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Religious affiliation is no indicator of future conduct

Why is "church" not separate from "state"? Our country was founded, at least in part, on the bedrock principle of the separation of church and state. That value has been affirmed multiple times by the U.S. Supreme Court.

When countries in the Middle East have political problems, the media and our elected officials sound a constant refrain that highlights the pitfalls of governments based on religion. But during the 2008 presidential election, those same people had no qualms pointing out what became a highly contentious issue: the alleged religious affiliations of Sens. John McCain and Barack Obama. In the current race for the 2012 election, every remaining Republican presidential candidate has not missed an opportunity to stress his or her Christian affiliation. If we value the separation of church and state, why do the candidates' religious affiliations matter?

The most frequent response to that question is that religious affiliation is "a good indication of morals." While a fair reply, this answer overlooks the basic fact that a book's cover is not always indicative of its content. Simply identifying oneself as Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, Jewish, Hindu, Sikh, etc., does not make one inherently moral. Fundamentalist organizations across every religion have made that point glaringly apparent. We all want leaders with a solid moral compass, but our examination of character should not depend solely on declared religious affiliation. Rather, we should focus on their true inner principles and how their actions reflect them.

Michael Jarosz

Buffalo

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Canals should be returned to their original configuration

The rewatered canals on the site of the former Memorial Auditorium should connect with the Buffalo River and be their original depth. Along with other Buffalo waterways, they should be cleaned up similar to the way that Syracuse is cleaning its waterways. Obstacles such as the Hamburg Drain need to be removed from other natural waterways in the inner harbor. The Campaign for Greater Buffalo should go to bat for this, just as it did with the Commercial Slip. A new man-made waterfall could also go there and be like the one in the Rochester exurbs of Rush, Honeoye Falls and Phelps.

Also, either the Central Wharf or the DL&W Terminal could be used for a farmer's market, similar to Boston's Faneuil Hall or Philadelphia's Reading Terminal Market. The fallow space the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority currently owns on the waterfront could also be home to such a market or a museum.

Kevin F. Yost

Henrietta

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ECMC wants to ensure continued clinic care

Recently, articles and letters to the editor have been written discussing Erie County Medical Center's potential plans to close two chemical-dependency clinics.

Closing the ECMC clinics is the last option under consideration. We are committed to going the extra mile with our labor partners and employees to develop alternatives. The passion and dedication of the ECMC employees for the patients and services delivered by the chemical-dependency clinics is to be admired. To that end, we have developed a formal committee to look at redesigning the cost structure to meet the significant decreases in state and federal reimbursement.

Our patients and their well-being have been, and continue to be, our primary concern. While we take pride in the therapy provided at the two ECMC clinics, there are independent clinics that provide similar services and they are able to treat these patients, with or without health insurance.

Addiction treatment is crucial for any community and ECMC is committed to the patients who receive this service. We will ask the committee to reinvent the ECMC clinics and embark on further discussions to find savings and keep them open. I want to reassure the Western New York community that our primary concern continues to be caring for our patients.

Jody Lomeo

CEO, ECMC

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America should decide on what it wants to be

We are having only half of the debate we need as a nation to tackle our budget and debt problems. We hear endless discussion, debate and argument about costs, dollars and cents. We hear the words millions, billions and trillions volleyed back and forth like so many pingpong balls between different points of view.

What is missing in the current discussion is a constructive discussion of the effects of the budget actions proposed -- be they cuts or additional spending. Focusing solely on costs and not on effects seems to me to be dangerously shortsighted. In our individual lives, we look at how we would like to live and then do the best we can with the resources at our disposal. We should have a national discussion about what type of society and country we want to be and then look at our resources and see how close we can come to that vision.

Do we want to be a society that lets people die if they become ill and cannot afford treatment? Do we want to be a society that structures programs so that they encourage welfare dependency generation after generation? Do we want to be a society that believes more is always better, regardless of what is done to generate it? Do we want to be a purely individualistic society with the ethos that as long as I've got mine, I don't care if you get yours? These are the type of questions that we should be asking before we start fighting over budget details. Cost is a concern and a constraint, but it is not the only, or even the main, consideration. How do we start that discussion? How do we get our elected representatives in Washington to pay attention? And why aren't we having it already?

Brian Rose

East Amherst

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Dabkowski had it right on disrespect for poetry

Colin Dabkowski's Sept. 18 commentary was blunt but true: Poets have a hard sell in America. This seems to be confirmed by two observations: (1) there was no reader response in the past month, and (2) the greatly reduced size of the poetry column that once proudly filled a full page of The News.

Given the number of responsible articles devoted to the support of libraries and schools, and to the importance of literacy, this seems contradictory.

Therefore, in my poetic capacity as "the literary satirist from Amherst," I have devised the haikuchen, a short, sound-bite size literary form similar to the haiku, but leavened with some of the more enjoyable qualities of a German coffee cake or kuchen.

A sequence of haikuchen has been submitted separately to the poetry page in protest, and with the hope that it helps to spread an interest in reading -- even if only one haikuchen at a time.

Albert Sterbak

Amherst