Contraception rule is an abomination

Religious freedom, a fundamental freedom of our Constitution, is under assault in our country at the hands of our own government. As citizens, we are faced with the choice of standing up for our religious liberties or sitting back and watching them disappear.

The recent mandate from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services requiring all employers to offer health care coverage that includes free contraception, sterilization and abortion-inducing drugs to their employees is an abomination. Pregnancy is not a disease to be prevented by contraception or cured by abortion. Therefore, contraception and abortion have no place in health care plans. It is important to religious employers that their employees receive adequate health care, however, they will not and should not be required to support those things that are contrary to their beliefs and practices, especially when they are not even medically necessary.

This mandate will impact religious institutions such as Mercy Hospital, Sisters Hospital, Catholic Charities, Catholic universities and schools, nursing homes, adult care homes, home health care companies and others that serve millions of people throughout the United States. Many of the people served are non-Catholic, which disqualifies the institutions from exemption to the mandate. Imagine the chaos that will result in trying to find care for those left behind if these institutions have no choice but to close their doors. Forcing any religious institution to violate its conscience is a slap in the face of religious freedom for everyone. If religious freedom goes by the wayside, what's next? Contact your representatives at and let them know how you feel.

Susan Santandreu



Many members support chorus board's decision

We have seen many letters in recent weeks regarding the Buffalo Philharmonic Chorus and the non-renewal of Doreen Rao's contract as music director. I am a longtime member of the chorus, and I think it's time that readers know that many of our members support the recent actions of our board. Previous letters would have you believe that the board's action was sudden, ill-thought-out and without foundation. This is not the case.

The members of our board are volunteers who are incredibly diligent, hard-working and conscientious. To have the board vilified in the newspaper is reprehensible and does it a gross injustice. Vice President Andrea Copley made it clear that the board was dealing with a personnel issue that called for discretion and circumspection. Such issues, out of fairness to all parties, ought not to be aired in a public forum, but are appropriately dealt with in private.

I know that our board was well aware that this action would prove highly controversial and contentious, and it certainly had nothing individually to gain by making the decision to not renew Rao's contract. The board has a responsibility to look out for the long-term interests of the chorus, and it took its duty seriously and made a very difficult decision.

We all do this because it is an enormous thrill and privilege to be able to share the stage and perform with the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra. As was pointed out by Mary Kunz Goldman, we have performed at a consistently high level over the years, and we will continue to do so. Readers should know that the chorus will be well prepared and ready to sing our upcoming concerts.

Brad Felton

East Aurora


Excuses for ousting occupiers are lame

Listening to Buffalo Common Council President Richard Fontana explaining the reason why the city evicted Occupy Buffalo from Niagara Square was ridiculous. He stated that Niagara Square was starting to look like a slum. Has Fontana seen the rest of the city, including streets and houses in his own district? Is the city going to start an eviction process against all areas that look like a slum and tear them down?

Fontana went on to complain about the grass being destroyed and needing to be repaired. I'm sure the Olmsted Parks organization would be thrilled if he showed the same concern for the grass and lawn areas in city parks, like Delaware and Cazenovia, that were destroyed by people parking on the grass and still have not been repaired.

These excuses for evicting Occupy Buffalo from Niagara Square should apply to every section of Buffalo if Fontana is really serious about cleaning up the city. Or are they just that? Excuses.

David M. McNamara



Pension reform is vital to New York's survival

It is refreshing to see that Gov. Andrew Cuomo has approached the topic of public employee pension reform. Anyone who has worked in the private sector or reads about pension benefits earned by public sector employees has good reason to be concerned about the unrealistic promises. The idea of earning 50 percent to 80 percent of one's final salary, exempt from state income taxes, including inflated overtime payments and other additions such as so-called stipends for additional work, is unconscionable.

Most recently, a longtime City of Niagara employee wasn't satisfied with a plum retirement calculation, and recalled his retirement application until paperwork could be filed by local politicians "proving" that he deserved even more money. Who are these public servants negotiating for? How many of our local politicians are receiving one, two or three additional retirement pension checks while still serving in elected or appointed positions? Is this what public service has come to -- a self-serving "pension-max" machine? Until our governor adds these current practices into his reform efforts, no real pension reform will take place.

Craig R. Johnson



Hiking minimum wage would boost economy

The News editorial of Feb. 3 failed to make a convincing case against raising the minimum wage in New York. The claim was that it would be a "job-killer" and that it would discourage businesses from expanding.

Is this what happened in the 18 states with higher minimum wage laws than the federal standard? Why, exactly, would this happen if consumers had more money to spend on food, clothing, entertainment, dining and travel?

The president should, as The News stated, keep pushing for an increase in the federal minimum wage. Also worthwhile is Mitt Romney's suggestion that the minimum wage be tied to the inflation rate, rather than needing an act of Congress for each increase.

It has often been argued that "a rising tide lifts all boats." If this is true, giving higher wages to the lowest earners should work just as effectively as the reverse. At least it's worth a try.

Fred Collins