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Is religious freedom really the issue here?

The News reported that more than 600 people rallied on the steps of Buffalo City Hall to protest the attack on religious freedom related to the recent changes in health care provisions on availability of birth control. I am not writing to debate that issue, I am writing to express some concern over what is really meant by these well-meaning religious conservatives in Catholicism and Protestantism when they speak of "religious freedom."

Hesitantly, I admit that I have been an Evangelical for almost 30 years. I say hesitantly, because much of what I see taking place in Christianity in America is clearly not based on the Bible but on preference. It seems to me that what some are protesting is not religious freedom for all, but rather to see their particular religious system return to a status of favor among other religions in America.

Clearly, these protests, past arguments and rallies are seeking to promote Christianity over other faiths or no faith. I do not really think that when fundamentalists protest prayer and Scripture reading being removed from schools that they would be open to the idea that, if prayer and scripture reading was to be returned, that it would have to include the prayers and scriptures of the more than 300 religions practiced in America.

I also do not think that they are protesting the right of an employer that may not agree with blood transfusions to be able to exclude them from health coverage, or that an employer under the belief that all that is needed is prayer for healing would not have to offer health insurance other than to pay to attend a prayer meeting. Religious freedom looks a lot different from a particular religion's domination of a country.

Mark Lee Schnitzer, M.S.

West Seneca

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How do some people get free health care?

I would like to know how the people who "choose" not to buy health care became so vilified as to become the poster children for upholding Obamacare? I have read stories about these uninsured, but presumably young, employed, gadflies who, when faced with serious accident or illness, are able to just walk into emergency rooms and receive no bill at all for their care. In what world does this happen?

Hospitals and medical practices are very good at billing; just ask anyone who had to file for bankruptcy. What about people on public assistance? Can you force a person on public assistance to buy a product, or pay a fine? With whose money? Can you keep people on Medicaid from getting care at costly emergency rooms that are mandated to provide for them, regardless?

In my world, I have health insurance, and get denied certain procedures and prescription medications because an "oversight committee" for the health insurance company deems them unnecessary. I cannot just waltz into an emergency room for care without paying; in fact, I have to have authorization from my health insurance plan to be there at all. My doctor's medical degree is not enough expertise to provide care for me, apparently.

I know someone who goes to the emergency room for narcotic prescriptions for a bad back. He gets all of his care there, including expensive tests. And don't even get me started on the dental care he has received, all gratis. I multiply his level of care by hundreds of thousands in this state alone and I get the true cost of health care.

Pamela McDonald

Blasdell

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Birth control caused rate of STDs to soar

I marvel at the Orwellian newspeak of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius in defining pregnancy as a disease subject to "preventive services" (i.e. contraceptives). One top-selling birth control pill, linked to 190 deaths, is facing some 6,000 lawsuits because of increased risk of blood clots, pulmonary embolism and gall bladder problems. Blood clots are a known, accepted risk from hormonal birth control. Some studies show an increased risk of breast, cervical and liver cancer. A Mayo Clinic analysis of 23 studies found 21 studies reported increased risks of breast cancer from oral contraceptive use before a first pregnancy. The International Agency on Research of Cancer, a branch of the World Health Organization, classified hormonal contraceptives as a group 1 carcinogen along with asbestos and radium.

The rate of sexually transmitted disease is now one in four. In the 1960s, it was one in 64. Humanae Vitae (1968) warned that contraceptives would result in more unwanted pregnancies, the objectification of women and the breakdown of the family. In a frighteningly prescient statement, it warned: "Who will prevent public authorities favoring those contraceptive methods which they consider more effective? Should they regard this as necessary, they may even impose their use on everyone."

Thomas Jefferson stated, "No provision in our Constitution ought to be dearer to man than that which protects the rights of conscience against the enterprises of the civil authority." Franklin Roosevelt said, "Where freedom of religion has been attacked, the attack has come from forces opposed to democracy." In its demand that Catholic institutions betray their conscience, these forces are not from abroad, as FDR suggested, but from within. Where is the ACLU now?

Mary Lou T. Wyrobek

Cheektowaga

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Dixon is committed to Buffalo's students

On March 25, SABAH athletes had the joyous opportunity to entertain thousands of spectators in First Niagara Center with the 34th annual Celebration on Ice. More than 600 athletes challenged by disability and 500 dedicated volunteer partners participated in this extraordinary event. While SABAH athletes are the beneficiaries of incredible community support, they also received the quiet and unheralded support of many other individuals and organizations.

Amber Dixon, interim superintendent for Buffalo Public Schools, was a quiet, yet remarkably thoughtful SABAH advocate during the show. With her awareness for the number of Buffalo Public School children participating in the event, Dixon arrived backstage to offer words of encouragement and praise for her students participating in the Celebration on Ice. While SABAH has served the Buffalo Public Schools for more than 25 years, this is the first time we are aware that a superintendent has taken the afternoon to celebrate and enjoy the achievements of the school children participating in SABAH programs. In addition to her encouragement for the students, Dixon also took the time to thoughtfully acknowledge and thank the Buffalo Public School teachers who gave of their free time to participate in the event.

These gestures, while unintended for public knowledge, bear witness to Dixon's true appreciation for her staff and her commitment to the students in the Buffalo Public Schools.

Sheila O'Brien

Executive Director, SABAH

Buffalo