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Copyright 2000 St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Inc.  
St. Louis Post-Dispatch

February 4, 2000, Friday, FIVE STAR LIFT EDITION


LENGTH: 1376 words



The death penalty, justice and the law

A Dec. 26 editorial, "A moratorium on killing," said our nation executed 98 inmates in the past 12 months. However, it failed to say how many of our good and honest citizens have been raped and murdered in the past 12 months.

The death penalty is not about revenge. It is about justice in our country. It is a punishment to fit a crime. Our prisons should be used for what they were intended. That is why they are called "correctional institutions" -- to punish yet rehabilitate those who are capable of being put back into society as good, upstanding citizens, and not to just house them in a penal institution until their death.

The editorial asks that a moratorium on executions be granted so Missouri could investigate its capital cases. Why? It takes 10 to 15 years of appeals for an inmate in Missouri to be finally executed. When convicted persons have gone through the complete appellate system, there is not any doubt of their guilt. With the advances of DNA it is very unlikely that an innocent person will be executed.

Why is it when we raise our children, we punish them to teach right from wrong, but we can't seem to do this with our most heinous murderers? The editorial says this should be a year of forgiveness. The death penalty is not about forgiveness; it is about the law and justice.

The death penalty is not murder as some may say; it is about justice and our law.
Carol Angelbeck
Lewis & Clark Chapter Leader, Parents of Murdered Children
Troy, Mo.

Thank you, Gov. George Ryan of Illinois. It is so good to hear of an elected official placing right and wrong and justice above political ambition. Death row inmates have been pawns of politicians for too long a time.

The Catholic bishop in Belleville has also spoken out on this issue. I can hope that other religious leaders will follow him and the pope.

Another thought: Maybe religious leaders can change their teaching on revenge and vengeance.
Margie I. Johns
De Soto
Ethics enforcement

Anyone cheering the recent Supreme Court ruling upholding the Missouri limits on campaign contributions should remember this: The limits will be enforced by the notoriously inept Missouri Ethics Commission.

Those wishing to violate the law need only make multiple contributions in the name of their relatives, their friends, or anyone else they can think of. They have nothing to fear; the limits will affect only honest citizens.

Although blatant violations of the campaign finance disclosure law have been reported to the Ethics Commission over the years, it rarely takes action. This leads to even more violations.

Since the law requires that commission records be kept secret, and since it isn't even required to explain its decisions, the Ethics Commission can never be held accountable.

A recent article told of more of the commission's incompetence. It spent $ 250,000 for a campaign finance computer program that still doesn't work -- and wants $ 387,000 more. "The evidence of incompetence is overwhelming," said Sen. John Schneider, who wants the state's Office of Administration to take over the computer work. A 1994 state law required electronic filing by 1998.

Until major changes are made in how the Ethics Commission operates, the campaign finance laws will never be properly enforced. This includes the limits on campaign contributions.
Tom Sullivan
St. Louis
Equal rights effort

Women are once again under siege by those who are determined to defeat the Equal Rights Amendment and keep women in their place.

Opponents of ERA would have everyone believe their opposition is about abortion. The fact is that abortion is just a convenient excuse, because ERA was fought when abortion was not the excuse.

Opponents hypocritically propound human rights everywhere else in the world while they fight human rights and simple justice here.

ERA is really about a woman being paid the same for doing the same work as a man. ERA is about women receiving equal access to health care. Unequal health care is evidenced by the fact that insurance companies pay for Viagra for men but refuse to pay for contraceptives for women.

ERA is about women receiving equal treatment by the courts so discrimination and sexual harassment against women can be remedied.

The opposition is about maintaining women in a second-class-citizen status without equal protection under the law.
ERA is essential to truly make this a land of the free.
Carolyn Landry
St. Charles
Same-sex marriage

This is in response to a Jan. 26 article. State Sen. David Klarich is frantically trying to push a bill to stop same-sex marriages. He says Missouri needs to define that a marriage is between a man and a woman.

Well, in most cases it is. But the word "marriage" in the dictionary is defined this way: The condition of being married; Wedlock. A wedding ceremony. A close or intimate union." Nowhere does it say, limited to only men and women.

If two people love each other and are committed to each other, regardless of their gender, they should be able to make that commitment to each other like anyone else. Marriage is saying: I love only you. I want only you in my life and I want to express my love by this union that will hopefully last our lifetime.

This isn't the downfall of America. This isn't the weak brick that will crumble the building. The sad thing is the fear that people like Klarich spread. He says this isn't discrimination. Again, I would refer Klarich to the dictionary, which states: "To make a clear distinction; To act on the basis of prejudice."
Laura Lawrence
University City
Alcohol abuse isn't limited to fraternities

The Jan. 21 editorial, "The end of Animal House?" was one of the best ever. However, it failed to state directly that fraternal organizations are just a microcosm of campus life.

Behaviors -- some good, such as community service and academic achievement, and some bad, such as alcohol abuse or hazing -- are representative of the campus community as a whole.

Those campuses on which fraternities and sororities are most successful in curbing alcohol and hazing abuses are those on which the university has taken a responsible stand working with the national Greek organizations, alumni and undergraduate students in supporting one another's message.

We are least successful on campuses where the university undermines our efforts to curb such abuses either by carelessness, ignorance or malevolence -- preferring instead to use Greek organizations as a convenient scapegoat for campus-wide abuses.

Contrary to author Hank Nuwar's assertion, it is rare that drinking is part of any ritual or initiation in a fraternity. The use and abuse of alcohol on college campuses is far subtler than that. It has simply become the norm to expect that students will get drunk almost every Friday and Saturday night.

The fraternity house merely provides the convenient setting for that to occur, particularly if one is under the legal drinking age. Until fraternities, universities, alumni and undergraduate students work together to change this expectation, tragedies will continue to occur.

If a university were serious about confronting this matter, it would require incoming freshmen to take a course on alcohol and drug abuse rather than requiring them to take classes that they had once or twice already in high school. Such a class or seminar would have a real impact on these issues and contribute far more to students' continued academic achievement than a repeat of the oft-required civics, composition, algebra or chemistry, or the new, yet seemingly endless parade of multi-cultural mumbo-jumbo.

In fact, if I were a parent, I would not send my young adult to a university without first evaluating the use of alcohol by its student body, as well as the efforts by the university and Greek system to address that use.

When universities begin to see that ignoring this issue affects their admission levels (and thereby their finances), they will begin to address it more seriously.
Michael Abraham
Executive Director, Theta Tau
University City

LOAD-DATE: February 4, 2000

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