December 05, 2008

Priest is wrong to pigeonhole voters

According to a recent article, "The Rev. Joseph Illo ... has told parishioners in a homily and in a follow-up letter that if they voted for Barack Obama, they should consider going to confession because of the president-elect's position on abortion" ("Priest urges confession for Obama supporters," Nov. 30).

Reports like this one disappoint me. I would hope those in positions of moral leadership would exhibit greater understanding.

Abortion is a particularly important issue for Catholics, as it is for many other Christians, and such social issues get a tremendous amount of attention from voters who consider themselves to be religious. But they are not the only issues upon which religious voters base their electoral decisions.

Beyond the fact that saying, as Father Illo does, that President-elect Barack Obama is a "pro-abortion candidate" is intellectually dishonest, such arguments demonstrate a lack of respect for parishioners by pigeonholing them as voting for certain candidates based solely on a single issue.

It would certainly betray a limited understanding to assume that those who backed Sen. John McCain did so exclusively for his position on the abortion issue. And it would be the height of disrespect to suggest that their "state of grace" is in jeopardy as a result of their vote.

Priests, ministers, rabbis and other clergymen have an enormous amount of influence on their respective flocks of believers.

Much is expected of parishioners. Much should be expected of religious leaders as well.

David M. Blades, Columbia

Extremists push to restrict choice

As a psychiatrist who has counseled many women about reproductive health issues, I am dismayed by the Bush administration's latest attempt to subordinate science, medicine and public health to religious ideology ("Rule will strengthen right to refuse care," Nov. 30).

This political mischief, disguised as protecting the "right of conscience" of medical professionals, would interfere with health services vital for the entire population. Chief among these services would be legal abortion and contraception.

The United States already struggles with child and maternal health issues: For an industrialized nation, we have shockingly high rates of unwanted pregnancy and infant mortality.

These proposed regulations would keep women from getting safe, legal health care.

We need policies that increase access to important preventive services, not restrictions on access to care and reproductive choice.

Most Americans favor the right of all women to use medically prescribed birth control and choose legal abortion.

A government of the people should protect the health of families against restrictions designed by a minority of religious extremists.

E. James Lieberman, Potomac

The writer is a member of Physicians for Reproductive Choice and Health.

Maryland isn't owed another seat on court

Carl Tobias' column "A judicial priority" (Commentary, Nov. 30) calls on President-elect Barack Obama to fill a long-vacant appellate court seat expeditiously because Maryland lacks representation on the court and justice is therefore "eroded."

He calls for Mr. Obama to "institute a bipartisan approach" and end "partisan divisions." But his column never justifies why Maryland needs "representation" on a federal court.

Mr. Tobias explains that President Bush tried in 2001, 2003 and 2007 to fill the vacancy and all three times Maryland's senators stonewalled the nomination because the nominee had not practiced in Maryland.

But the court is not a congressional committee that requires representation from the state to protect its turf and earmarks.

And witnessing how laws are made in Maryland by the Democratic-controlled General Assembly, I fail to see a need to spread Maryland's toxic practices to the federal courts.

Charles Herr, Perry Hall

Gossip about Phelps belongs in tabloids

The Baltimore Sun's publication of Laura Vozzella's pointless and mean-spirited column about Michael Phelps is an affront to your Baltimore readers ("Hi, Mom, want to meet my new girlfriend?" Dec. 3).

This type of non-story is commonly found in supermarket tabloids, not in The Baltimore Sun.

What were you thinking?

Ann Turnbull Wase, Baltimore

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