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THE FIRST THING THAT really caught my eye about Jonetta Rose Barras’ article about the ACLU (“Taking Liberties,” 2/2) was the subheadline, “How the ACLU Betrays the People of Washington.” After reading the article, I found no such consensus among the intervieweesindeed, the opinions were definitely divided. Even one of the D.C. Council members weighed in for the ACLU. And there were no data to prove that statement: no deaths that could be laid at the hands of the ACLU, no wounded, no actual physical hurt. So the subheadline should have read, “Does the ACLU Betray the People of Washington?” Some would call that equivocation. I call it objectivity.
As to the ACLU’s protest against student-led school prayer in D.C. schools: It is not specified whether the prayer would be voluntary or mandatory. The answer would, in part or whole, dictate the ACLU’s response. Voluntary silent prayer is one thing: A mandatory prayer period is quite another.
As to Mr. Ballard’s comment that “The ACLU is hurting our children”how are school prayer and curfews going to help them? Are there any data that show that school prayer and/or curfew reduce crime and violence? And here, again, the question as to whether the prayer is mandatory or voluntary must be raised.
The fact that Mr. Spitzer is childless is irrelevant to the debate: It doesn’t automatically mean that he doesn’t know what he’s talking about or what’s best for the city. This is a classic rhetorical trick known as “argument to the man,” or changing the subject.
The ACLU works to free individuals and groups from state and government coercion. Even if a coercive law is passed to do goodeven if it performs that goodit is still a coercive law, and therefore unethical. And you can’t get away from that, no matter how good your intentions.
Rockville, Md. CP