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Pacific Stars and Stripes Newspaper Archive: May 20, 1997 - Page 16

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Publication: Pacific Stars and Stripes

Location: Tokyo, Japan

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   Pacific Stars And Stripes (Newspaper) - May 20, 1997, Tokyo, Japan                              -none.JTWS MD mm TUESDAY, HAY 20, miV?:.' The Associated PressWASHINGTON — Joata Lon-gobardo was shocked when herson came home from schoolwithout, a cherished necklacearound his neck, a strap ofleather decorated with beadsthat spelled the word "God."A vice principal at JosephLongobardo's West Covina,Calif., junior high school hadcalled the necklace "offensive."He ordered the boy to remove iteven though it had hung on theboy's neck continuously sincehe made it in June. ,Longobardo said she wastempted to let the incident gobut decided to complain afterpraying for guidance."I could have been a motherthat just said, 'Well, gee honey,I guess you're not supposed towear it/ " she said. "But if we> just let people run over ourrights, then we're going to losethat right ... There are somany people who believe thatreligion has no place in theschools."Such incidents, argues Rep.Ernest Istook, R-OWa., makethe case that a constitutionalamendment is needed to protectreligious expression on publicproperty.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 introducedhis proposed amendment thismonth, saying it was time to re-affirm Americans' right to reli-gious expression* on publicproperty. iWrongheaded court rulingshave led judges and school dis-trict officials to mistakenly be-lieve that the First Amendmentrequires them to stamp out allforms of public religious ex-pression, Istook said.He said the amendment he ispushing would "correct theproblems that have been causedby federal courts over the last30 years.""At the same time that theyhave been expanding defjnirtions of free speech hi some ofthe other court cases," he add-ed, "they have been restrictingthe 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 toturn to lawyers — and some-times the courts — for helpwhen school officials do suchthings as forbid students fromreading Bibles during schoolbus rides or keep them frompraying over their lunches.„ Drug counseling programsthat have a religious aspecthave been denied federal funds,and Congress had to act whenchurches damaged by the Okla-homa City bombing had troublegetting federal assistance to re-pair their buildings, they said. .Opponents — rncluding somereligious groups — are de-nouncing the Istook amend-ment, saying it would end uprestricting religious freedomrather than expanding it.Istook said the amendmentwould allow students to pray in >schools or even invite a teacherto occasionally offer a prayer.He doesn't intend the amend-ment to allow teachers to leadprayers on a regular basis, how-ever.The Istook amendment hasnearly 120 co-sponsors, includ-ing the support of House Speak-er Newt Gingrich, R-Ga., andMajority Leader Dick Armey,R-Texas. But many congressio-nal aides on both the Democrat-ic and Republican side of theaisle said they doubt thatthere's anything approachingthe necessary two-thirds votefor 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 prfcposalcould lead to government offi-cials preferring one religionover andther or taking actionssuch as holding votes to declaretheir cbriimttnities Christian cit-ies, Jewish towns or Buddhistcounties."The Istook amendment is aconstitutional land mine cob-bled together by a committee ofTV preachers and right-winginterest groups," said BarryLynn^«executive director ofAmericans United for Separa-tion of Church and State. "TheIstook amendment would allowforced worship for Americanschoolchilc^-en, encourage reli-gious bigotry and mandate tax-ation for religion."Opponents alslo havelsaid thatthere's no, ne§d to tamper withthe Constitution because mostincidents like the one Longo-bardo's son experienced can becleared up with education — aphone call, or a lawsuit if thatdoesn't work."Concerns raised by anecdot-al Incidents of alleged suppres-sion of students' and others' re-ligious speech are best" dealtwith through better educationof the teachers and administra-tors of what is already availableunder our Constitution and notwith the radical step of amend-ing our Constitution," said Rep.Stephen Horn, R-Calif.Any new amendment musttravel a difficult road to bewritten into the Constitution. Topass, the Istook amendmentwould need tCMwn votes fromtwo-thirds of both chambers ofCongress — 290 in the Houseand 67 in the Senate. State leg-islatures would then vote onwhether to ratify it.^Longobardo said that whenher son could not untie hisnecklace, he told the vice prin-cipal; " 'Well, I guess you're go-ing to have to cut it off.' Sp thevice principal took him to hasoffice and cut it off withscissors."Joseph wasn't violating anyschool dress code and offeredno resistance other than to askwhy the necklace ha4 to be re-moved, she said."My son is not the kind of kidthat 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 pointhe said, 'Isn't there somethinglike religious freedom?' Andthat just blew me awayt"When she called school dis-trict officials the next day, theyquickly agreed that the viceprincipal had made a mistake."They were just wonderful.They really were wonderftil.They agreed that Hie vice prin-cipal was in the wrong and thathe would have to make an apol-ogy."Istook has changed theamendment's language twice togain the support of the NationalAssociation of Evangelicals andfce Southern Baptist Conven-tion.Last year, disagreementsamong conservatives over thewording of such an amendmentkept it from advancing throughCongress.The Associated PressWASHINGTON — Somemembers of Congress want totap the power of the penny forbreast cancer research. Plentyof people like the idea: issuing apostage stamp that devotes acent per sale to the cause.A measly penny, adding up tomillions of dollars to fight a dis-ease that kills more than 40,000Americans^a year? Surely thisproposal is in the bag.Hardly.Whether it's a reflexive resis-tance to change or an appropri-ate dose of caution, Wjashingjboridoes not move quickly even onideas that sound as beneficentas motherhood^Two California Democratshave rfeintroduced legislationthat died last year to create anoptional 33-cent stamp, a pennycostlier -than tie regular firstsclass rate.Tbt Associated PressSen, Alfonse D'Amato, RJ-N.Y.i left, and Sen^ f ianne Feirtstein,D-CaW., hold hands during a Capitol Hill news conferenceintroducing 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 monthwhen she introduced hers;irtiey believe it would be hardto lose on a proposition thatwould combine .the- U.§. PostalService's incredible reach —40,000 pdst offices annuallymoving 180 billion pieces ofinail — with the likelihood thatuntold millions would put uppennies to help lick a killer.The ppst office ran an educa-tion campaign on breast cancerlast year and an earlier one onAIDS. Bu^ it has refused to letraising; money for a cause pig-gyback on its sales.Postal oladajs ahcl critics ofthe plan question whether ad-ministrative expenses of a spe-cial stamp might eat up thatpenny.' ' ';,:v; *:' •"••'.':'.:'•• ''••;•••'••^- '•.They also fear that raising' money for one cause will openfloodgates to others —V today,breast cancer; tomoirow, ADDS,heart disease, the arts,. gunrights? „"It's been a longstanding pol-icy that we not do them," saidDon Smeraldi, a postal spokes-man.Consumer advocate RalphNader has been pitching senfi-postals to administrations andpostmasters 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 toconsider what could be a" very,very effective way to raisefunds."Outside Washrngton, lettingcharity 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 andgive them a portion of proceedsfor every transaction. J v"''State governments^ too,haven't shied away from pick*ing favqrites. ,In Maryland, motorists canpay apreriiium for a special li-cense plate that puts moneyinto a fund to clean ChesapeakeBay. Many states let taxpayers.check off donations to wildlifeon their income tax forms — inIowa, that can be done to re-store state fairgrounds; in NewYork, for breast cancerresearch.In Canada, where cultural at-titudes toward charity are simi-lar, the six-month sale of astamp for literacy raised ques-tions about whether it was anefficient way to raise money.Yet the stamp — availableonly hi booklets of 10 for a 50-cent premium — produced dis-appointing sales and high costsfor the Canadian post office."There is an enormous ad-ministrative expense behind it,"said Canada Post.spokesmanrider Na-der agrees hr breast cancerstamp may prompt every causeto clamor for its own stamp.But requiring charities tomuster large petitions to get astamp, or letting people, checkoff their favorite charity whenthey buy a generic semipostal,could be an alternative to mak-ing the federal governmentchoose, he said.With ^characteristic impa-tience, Nader said distributionand accounting problems canbe sorted out in this computerage if the will exists: "Somesoftware genius can figure out away to do it."  

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