Letters to the Editor

Jeannette Batz's very well-written "Breaking Down the Wall" (RFT, Feb. 17) is an excellent analysis of the thorns and roses encountered in any public/private enterprise in this country -- especially when religion is a partner. It challenges conservatives and liberals to examine their positions on the delivery of human services in the wake of government "devolution."

We progressives need to start by accepting that there has never been a "wall" separating our states and churches, but a thin membrane that has been strong enough to prevent creation of an official church but permeable enough to allow churches to engage in quasi-public human-service programs. Ms. Batz poses the proper question of whether the move to faith-based organizations as primary providers in welfare-to-work programs will weaken the membrane. Welfare-to-work, although well-intended, is flawed enough in its secular form to not need the hint of religion clouding it further. In a few months, the first group of enrollees will meet the cold steel of very secular sanctions, from which the religious leaders interviewed wisely said they would steer clear. With that caution, the churches will need to diligently stay within objective program guidelines and also steer clear of what Ms. Oxford noted could be moralistic, shame-based standards.

As a clinical social worker who prefers a quieter form of religion than those described in the article, I base my work in my personal moral and spiritual convictions, as do the workers in the interview, and I believe they work best as a baseline rather than a front line. As long as FBOs see the social programs as extensions of their Christian (or Jewish, or Muslim, etc.) calling and not primarily as opportunities to proselytize, they could be efficient, effective additions to the resource net.

Michael A. Ruberton, ACSW, LCSW


To the Editor:
After reading Ray Hartmann's "Commentary" of Feb. 17 ("We Don't Get Fooled Again? Don't Be So Sure"), I think I experienced deja vu. Here we go again -- another megabuck urban-development project to help those who don't really need it. Unbelievable! Is this Bill Bidwill's revenge (who, by the way, still hasn't convinced anyone to build him a stadium)? Are we really this easy? Stadiums, bridges, shopping malls and who knows what else we will buy. I think I'm starting to get the picture, though. My home is older and in much worse shape than Busch Stadium is. Maybe I should start campaigning for public funds to replace it so that I can continue to live and work in St. Louis and contribute to the area's economy. That's reasonable justification, isn't it? We could all agree to that, couldn't we? "I need a new house, and you (taxpayers) pay for it. You'll be better off for the purchase."

John Beaury


To the Editor:
Regarding your story on the Hon. Robert Dierker Jr. ("Out of Order," RFT, Feb. 10):

Hey, get with it! We're tired of hearing about bimbos and trailer trash who have an affair with some poor sap and then fink on him when the affair goes sour. It's just about consensual sex. That was a big girl you wrote about, not some 19-year-old intern who's never been to the big city. What are you guys? Republican prudes?

R. Davidson


To the Editor:
Tell me, Ray, when was it declared open season on Christians in St. Louis ("Commentary," "A Frightening Talent for Politics," RFT, Feb. 10)? It wouldn't be possible to talk about any other group of people in our society with such disdain and get away with it. In fact, in your politically correct world, it would probably be considered a hate crime if you wrote such venom about a Muslim, a Hindu or anyone other than a Christian.

Such mean-spirited, hate-filled "journalism" -- you should be ashamed of yourself.

Dan Johanningmeier


To the Editor:
Perhaps Cliff Froehlich did not have the benefit of seeing Lynn Rosemann's film Tattoo ("Film Reviews," RFT, Feb. 17) in the presence of other live audience members. The screening of Tattoo at Webster University provided what most filmgoers expect: a cinematic experience of shared audience response to situations and personalities on the screen. The success of a film must be measured, at least in part, on the basis of that response. The lively and engaging discussion between filmmaker, tattoo artists and audience that followed the showing is further evidence that Tattoo was indeed warmly received. Lynn Rosemann is to be congratulated as another St. Louis filmmaker who has successfully screened a completed film before a paying and appreciative audience.

Dick Colloton


To the Editor:
As a male of 54 years who was born and raised in South St. Louis, I returned to my neighborhood of baptism to attend the Mardi Gras. I was very proud of this city, as I stood on Seventh Street with my family from St. Louis and Switzerland. No problems, and as far as I could see from Broadway to Arsenal, people having fun and enjoying the day. A proud day to say I came from South St. Louis. The parade was extravagant this year, lasting almost a full two hours. My family and I gradually began to lose interest in the parade and decided to take a stroll through the streets of Soulard. I felt proud to be there, showing everyone who I was and where I came from.

However, one thing seemed to nudge my gut. I saw fear in the eyes of the police officers. Why are the police afraid of us? We the people. On Fat Tuesday they returned in force, with fear still in their eyes (see "Copping an Attitude," page 9 in the current issue). Oh yes, there were some that needed attention. But you have to know when to give a ticket and when not to. When to push and when not to. To risk the health and safety of so many people to ticket people for such a little exhibition. One can see more erotic scenes on cable TV. This was unexplainable. Officers pushed when no pushing was needed. Officers Maced women walking to their cars. Yes, I do believe more discipline was needed.

The next time I walk through the city, I will again look into the officers' eyes to see if they have changed. I will look at their uniforms to see if the name of the city has been changed to Selma.

John Berra

To the Editor:
St. Louis Police Chief Ron Henderson has done it again! Having proven himself as a top income-generating official in St. Louis politics, Henderson will continue to hear his name spoken over and over again as candidate for upcoming fundraiser chairman. With the success of Soulard's Fat Tuesday Fundraiser, or Fine Tuesday, as it will soon be known, St. Louis can continue to be the prudish bore capital of the United States. Police arrested four women for indecent exposure -- which carries a fine of up to $250 -- for breast-baring incidents. As reported by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Chairman Henderson himself led a charge of some 30 officers and a team of mounted police into a crowd of our area's unarmed citizens who were just having some fun.

In the tradition of Mardi Gras both here and in New Orleans, women bare their breasts for beads. "We don't do that sort of silliness here," Henderson says. "We're going to put a stop to this." Henderson is a driving force in keeping St. Louis and the United States going backward from openness and acceptance of the human body. In many European countries, topless women are featured in television and magazine advertisements regularly, which has been normal and accepted for quite some time. Why are bare breasts considered so shocking and unaccepted in an otherwise advanced and educated society?

We are constantly being bombarded by restraining laws and regulations by hypocritical legislators. These laws are enforced by leaders who are power-hungry cowards who will go to extreme lengths to be feared. Instead of leading a charge of officers into a crack house or controlling gang crime throughout our community, Henderson's crew Maced many of our innocent unarmed citizens at an event they were invited to by our wonderful city. Silliness is Henderson's idea of law enforcement, and we need to put a stop to this!

Perry Luna

To the Editor:
While attending a health-education class in high school, in 1948, I mentioned that I had been a breast-fed baby and that on my native island breast-feeding was routine. I couldn't have uttered a more primitive statement, as far as my classmates were concerned. They already knew that we immigrants were somewhat backward, having come here to avail ourselves of America's advancements. My statement only reconfirmed their views.

It turned out, however, that in the long run modern America rediscovered human milk, although the record will show that sometime in the '80s a young mother was arrested in a store parking lot while sitting in her car breast-feeding her baby. Never mind that her breasts were covered and that only the baby could see them. Public reaction eventually got the case thrown out of court and, as far as I know, no other mother has been arrested since in St. Louis County for similar reasons. Could it be that America is finally finding what breasts are for and that having them is not that sinful a deal after all?

Well, I wouldn't bet on it, given that there is still a segment of our population that cannot face reality. A few days ago, for example, I told a somewhat far-fetched fictitious story on an Internet forum where I used a reference to a stretched breast. To my dismay, my contribution was censored and the Web board's owner went so far as to call me a "filthy, dirty coward" who should take my foul language elsewhere. What the foul language was, he didn't bother to say. On the other hand, after reading about the way the St. Louis police behaved toward the female Mardi Gras celebrants who publicly bared their breasts, I believe I know where the hangup must be. Come on, America. Grow up.

Manuel L. Ponte

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