Pacific Stars And Stripes, May 20, 1997, Page 16

Pacific Stars And Stripes

May 20, 1997

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Issue date: Tuesday, May 20, 1997

Pages available: 35

Previous edition: Monday, May 19, 1997

Next edition: Wednesday, May 21, 1997

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Publication name: Pacific Stars And Stripes

Location: Tokyo, Japan

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Years available: 1948 - 1999

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Pacific Stars And Stripes (Newspaper) - May 20, 1997, Tokyo, Japan-none.JTWS MD mm TUESDAY, HAY 20, mi V?:.' The Associated Press WASHINGTON — Joata Lon- gobardo was shocked when her son came home from school without, a cherished necklace around his neck, a strap of leather decorated with beads that spelled the word "God." A vice principal at Joseph Longobardo's West Covina, Calif., junior high school had called the necklace "offensive." He ordered the boy to remove it even though it had hung on the boy's neck continuously since he made it in June. , Longobardo said she was tempted to let the incident go but decided to complain after praying for guidance. "I could have been a mother that just said, 'Well, gee honey, I guess you're not supposed to wear it/ " she said. "But if we > just let people run over our rights, then we're going to lose that right ... There are so many people who believe that religion has no place in the schools."Such incidents, argues Rep. Ernest Istook, R-OWa., make the case that a constitutional amendment is needed to protect religious expression on public property.He said inappropriate inci- dents such as the one experi- enced by the Longobardos oc- cur with disturbing regularity. After several weeks of lobby- ing for support from conserva- tive .groups, Istook introduced his proposed amendment this month, saying it was time to re- affirm Americans' right to reli- gious expression* on public property. iWrongheaded court rulings have led judges and school dis- trict officials to mistakenly be- lieve that the First Amendment requires them to stamp out allforms of public religious ex- pression, Istook said. He said the amendment he is pushing would "correct the problems that have been caused by federal courts over the last 30 years." "At the same time that they have been expanding defjnir tions of free speech hi some of the other court cases," he add- ed, "they have been restricting the free exercise of religion, es- pecially if it occurs in someconnectfpn with public prop- erty."As a result, Istook's support- ers say, parents have had to turn to lawyers — and some- times the courts — for help when school officials do such things as forbid students from reading Bibles during school bus rides or keep them from praying over their lunches. „ Drug counseling programs that have a religious aspect have been denied federal funds, and Congress had to act when churches damaged by the Okla- homa City bombing had trouble getting federal assistance to re- pair their buildings, they said. . Opponents — rncluding some religious groups — are de- nouncing the Istook amend- ment, saying it would end up restricting religious freedom rather than expanding it. Istook said the amendment would allow students to pray in > schools or even invite a teacher to occasionally offer a prayer. He doesn't intend the amend- ment to allow teachers to lead prayers on a regular basis, how- ever. The Istook amendment has nearly 120 co-sponsors, includ- ing the support of House Speak- er Newt Gingrich, R-Ga., and Majority Leader Dick Armey, R-Texas. But many congressio- nal aides on both the Democrat- ic and Republican side of the aisle said they doubt that there's anything approaching the necessary two-thirds vote for passage.Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., who opposes Istook's amend- ment, noted that students al- ready have the right to volun- tary prayer in school. / He said Istook's prfcposal could lead to government offi- cials preferring one religion over andther or taking actions such as holding votes to declare their cbriimttnities Christian cit- ies, Jewish towns or Buddhist counties. "The Istook amendment is a constitutional land mine cob- bled together by a committee of TV preachers and right-wing interest groups," said Barry Lynn^«executive director of Americans United for Separa- tion of Church and State. "The Istook amendment would allow forced worship for American schoolchilc^-en, encourage reli- gious bigotry and mandate tax- ation for religion." Opponents alslo havelsaid that there's no, ne§d to tamper with the Constitution because most incidents like the one Longo- bardo's son experienced can be cleared up with education — a phone call, or a lawsuit if that doesn't work. "Concerns raised by anecdot- al Incidents of alleged suppres- sion of students' and others' re- ligious speech are best" dealt with through better education of the teachers and administra- tors of what is already available under our Constitution and notwith the radical step of amend- ing our Constitution," said Rep. Stephen Horn, R-Calif. Any new amendment must travel a difficult road to bewritten into the Constitution. To pass, the Istook amendment would need tCMwn votes from two-thirds of both chambers of Congress — 290 in the House and 67 in the Senate. State leg- islatures would then vote on whether to ratify it. ^Longobardo said that when her son could not untie his necklace, he told the vice prin- cipal; " 'Well, I guess you're go- ing to have to cut it off.' Sp the vice principal took him to has office and cut it off with scissors." Joseph wasn't violating any school dress code and offered no resistance other than to ask why the necklace ha4 to be re- moved, she said. "My son is not the kind of kid that would say, 'No, I'm not go- ing to do that.' This is a 14- year-old boy who's a good Md. He's not a troublemaker," Ixm- gobardo said. "But at one point he said, 'Isn't there something like religious freedom?' And that just blew me awayt" When she called school dis- trict officials the next day, they quickly agreed that the vice principal had made a mistake. "They were just wonderful. They really were wonderftil. They agreed that Hie vice prin- cipal was in the wrong and that he would have to make an apol- ogy."Istook has changed the amendment's language twice to gain the support of the National Association of Evangelicals and fce Southern Baptist Conven- tion.Last year, disagreements among conservatives over the wording of such an amendment kept it from advancing through Congress. The Associated Press WASHINGTON — Some members of Congress want to tap the power of the penny for breast cancer research. Plenty of people like the idea: issuing a postage stamp that devotes a cent per sale to the cause. A measly penny, adding up to millions of dollars to fight a dis- ease that kills more than 40,000 Americans^a year? Surely this proposal is in the bag. Hardly. Whether it's a reflexive resis-tance to change or an appropri- ate dose of caution, Wjashingjbori does not move quickly even onideas that sound as beneficent as motherhood^ Two California Democrats have rfeintroduced legislation that died last year to create an optional 33-cent stamp, a penny costlier -than tie regular firsts class rate. Tbt Associated Press Sen, Alfonse D'Amato, RJ-N.Y.i left, and Sen^ f ianne Feirtstein, D-CaW., hold hands during a Capitol Hill news conference introducing legislation for a new breast cancer postal stamp. . sponsors, mostly Democrats, for his bill. Sen. Dianne Fein? stein was joined by an influen- tial Republican; New York Sen. Alfonse D'Anrato, this month when she introduced hers;irtiey believe it would be hard to lose on a proposition thatwould combine .the- U.§. Postal Service's incredible reach — 40,000 pdst offices annually moving 180 billion pieces of inail — with the likelihood that untold millions would put up pennies to help lick a killer. The ppst office ran an educa- tion campaign on breast cancer last year and an earlier one on AIDS. Bu^ it has refused to let raising; money for a cause pig- gyback on its sales. Postal oladajs ahcl critics of the plan question whether ad- ministrative expenses of a spe- cial stamp might eat up that penny.' ' ';,:v; *:' •"••'.':'.:'•• ''••;•••'••^- '•.They also fear that raising ' money for one cause will open floodgates to others —V today, breast cancer; tomoirow, ADDS, heart disease, the arts,. gun rights? „"It's been a longstanding pol- icy that we not do them," said Don Smeraldi, a postal spokes- man.Consumer advocate Ralph Nader has been pitching senfi- postals to administrations and postmasters for 20 years. "There isn't even" a curios- ity," Nader said. "Simply to dis- miss it because it's a little diffi- cult is not a proper way to consider what could be a" very, very effective way to raise funds."Outside Washrngton, letting charity hitch a ride on com- merce has become more promi- nent with the .spread" of ac- counting efficiencies. Credit card arid some long- distance calling -companiesteam with organizations and give them a portion of proceeds for every transaction. J v"'' State governments^ too, haven't shied away from pick* ing favqrites. , In Maryland, motorists can pay apreriiium for a special li- cense plate that puts moneyinto a fund to clean Chesapeake Bay. Many states let taxpayers .check off donations to wildlife on their income tax forms — in Iowa, that can be done to re- store state fairgrounds; in New York, for breast cancer research. In Canada, where cultural at- titudes toward charity are simi- lar, the six-month sale of a stamp for literacy raised ques- tions about whether it was an efficient way to raise money. Yet the stamp — available only hi booklets of 10 for a 50- cent premium — produced dis- appointing sales and high costs for the Canadian post office. "There is an enormous ad- ministrative expense behind it," said Canada Post.spokesman rider Na- der agrees hr breast cancer stamp may prompt every cause to clamor for its own stamp. But requiring charities to muster large petitions to get astamp, or letting people, check off their favorite charity when they buy a generic semipostal,could be an alternative to mak- ing the federal government choose, he said. With ^characteristic impa- tience, Nader said distribution and accounting problems can be sorted out in this computer age if the will exists: "Somesoftware genius can figure out a way to do it." ;

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