Union Democrat staff

Atkins is entitled

to free speech

To the Editor:

Regarding the letter by Norman Reed published on Tuesday, June 3:

Isn't our right to freedom of speech here in America wonderful? Mr. Reed is free to express his personal opinions and beliefs in a public forum like the local newspaper. Mr. T.Y. Atkins as an American citizen is also free to express his opinions and beliefs at a public TUD meeting by suggesting that we all pray to God for rain. Mr. Atkins' comments have nothing to do with his employment as a school principal. But for Mr. Reed to jump from the TUD meeting to Mr. Atkins' job performance is irrelevant and presumptuous. If the comments made by Mr. Atkins are offensive to some people, they don't have to listen or follow his suggestion. And, if Mr. Reed wishes to suggest we all try a rain dance, he can go right ahead and do that. After all, he has freedom of speech!

Patricia Lau


Try being nice,

you might like it

To the Editor:

Try this, you'll like it:

Treat others even better than you would like to be treated.

Spend more time with loved ones and let them know that you love them.

Be nice to everyone (even Dodgers fans).

Tell people how much you appreciate them.

Look for people that you can help.

Say please and thank you.

I love nice!

Norm Gough


CFBD interference not good for county

To the Editor:

Your front page article, "Rim Fire Salvage Opposed..." on May 23 is disturbing on many levels. The Center for Biological Diversity (CFBD), operating out of Northern Arizona, opposes Rim Fire Salvage because it will disrupt the natural recovery of the forest. Our local leaders, John Buckley, Mike Albrecht, and others explain that the plan will only have minor impacts. The response should be these people, CFBD, crazy, irresponsible, and do not have the best interests of the people of Tuolumne County, California, or the United States in their plans.

The Rim Fire destroyed tens of thousands of acres of conifer forests. There are areas without a live seed tree for ten miles. They have been permanently converted to an oak brush woodland adapted to periodic fires. Conifers cannot reseed, there is no seed source. The center should be named Center for Monocultures.

The issue has to be how do we rehab and save the Stanislaus. At every opportunity we have to promote reducing fuels, may mean removing logs, planting conifers, controlling brush, and regrowing our resources. Our future does not depend on removing millions of board feet of decaying rapidly devaluing logs or how much money will be made or donated to some company or group. Our future depends on reestablishing a healthy diverse forest ecosystem. Our mismanagement got us here and we should accept the responsibility of our stewardship to pass on something worthwhile to future generations.

Leon Manich


Atkins exercised 'God-given right'

To the Editor:

A recent letter on this page excoriated Summerville Elementary principal T.Y. Atkins for asking - at a TUD meeting - that people pray to God for rain. The letter writer implied that educational officials should refrain from making religious references "in public." People, he said, might be offended.

Clearly, our educational system has failed. The writer should have been taught that the Constitution's First Amendment says Congress shall make no law restricting freedom of speech (or of the press). Mr. Atkins does not surrender the right of free speech by being a public official.

While the amendment does say Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, many people forget it also says "or prohibiting the free exercise thereof." Mr. Atkins does not surrender the latter right, either.

It would be a different matter if Mr. Atkins were conducting Druidic rites on the school grounds for Summerville Elementary pupils. However, as he made his appeal to God in a public meeting of a public agency, his expression absolutely is protected. Let us say, at the risk of being offensive (a free-speech privilege) that Mr. Atkins' expression, in our system, was the exercise of a God-given right.

Michael Ackley