Keep Religion Out Of It

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How does one respond to people like State Sen. Steve Komadina and attorney Paul Becht in “Defining Marriage” (March 11-17)? After all, they seem learned enough based on their professions; however, like many pious people they have opened their hearts to God and closed their minds at the same time. This is not surprising given that freedom of thought is anathema to most religions. But, why would our Creator endow us with such ability to think and to reason yet expect us not to use it, demanding blind obedience instead?

The cultural war they speak of is, at its most fundamental, a conflict of ideas: whether we are a nation of equals under the law of our Constitution or whether we are a nation of unequals under some interpretation of the Bible. This tension between church and state has existed since our nation's founding and informs much about the same-sex marriage debate. In this era of “Founding Father Chic” I thought it might be instructive to see what one of our nation's founders, Benjamin Franklin, had to say on the matter. Franklin was raised in Puritan Boston in the early years of the 18th century, a time of change as the Puritans were witnessing the dissolution of their “heavenly experiment” on Earth. His brother, James, a fellow printer, was jailed for challenging the Puritan orthodoxy and is credited with remarking that religion is important but “too much of it is worse than none at all.” This sentiment is thought to sum up Benjamin's views as well. Soon, Benjamin took up the press to challenge the same orthodoxy saying, “A man compounded of law and gospel is able to cheat a whole country with his religion and then destroy them under color of law.” Dr. Franklin had direct experience of the power of officials in a theocracy to stifle free speech or to otherwise restrict personal liberties. He, like other founders, respected religion—up to a point—but suspected its motives and saw the mixture of church and state as a volatile one.

To their credit, the founders enshrined religious protections and freedoms in our Constitution as much to guarantee the free exercise of religion as the right to be free from religion. This fundamental civics lesson seems lost on opponents of same-sex marriage who have yet to articulate a rational, non-religious argument for their opposition and why the state should perpetuate a prejudice. Today, these latter-day “Puritans” seek to codify their religion-motivated views in our law in an attempt to discriminate against a sexual minority. If this is not “ill-will,” then what is? But for the Constitution and its protections they, like the same-sex marriage proponents, would not even be able to discuss the matter, let alone argue to justify their positions. We tolerate the religious right and their views because we must; we protect the minority because we should. It's the right thing to do under the civil compact that governs us and religion has—or should have—nothing to do with it.

Fight The Good Fight

I read with some interest Tim McGivern's column about young Republicans' dismay over the liberal faculty at UNM (“Newscity”, March 18-24). While I sympathize with the young Republicans concerns, I have come to believe that they will continue to wage a futile battle. Why?

Essentially, as in most endeavors, it pays to follow the money. In the world of academia, we have, for all intents and purposes, created government funded and run institutions. Simply put, professors salaries and grants are mostly government funded. Few people I know are willing to bite the hand that feeds them and you are unlikely to hear most professors argue against the ineffiencies and dangers of an ever-encroaching state. There are certainly other reasons for the “left leaning orthodoxies” that reign on today's campus but they are too long to go into.

During my student days at the UNM campus in the '70s, reading the literature and philosophies of the radical left was de rigueur. Were we ever introduced to the writings of Russell Kirk, F.A. Hayek, Milton Friedman or Ludwig von Mises? Not on your life. What about the Chicago or Austrian Schools of economics? Forget about it! It was as if they didn't exist. I doubt that as long as universities come under the aegis and control of the government much will change. I will recommend that conservative and libertarian students take heart and know that entities such as The Intercollegiate Studies Institute and the Ludwig von Mises Institute are out there and thriving. Conservative and libertarian intellectuals have had enormous influence over the past 30-40 years, though they have often been shunned by mainstream academia. Fight the good fight, students of the Right!

Clean Up Your Mess!

I am writing in regard to the issue of Otero Canyon, and the proposed action by Kirtland Air Force Base (KAFB) of placing nearly six miles of chainlink fence in land leased from the U.S. Forest Service. This parcel of land, approximately 7,300 acres, is bounded between South 14 to the east, and KAFB to the west and is owned by the U.S. Forest Service (USFS), but leased to the Department of Defense (DoD).

In a catch-22 that could only be created by the powers in Washington, the defense department never became an effective steward of the leased land because the land was exempt from the many environmental, safety and health regulations required by the federal government on the commercial public, but not the government themselves. However, in order to return the leased land back to the forest service for public use, the environmental hazards have to be removed. In fact, KAFB Col. Henry Andrews Jr. recently admitted the littering of Otero Canyon with what is termed as “unexploded ordinance.” Because of the failure to control and clean-up the now half-century old hazard, the base felt that the prudent thing to do was to fence off this land to accomplish three objectives: avoid the environmental clean-up costs; claim protection for the base from possible terrorist attack; and also protect you, the United States citizen, from the harmful effects of unexploded ordinance that the military failed to clean up.

Did you catch that? Kirtland received this land, on loan for the World War II effort, and then proceeded to trash it with explosives and now they want to fence it off forever to protect you and save themselves from terrorists. Of course, the fence could be placed on the KAFB boundary to the west of this land to address the security issue, but base administrators seem uninterested in addressing the environmental hazards introduced many years ago. Clearly this is not an issue of security. I would like to remind federal officials in charge of Kirtland of something your mother might have told you as a child: “Clean up your mess!”

At the request of Friends of Otero ( and many citizens of New Mexico, politicians such as U.S. Sen. Jeff Bingaman, and Reps. Heather Wilson and Tom Udall and governments such as the Village of Tijeras, Albuquerque City Council and County of Bernalillo urged Col. Andrews to work with the community and find a solution to keep this land open for public use. Last November, Col. Andrews, in a very haste and draconian measure, closed off some sections of trail right after the first snowfall, without asking for public involvement or comment on this measure. Col. Andrews is also threatening citizens with arrest, fine and possible confiscation of property if found on these closed recreation trails. Please note that no other base commander in the history of KAFB has felt the need to pursue such tactics at Otero Canyon toward the citizens of New Mexico.

Our greatest generation effectively fought the battle to secure our individual freedoms from the likes of fascism, Nazism and ultimately Communism. In essence, our parents and grandparents defended our liberties, so that we could enjoy the benefits of the democracy dreamed of and created by our founding fathers. KAFB has also played a significant role in defending these liberties, but by an ironic twist of fate, they have not felt compelled to meet the citizens requests head-on and address the issue of this withdrawn land in Otero Canyon. Dwight D. Eisenhower, in his famous 1961 address to the nation said, “Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together.”

Col. Andrews, we the citizens are here to remind you of this charge. Please release the withdrawal land back to the United States public, clean up the land and place the security fence along the western boundary of this land so that we can finally put the ghosts of the last half-century to rest in peace.

Letters should be sent with the writer's name, address and daytime phone number via e-mail to They can also be faxed to (505) 256-9651. Letters may be edited for length and clarity, and may be published in any medium; we regret that owing to the volume of correspondence we cannot reply to every letter.

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