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Faiths take positions

Donn Short's March 19 column, Bill 18's infringements on religious belief are 'reasonable,' misses a very important point. There is a clear difference between public schools and independent religious schools.

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Nobody is arguing that the provincial government cannot implement Bill 18 in public schools. Indeed, because public schools are inherently not related to any faith community, and must serve students of all faiths and those who are not religious, it would be entirely inappropriate for them to take positions in the same way that independent religious schools do.

Yet it is clear that a school attached to a mosque, synagogue, temple, church or other house of faith is by its very nature going to be taking particular positions based on the teachings of their particular faith. Parents choose to send their children to those schools in order for them to be brought up according to those principles.

As well, the individuals in that faith community are seeking to exercise their constitutionally guaranteed freedom of religion to teach and share their beliefs.

In a province as diverse as ours, it is essential that we create a bill that protects children from bullying while at the same time respecting freedom of religion for people of all backgrounds.

Surely, in a democratic society that treats religious freedom and pluralism seriously, such accommodation of religion should be considered only reasonable.

JOHN LONG

Winnipeg

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I wish everyone who voices their opinion of Bill 18, and expands on the topic, would read what the Bible says in the Book of Romans, Chapters 1 through 8. Such a study would, hopefully, provide enlightenment and broader understanding.

Does God condemn homosexuality? Indeed, he does. He also condemns adultery, fornication, greed, indifference to the poor, pride, disrespect of parents, covetousness, etc., with a summing up, in Romans 3:23 with the statement, "for all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God."

The idea that some put forward, that Jesus never condemned homosexuality, so therefore he must have thought it acceptable, shows a lamentable ignorance of who Jesus was and why he was here. His view of this world was, in the spiritual sense, exactly what his view as creator was in Genesis 1.

We were, spiritually, "without form, void and darkness on the face of the deep." The same voice that said, "Let there be light," was the voice that said, "I am the light of the world." Jesus was not here as a judge. He will be that, on a coming day. He was here to die as a sinner under the judgment of God. He, the sinless one, became sin that God could remain just, yet be the justifier of everyone who claimed Jesus as saviour.

In God's book, there are two classes of people, and two only. Those who are justified through faith in Christ and manifest it in their lives, and those who choose their own way and show it in their lives. We can take shelter in the righteousness of God, or our own self-righteousness.

JOHN BECKHAM

Winnipeg

Upholding papal doctrines

While I have to admit that the new Pope Francis seems to be a man of humility, let no one forget that he must swear an oath to uphold papal doctrines that have been in place for 2,000 years or so.

The Catholic Church as an institution relies on the premise that it has never erred on the interpretation of the Scriptures -- papal infallibility -- so the Catholic world needs to take a deep breath and not expect that this new pope will succeed where all others have failed in changing the direction of the church and its mission to preach the gospel in our world.

HAROLD MURDOCH

Pilot Mound

Feminists' work continues

I was pleased to read Manitoba's first feminists (March 9). I would like to add to the information by pointing to one of the many organizations that assist single mothers and their families to live in this community with dignity.

That organization is Wolseley Family Place, of which I am executive director. A mission of the Sisters of the Misericordia, the agency has been providing service since 1997 to at-risk families in Winnipeg's inner city. We serve about 3,500 families a year.

Some of the cases we see are heartbreaking: a nine-year-old rape victim, suicide attempts, domestic violence and abuse. But we also see and celebrate the strength these woman-led families have. They are survivors.

We are all very proud that the Wolseley Family Place continues the work of this city's early feminists.

SHARON TAYLOR

Winnipeg

Stats support Chávez

In his March 13 letter, Failures of Chávez, Ray Dubois states that Hugo Chávez was a bully who left the country in a ruinous state.

There is much controversy as to how Venezuela fared during the rule of Chávez from 1999 to 2013. Perhaps it is best to go by the report of an independent review such as that of the Center for Economic and Policy Research based in Washington D.C. Its September 2012 report indicates the following changes during the Chávez rule:

Unemployment declined from 14.5 to 7.8 per cent. Extreme poverty declined by 70 per cent. Social spending increased from 11.3 to 22.8 per cent of GDP. Secondary-education enrolment increased from 45 to 73 per cent. Graduates from higher learning increased from 0.7 million to 2.4 million.

Child malnutrition decreased from 4.7 to 2.9 per cent. Inflation decreased from 60 to 20 per cent per year. GDP growth increased from 1.4 per cent to 4.3 per cent per year. Income inequality declined to the lowest in Latin America and the Caribbean.

This is a pretty good report card for Chávez.

With respect to his being a bully, consider the fact that he pardoned 60 leaders of the coup that temporarily drove him to exile. A bully would have jailed them or worse. Also, Chávez sold oil to needy neighbouring countries at much-below market prices and sold gasoline at home for two cents per litre. Now that's a real bully.

He believed that his people, not foreign corporations, should benefit from the oil riches of Venezuela. While his rule was somewhat authoritarian, it was a huge improvement from the corrupt regime that his people suffered under from 1958 to 1998.

ALF WARKENTIN

Winnipeg

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition March 25, 2013 A8

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