Religious institutions provide many services
Rod Watson's May 10 column, "Churchgoing down? It may be a blessing," argues that the drop in attendance in our local religious institutions is actually a good thing for Western New York. He writes, "Maybe pushing Western New Yorkers out of the pews is God's way of making us see that it's not what happens in church that counts, but what happens outside."
Shame on Watson! In addition to lumping the hundreds of area faiths in one narrow Christian basket, he completely misses the point of what religious institutions are all about and what these institutions can and do offer the residents of our wonderful city. They are not the cause of "wars, racial strife, poverty and income gaps," as Watson seems to imply, but one of the few tools available for fighting against such overwhelming obstacles.
Religious institutions are where people turn when they have nowhere else to go. Yes, our cathedrals, churches, mosques, synagogues, meeting halls, etc., provide prayer, but that is only one small part of what is really being offered. Whether after the loss of a loved one, during a communal crisis or for extra support when a person is down on his or her luck, our religious institutions have shoulders to cry on and trained clergy and lay leadership to provide support.
As a local rabbi and proud member of our Network of Religious Communities, I see every day what an interesting and diverse religious fabric we have in Western New York. For all of our sake, I hope this continues.
Rabbi Alex Lazarus-Klein
Temple Sinai, Amherst
Presidential leadership is lacking on key issues
Does the ineptness of the IRS commissioner in pursuing a $4 billion annual fraud being perpetrated against American taxpayers concern you? A media investigation reveals an ongoing fraudulent tax scheme being perpetrated by undocumented workers. They are using individual taxpayer identification numbers instead of Social Security numbers to claim tax refunds for children living in Mexico who have never lived in the United States. The refunds for these foreign residents are being claimed under the additional child tax credit.
Russell George, U.S. Treasury inspector general for tax administration, states that his office has reported this $4 billion annual fraud to the IRS and no action has been taken to close this theft. In fact, 2 million undocumented workers continue to receive tax refunds.
A pattern of governmental ineptness or possibly worse, malfeasance, by this administration is being exposed. The GSA cavalierly misused public funds for parties cloaked as meetings, the DEA unlawfully imprisoned an uncharged student in an interrogation room for days by forgetting about him, the Secret Service displayed an arrogantly stupid and compromising frat boy mentality, there is a lack of communication or cooperation between the ATF/FBI/ICE in effective strategies to combat violence on the Mexican border and the apparent manipulation of a Chinese dissident to surrender himself so as to not cloud the secretary of state's official visit.
This pattern of disregard for minimum professional standards of conduct must be addressed forcefully. These matters affect confidence in this administration's ability to govern. There is a clear failure in presidential leadership.
Guy K. Hummel
Let parents decide if teens should tan
Recently, groups pushing policy makers in Albany to ban teen suntanning have published dire statistics linking cases of melanoma skin cancer to the popularity of indoor tanning. The problem with the argument is there is no scientific link, only speculation.
While the data may show an increase in the incidences of the cancer, there is no data to show any link to indoor tanning -- none. In fact, the mortality rate for melanoma is actually falling, which is very hard for the experts to reconcile. How can the rate go up but the number of deaths go down? Some experts attribute the increase to over-diagnosis now, versus under-diagnosis in the past. But even more important is that, according to the National Cancer Institute, melanoma rates are twice as high for men, yet 75 percent of indoor tanners are women. This doesn't add up.
The fact is there is no consensus among researchers regarding the relationship between melanoma skin cancer and UV exposure, either from the sun or a sunbed. Proponents of these laws always exaggerate the risks of exposure to ultraviolet light in order to get the attention of the public, the media and the government. It is also a fact that ultraviolet light from a sunbed is the same as that from the sun, and regular moderate non-burning exposure is essential for good health.
Until the science is settled, the decision regarding whether or not a teen is allowed to suntan must be a decision for parents, not government.
Group helps children find joy in dancing
This spring marked my 20th year of attending dance recitals and competitions. Having three girls who love to dance, I have driven miles and miles to see them perform. I have to tell you my plans of being a father were interested in going to the rink or the ball field, not to the studio or the stage. Over those 20 years, though, I learned to look forward to each dance recital and competition with excitement to see my girls perform. I could always see the joy that dance and dance friends gave my girls.
This year, my oldest dancer was able to do a master's degree in social work internship at Danceability, a dance studio that gives special-needs children a chance to enjoy dance. Each dancer has a volunteer coach who works with her special needs. Over the years, my own girls have brought a lump or two to my throat with their numbers on stage.
Well, at the Danceability show called "Believe" I had a lump in my throat after each and every number. Not only did I see the same joy I have come to see in my girls in every dancer, but I saw parents, family volunteers and friends cheer, cry and scream at what was happening on stage. Danceability truly makes dance for everyone.
Credit isn't in order for falling gas prices
A recent writer suggests that Republicans should credit President Obama for falling gas prices, after blaming him for the rise. Great logic: it feels so much better when you stop hitting your head with the hammer.
Joseph A. Deck