sanctified and many a white-collar criminal will walk. Delicate ears will be no longer be assaulted by sounds of peace demonstrations.

Tranquility will reign in the Baltimore metropolitan area; conformity will be encouraged.

The guess here is that members of Jonah House will not accept the message that deeply held feelings may be expressed only at one's peril.

But others, less courageous, will conclude that silence is the safer course and history informs us of the terrible dangers of taking that path.

Milton Bates


Joseph Palczynski, with his history of violence, was released on bail.

Seventy-six-year-old Philip Berrigan, a man of conscience, is sentenced to 30 months in jail.

No wonder our judicial system has so little credibility.

Penny McDougal


Judge was right to jail unrepentant activist

Dan Rodricks is certainly entitled to his opinion, but he shouldn't back it up with such one-sided arguments as those in his column on the venerable scofflaw, Phil Berrigan ("Orneriness is the rule in court and on the field," March 29).

Mr. Rodricks called Mr. Berrigan a "peace activist" and treated Judge James T. Smith Jr.'s "harsh" sentence as retribution for singing and chanting by Mr. Berrigan's supporters.

But he neglected to mention that Mr. Berrigan has run afoul of the law many times in the past 30 years and was on probation for a previous offense.

Mr. Berrigan apparently shows no remorse and his string of crimes indicate that similar actions will occur if he is not taken out of circulation.

Bravo for Judge Smith.

Bob Allen

Ellicott City

Fells Point must preserve St. Stanislaus Kosta church

To close St. Stanislaus Kosta Catholic church in Fells Point will serve only to demoralize the entire community -- non-Catholics as well as Catholics ("Rallying to keep church open," March 20).

We do not need any more high-rises, restaurants or bars. We need to hear the church bells at 6 a.m., noon and 6 p.m.

We need to preserve a significant symbol of the Polish community's contribution to Baltimore.

The church was paid for by the community. It belongs to the community and we want to keep it.

If the Franciscans want to leave, so be it -- we will retain our own priest to say mass, hear confessions baptize infants and bury the deceased.

Brenda Cosgrove


Religious diversity extends well beyond monotheism

I began reading Glenn McNatt's review of the March 27 concert at the Baltimore Basilica ("Music to ears of interfaith crowd," March 29) glad to see that an "interfaith crowd" had gathered to "celebrate diversity."

The review reported an audience of "Christians, Jews and Muslims."

But where were the adherents of other religions -- Taoists, Buddhists, Pagans, Hindus, Sikhs, members of earth's myriad indigenous faiths?

The reported audience of the concert in fact shares a common faith in the same Abrahamic god and many common religious beliefs.

They might better have been described as an intra-faith crowd celebrating religious conformity.

Will Pierson


Regional primaries could engage more voters

While I have had fun watching the primaries the past few months and enjoyed voting on March 7, I do believe a change in the presidential nomination process is in order.

Regional elections would be an intelligent move, allowing candidates to focus on an area of the country and not have to campaign on both coasts simultaneously, as happened in March.

The drawback is that this approach would still give major emphasis to the larger states in each region.

The reform I find most intriguing is the "smallest-to-largest" plan.

Starting the primaries in small states would allow those states to guide the electoral process by speaking first.

There would, of course, still be a "super" day as California and New York vote, but this would come at the end of a much longer presidential nomination process that would give more individuals a voice.

The major drawback I see to this plan is that candidates will still have to campaign in non-contiguous states, probably over large distances.

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