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New Braunfels Herald Zeitung (Newspaper) - June 23, 2000, New Braunfels, Texas Page 6A — HERALD-ZEITUNG — Friday, June 23, 2000Opinions Forum Letters j& New U&m*nfklsHerald-Zeitung New Braunfels Zeitung was founded 1852; New Braunfels Herald was founded 1890. The two papers merged in 1957 and printed in both German and English until 1958. Doug Toney, Editor and Publisher Margaret Edmonson, Managing Editor Kudos There’s a lot going on around New Braunfels this week, and much of it shows the kind of initiative, volunteer spirit and public service ethic that has always made this a special place. The Red Stocking Revue is the biennial fund-raiser for the Community Service Center, a United Way agency that provides many services to local residents. (See story and sidebar beginning on Page I.) Kudos to the organizers, crew and players who tonight and this weekend will make the Red Stocking Revue happen one more time. Also beginning tonight and running through the weekend, the first Saengerfest at Saengerhalle Texas Dance Hall will benefit the Comal and Guadalupe county women shelters. What a fine program to put on in a fine old hall. Kudos! We hope to see it again next year. The Comal, New Braunfels and Nixon-Smiley school districts will share a $1.9 million grant to prepare educators to use technology in classrooms. Considerable work went intQ securing this grant, which is administered by the Texas Education Agency. Only 25 were awarded in Texas, and the competition for that money was stiff. Local school districts should be applauded for their foresight and their effort. The Guada-Coma Home Builders Association is conducting a week long Parade of Homes at River Chase on the Guadalupe that will be visited by thousands by the time it ends Sunday. We hope this is the first of what will be an annual event. One more thing. The folks who have made the Bell Ringers program at Eden Home happen for two-and-a-half years have done a wonderful thing and should be commended for it. We hope the community will pull together one more time and help them keep it alive. Today in History By the Associated Press Today is Friday, June 23, the 175th day of 2000. There are 191 days left in the year. Today’s Highlight in History: On June 23, 1931, aviators Wiley Post and Harold Gatty took off from New York on the first round-the-world flight in a single-engine plane. On this date: In 1868, Christopher Latham Sholes received a patent for an invention he called a “Typewriter.” In 1888, abolitionist Frederick Douglass received one vote from the Kentucky delegation at the Republican convention in Chicago, effectively making him the first black candidate nominated for U.S. president. (The nomination went to Benjamin Harrison.) In 1938, the Civil Aeronautics Authority was established. In 1947, the Senate joined the House in overriding President Truman’s veto of the Taft-Hartley Act. In 1956, Gamal Abdel Nasser was elected president of Egypt. In 1967, President Johnson and Soviet Premier Alexei Kosygin held the first of two meetings in Glassboro, NJ. In 1969, Warren E. Burger was sworn in as chief U.S. justice by his predecessor, Earl Warren. In 1972, President Nixon and White House chief of staff H.R. Haldeman discussed a plan to use the CIA to obstruct the FBI’s Watergate investigation. (Revelation of the tape recording of this conversation sparked Nixon’s resignation in 1974.) In 1985, all 329 people aboard an Air-India Boeing 747 died when the plane crashed into the Atlantic Ocean near Ireland, apparently because of a bomb. In 1989, the Supreme Coart refused to shut down the “dial-a-pom” industry, ruling Congress had gone too far in passing a law banning all sexually oriented phone message services. Ten years ago: African National Congress leader Nelson Mandela, on a U.S. tour, received a tumultuous welcome in Boston. mr NMT WUEST NMT* ”Cl*V-3T. 6/19 Slim evidence backs Graham execution AUSTIN — The Supremes are probably right about prayer at football games in the Santa Fe School District case, but you must admit that there’s a slight cultural gap here. The court’s decision noted that the Fifth Circuit had ruled that students could offer prayers at graduation, but not in the far less solemn and extraordinary setting of a football game. That’s all they know about Friday nights. I’ve heard a good many proselytizing public prayers offered in this state, as opposed to the “To Whom it may concern: Let no one get injured in tonight’s game, Amen” variety, but I doubt you could prove that this increases intolerance. On the other hand, in May, three Santa Fe High students were arrested on accusations that they threatened to hang a 13-year-old Jewish boy, an eighth-grader at the middle school. If true, we would have to say that the three have failed to grasp some of the central tenets of the Christian faith, let alone the principles on which the country is founded. And now to the case of Gary Graham, who is about to be executed on what has to be the slimmest evidence that anyone has seen in years. It’s hard to believe that anyone could be convicted, much less given the death penalty, on the evidence of one eyewitness — who saw him for maybe a second, from 30 to 40 feet away, at night. The two eyewitnesses who say the killer wasn’t Graham got a much better look at the killer and were never heard from at trial, nor were his four alibi witnesses. This is in part a tribute to Graham’s lawyer Ron Mock, a defense attorney who Molly Ivins has more clients on Death Row than most prosecutors ever put there. In fairness to Mock, like other public defenders, he had almost no money to prepare a defense. Mock called no defense witnesses. In recent years, he has been disciplined four times for professional misconduct. Graham is no poster boy for the anti-death-penalty camp. He’s a bad actor who belongs in prison — several violent robberies and a rape. But whether we like it or not, his record doesn’t prove that he’s guilty of the Bobby Grant Lambert murder for which he is about to be executed. For that matter, Lambert was a bad actor himself, a known drug dealer — but that is just as irrelevant as Graham’s record. Murder is murder. The relevant precedent here is the case of Henry Lee Lucas, the serial liar, whose sentence Gov. George W. Bush finally had to commute after the state convicted him of a murder that occurred while Henry Lee was out of state. I’ve read some moving statements by victims in Graham’s other crimes, who understandably want him dead. But I think the question here is simple: Would YOU want to be put to death on the strength of one eyewitness who got a glimpse from 35 feet away at night — especially if there were better eyewitnesses and alibi witnesses? (In 1998, a judge ruled that two of the four alibi witnesses who came forward after the trial were not credible — they are both kin to Graham. But who else are you likely to be hanging out with but your own family and friends?) If we could all calm down enough to get off our knee-jerk death penalty stands here and try to learn something from this case, there’s a really useful change in process that we should consider here. It involves how eyewitness IDs are made. The one eyewitness against Graham had described him as clean-shaven; she was shown five photographs of possible perps, of whom only Graham was without facial hair. She did not positively ID him from the photos, but the next day, she picked him out of a lineup. Graham was the only one both in the photographs and the lineup, and experts say that photo spreads can influence lineup ID. There’s a better way to do this. Crow eaten here: In a recent column on the highlights of W. Bush’s record as governor, I erroneously reported that Lonnie “Bo” Pilgrim, the chicken magnate and tort reformer, had given generously to Texans for Public Justice. Actually, Texans for Public Justice is a public interest group that keeps track of the contributions of major players like Pilgrim. I doubt that Pilgrim was thrilled by the error, either — apologies to both camps. (Molly Ivins is a columnist for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.) Got Something To Say? The New Braunfels Herald-Zeitung encourages letters on any public issue. The editor reserves the right to conect spelling, style, punctuation and known factual errors. Also, an address and a telephone number, which are not for publication, must be included for confirmation purposes. Preference is given to writers who have not been published in the previous 30 days. Mail letters to: Letters to the Editor do the New Braunfels Herald-Zeitung P.O. Drawer 311328 New Braunfels, TX 78131 1328Jesus warned flock about public prayer For more than 50 years, since a 1947 case called “Everson,” the Supreme Court has been getting it wrong on religion. In that long-ago case, the Court ruled that what the federal government was prohibited from doing — establishing a national church — the states also could not do. Fifteen years later, atheist leader Madalyn Murray O’Hair successfully challenged prayer and Bible reading in public schools, and it’s been downhill for certain expressions of religious views ever since. In his dissenting opinion on the latest case, which forbids student-led prayer at public-school football games, Chief Justice William Rehnquist said the majority opinion “bristles with hostility to all things religious in public life.” He is right, of course. But the decision offers an opportunity for religious believers if they will seize it. The greater power to do good lies within individuals, not the state. Cal Thomas Conservative Christians, especially, are fooling themselves when they think public prayers are a sign that all must be right with the world. Such prayers before football games do nothing for the quality of the game, and there is no evidence, nor could there be, of fewer injuries because God’s name has been invoked over the loudspeaker. Furthermore, such prayers trivialize the act of prayer. No less an authority than Jesus spoke about public displays of worship when He said of the Pharisees (the fundamentalists of His day): “Everything they do is done for men to see: They make their phylacteries wide and the tassels on their garments long; they love the place of honor at banquets and the most important seats in the synagogues; they love to be greeted in the marketplaces and to have men call them ‘Rabbi’‘’(Matt. 23:5-7). Elsewhere, Jesus has this advice on prayer: “Be careful not to do your acts of righteousness before men, to be seen by them. And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men .... But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen” (Matt. 6:1 and following). The Supreme Court said nothing at all about that far more powerful and effective type of prayer. But in our culture, which highly values what the world values (filled stadiums, television appearances and other visible expressions of “success”), things done out of public view don’t count for much. In fact, the only kind of faith that actually does work is that which is first practiced. St. Francis of Assisi is credited with the statement “Preach the gospel. Use words if necessary.” The behavior the Court did not and cannot proscribe is the kind that will make a far greater impression than teenagers praying at high-school football games. It is the behavior that begins with the discipline of deeds, including prayer for one’s enemies, visiting those in prison, feeding the hungry, clothing the naked and caring for widows and orphans. Conservative Christians ought to stop looking to the state for permission and validation and start looking to God for their commission and marching orders. With this kind of faith, they won’t have to petition government. Government will petition them to find out why what they’re doing works. If and when they do, they will find they are exerting real influence. They will stop believing that public displays of their faith are changing anything, from the outcome of football games to the transformation of culture Their influence is needed more than ever, but it will not be felt so long as they settle for a lesser, worldly power, which is really no power at all. People with faith that the next election will turn the Court and the nation more to their way of thinking might wish to consider that three of the justices who voted to prohibit prayer at football games were appointed by Republican presidents. If George W. Bush is elected president, who can guarantee any judges named by him will not also lean to the left? Whether they do or don’t should have no effect on the prayer life or acts of people who worship an authority higher than the state. (Cal Thomas is a syndicated columnist.) ;