Walls of separation

Holly Hollman’s Aug. 6 column on church-state doctrine not only misses the point of Trinity Lutheran Church v. Comer but also is philosophically confused and historically misinformed. Sometimes those such as Hollman who undertake to speak with the most authority on this multi-faceted subject succeed only in demonstrating their ignorance of it.

In Trinity Lutheran, the Supreme Court decided that it is a violation of the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment for a day-care center, which is operated by a church, to be denied a secular and otherwise generally accessible benefit by the state. Specifically, the day-care center sought, by participating in Missouri’s Scrap Tire Program, to replace the pea-gravel surface of its playground with a soft rubber-coated surface. The program offered reimbursement grants to nonprofit organizations that purchase playground surfaces made from used tires. Missouri’s Department of Natural Resources denied Trinity Lutheran’s request to participate in the program since its day-care center was religiously owned and operated. Judge Ken Starr in his column is correct: The Supreme Court’s reversal of this decision is a victory for religious liberty.

I would ask Hollman, who espouses a strict separationist doctrine of church and state, how far she is willing to go in denying secular and neutral benefits to church-related facilities. Would she consider it a violation of the Establishment Clause for the state to provide fire and police protection to a church day-care center? How about providing the center with electricity and water? These examples are almost too ludicrous to contemplate, yet they do make the point.

Also, Roger Williams’ “wall of separation” was about protecting religious conscience, not about secularizing the state, such that there can be no cooperation or interplay between the two. Furthermore, John Leland preached to Thomas Jefferson and others in the House of Representatives. That does not sound to me like separationism, or at least the brand of it advocated by Hollman.

L. Scott Smith, McGregor

Making a pass

The passing lanes recently completed on increasingly busy State Highway 6 between Valley Mills and Waco were needed. Now some entity needs to educate drivers on the use of these lanes. Quite obviously the signs that say “Slower Traffic Keep Right” are not working. The Texas Department of Transportation needs to change the signs to say “All Traffic Keep Right Except to Pass.” Then give tickets to those who don’t obey.

This morning I followed a pickup from Valley Mills to Waco and the driver never moved from the left passing lane. This prevents oncoming cars from having the opportunity to pass when they can legally do so.

So here’s the word, spread it far and wide: All traffic keep right except to pass!

Alta Powers, Valley Mills