Letters to the Editor

Docs wrong to bully DM

I was disappointed to see the Feb. 23 letter to the editor “Where’s your spine, DM?” by Profs. Mary Hendrix et. al. Had these professors read the letter published Feb. 22 by Dance Marathon’s co-chairwomen, they would know that the Juvenile Diabetes Research Fund never asked for DM money to go toward embryonic stem cell research. DM is directing money toward a specific grant to a Feinberg School of Medicine colleague of the many of the professors who accuse DM of forcing scientific researchers to “narrow their thinking.”

DM is helping to fund a specific research project, because this is how JDRF has chosen to allocate their funds.

This does not mean DM is making a research agenda a “left/right political issue.” DM’s contribution will likely free up other money for the JDRF, which it is free to put into stem cell research if they so choose.

As the co-chairs said, “(DM is) not taking money away from stem cell research,”and in fact they may be helping JDRF to move other, less encumbered funds to embryonic stem cell research grants. The fact is, DM fund raises in a mixed political environment, and it can do the most good by satisfying the concerns of those at both ends of the political spectrum. To condemn DM for failing to fund embryonic stem cell research is no more reasonable than condemning them for being involved with an organization that does embryonic stem cell research in the first place. DM’s mission is to raise as much money as possible to do the most good, and to that end a policy of moderation makes sense.

It is likely my personal politics on this issue align fairly closely with those in Feinberg, but it’s a simple matter of logic to see that DM’s decision is pragmatic — and chastising DM for its reasonable stance is simply counterproductive.

–Laurence Berland,
Weinberg senior

Right doesn’t own faith

Henry M. Bowles III and Ben Snyder insist on arguing with a liberal straw man who is against the implication of religious values in political judgment.

The real liberal point is twofold. Firstly, religious conservatives do not possess a monopoly on religious values. Liberal religion teaches no less powerful a message of justice. Often, I think, progressive policies are more aligned with the teachings of the world’s religions; but that is a matter of opinion. In any event, Democrats must present a narrative, rooted in values, religious and otherwise, that resonates with the American people. Politics is defined by the ineradicability of conflict and sometimes irresolvable differences. Just as progressives have won past battles — for civil rights, the New Deal, or to end the Vietnam War, for example — with moral appeals, liberals must embrace a moral politics.

Secondly, while conflict is inevitable, in a liberal (open, tolerant and free) society, debate and contest take place within certain parameters demarcated by guaranteed rights. When the democratic will impinges on individual freedom, it becomes outside the bounds of legitimate politics. The Constitution and judicial system regulate the system. The problem with the religious conservative agenda is not that it is rooted in theology, but that it is deeply illiberal and often at odds with the rights and freedoms of the citizenry — secular and religious, of all faiths alike. It is a false analogy to equate the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which protected people from discrimination in violation of their equally protected rights, with, say, legislation to institute prayer in schools. In stark contrast, such legislation, according to the Supreme Court, violates students’ constitutional right to be free of religious coercion. Thus, not all values-based policy is equivalent. We must distinguish instances in which it compromises rights and freedoms.

Finally, let’s disabuse ourselves of the notion that separation of church and state is not found in the Bill of Rights. For the very purpose of guarding against inappropriate religious intrusion into government, the First Amendment directs Congress to “make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” James Madison was prescient. He cautions, “Who does not see that the same authority which can establish Christianity, in exclusion of all other Religions, may establish with the same ease any particular sect of Christians, in exclusion of all other sects?” It is a warning we would do well to remember in light of the agenda of today’s religious reactionaries.

–Joshua Kirschenbaum,
Education senior