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Middle East Peace Is An Oxymoron

(category: Politics, Word count: 951)
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The phrase Middle East and the word peace are so contradictory that when put together they become an oxymoron. An oxymoron, as defined by the American Heritage Dictionary, is "a rhetorical figure in which incongruous or contradictory terms are combined". There are very few things in this world that are more contradictory than the words "Middle East peace."

As long as there are Christians and Jews in this world, the fundamentalist Islamic Arabs will never allow peace. The Koran states, under 5:54, "O believers, take not Jews and Christians as friends; they are friends of each other. Those of you who make them his friends is one of them.", under 8:39, "Make war on them until idolatry is no more and Allah's religion reigns supreme.", under 9:123, "Believers: Make war on the infidels who dwell around you. Let them find harshness in you.", under 2:191, "Slay them wherever ye find them and drive them out of the places whence they drove you out.", Fighting is obligatory for you, much as you dislike it.". As long as there are Muslims that believe in these orders, there can not and will not be 'Middle East peace'.

Even if the fundmentalist Islamics managed to destroy every Christian and Jew in the world, there would still not be peace in the Middle East. Islam has several sects, ie: Shia, Sunni, Sufi, Kahrijite, Wahhabi, Nizari (also known as "Assassins") and more. Many sects believe that followers of other sects are non believers because they follow the wrong sect. The only thing that keeps them from destroying each other is the old saying, 'an enemy of my enemy is my friend'. As long as there are Christians and Jews to hate, they will, pretty much, leave each other alone.

Ever since the State Of Israel was recognized by the United Nations, the Arab countries have been trying to "push Israel into the sea". Many Arab leaders have publicly stated that "they will not be satisfied untill Israel no longer exists". Many Arab leaders openly support the Palestinian terrorists that use homicide bombers, car bombs and rockets to maim and kill innocent Jewish women and children. They even consider the killing of Westerners an added bonus. Since many fundamentalists believe that "unbelievers are enemies of Allah and they will roast in hell" and that "the idolators are unclean", they believe that 'unbelievers' and 'hypocrites' are less than human and that their lives are worthless. The fundamentalists believe that it is their duty to punish the unbelievers wherever they find them.

I realize that not all Muslims are fundamentalists and that many Muslims would embrace peace. The problem is that the fundamentalists are so harsh and so ruthless that most peace seeking Muslims in the Arab world are afraid to cross them, afraid that they will be considered 'friends' of the unbelievers or 'hypocrites' and punished accordingly. Therefore, they keep quiet and the fundamentalists continue to rule the Arab world. The few Arabs that do attempt to stand up for true peace usually end up in prison or dead.

Some Arab countries are considered to have secular governments, ie: Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Syria, and, as such, would presumably be free of fundamentalism interference. The fact is, none of these governments could stay in power without the assistance of, or at least the tacit approval of, the fundamentalists. Each of these countries is rife with fundamentalism, note all of the homicide bombers and terrorists that are exported from these countries. If the leaders of these countries did not have the approval of the fundamentalists, they would be assassinated and new leaders would be elected or installed. Saudi Arabia claims to be our friend and ally, yet many of their religious schools preach terrorism and a large number of terrorist leaders come from that country. Egypt has a signed peace accord with Israel, yet arms are smuggled in to the Palestinians every day from Egypt. Syria is the largest supporter of the Hezbollah group and is also one of the largest exporters of terrorists into Iraq.

The United States has been trying to "win the hearts and minds" of the Arab people for decades. We provide aid in the form of money, we gave Arafat huge sums of money in order to 'help' the Palestinians and he kept most of it for himself, we gave Hussein money to help feed his people and he used it to line his pockets and to pay the families of homicide bombers and we give billions of dollars in aid to Egypt and although they talk peace they still support terrorism. We pour money by the bucket full into Iraq and they elect an Islamic based government instead of a secular government. In addition, we pressure Israel, our only true ally in the Middle East, to give up land and security in the name of peace, even though we know that the Islamic fundamentalists will never make peace with Israel.

I may be wrong, but I don't believe that the fundamentalists will ever allow the United States to "win the hearts and minds" of the Arab people. We can and probably should make them fear us. We can't and won't make them love us. The fundamentalists will never allow their people to love us any more than they will allow 'Middle East peace'. It goes against their religious principles. They are fanatics and will fight to their last breath. As far as they are concerned if they die, fighting us, they will go to Paradise. If they live they can go on fighting the 'unbelievers' and 'hypocrites' thereby fulfilling Allah's wishes.

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American Flag History

(category: Politics, Word count: 299)
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Every flag has a history of its own and if one delves deep, a fascinating story comes to light. The American flag is no exception.

Nobody knows for sure who first designed the Stars and Stripes, though there are some commonly accepted stories about the origin of the flag. According to one school of thought, Congressman Francis Hopkinson was the man who designed the flag, but some historians believe that Betsy Ross, a seamstress from Philadelphia, was the one who designed the American flag.

It was not till June 24, 1912, that the proportions of the American national flag came to be prescribed. As a result, flags made before this year show different patterns of the stars and unusual proportions. But mostly, stars were placed in a straight row and had proportions more or less similar to the ones now accepted.

Several acts have determined the evolution of the American national flag. According to the First Flag Act, passed in 1777, it was established that the American national flag would comprise thirteen red and white stripes and thirteen white stars against a blue background. In January 1794, it had 15 stars and 15 stripes. In 1818, the flag had 13 stripes and one star for each state. In 1912, President Taft decreed that the stars should be arranged in six horizontal rows of eight each. He also came up with new proportions of the flag. In January 1959, President Eisenhower decided that the stars should be arranged in seven rows of seven stars each, horizontally and vertically. And in August 1959, Eisenhower again made changes - this time, he said that the stars should be in nine rows horizontally and 11 rows vertically. As of today, the flag has 50 stars and 13 stripes.

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Science Fiction Weapon Comes True

(category: Politics, Word count: 427)
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"The Stilleto" is a weapon featured in Clarke's science fiction novel "Earthlight". In the 1955 Clarke novel, the weapon is said to emit a beam of light that was able to pierce a spacecraft. The writer afterwards explains that the weapon he mentioned in his novel was actually a stream of liquefied metal that gets shot through space with very high speed and force.

The research and development arm of the Department of Defense (Defense Advanced Research Project Agency or DARPA) is developing a weapon called MAHEM. This is patterned after Clarke's fictional weapon.

MAHEM stands for Magneto Hydrodynamic Explosive Munition. The weapon will be using magnetism to propel either liquid or solid metal. It will be similar to other currently existing weapons since it will use explosions and electromagnetism to power the release of the metal. Weapons that use the same kind of power are called High-Explosive Anti Tank (HEAT). One example of a HEAT weapon is a bazooka.

DARPA is currently developing MAHEM as something that can be attached to a warhead. Once the missile is near the target, it will release MAHEM and be able to stop tanks and other large moving vehicles at close range.

This is not the first time that Clarke has inspired a scientific or technological change. He is also known for the geostationary orbit. The geostationary orbit means that an object in the sky can appear not to move as long as it is aligned with the earth's equator. This means that the signal from a point on earth will correspond directly with a satellite placed in this orbit. Clarke popularized this in a 1945 with an article in the Wireless Word magazine.

Arthur C. Clarke writes science fiction books and makes inventions. The British national joined forces with renowned director Stanley Kubrick to write the book 2001: A Space Odyssey. The book was later turned into a movie with the same name that was directed by Kubrick.

As the research and development arm of the Department of Defense, the mission of DARPA is to ensure that the United States remains more advanced than other countries in terms of military offense and defense. Originally named Advanced Research Projects Agency, the organization was established in 1958 and its name was changed to DARPA in 1972.

Earthlight was a book released in 1955 of the science fiction genre. Set in the 22nd century, the story revolves around conflicts between the Earth and colonies on the moon along with other people in the solar system.

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The Great Debate

(category: Politics, Word count: 501)
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If you are anything like me, the smallest decisions can quickly become material for the greatest debates of your life. You can turn the tiniest molehill of an issue into a huge mountain of a decision just by sitting down and analyzing too much.

Sound familiar? Have you ever gotten weighed down in trying to make small decisions of little consequence and had trouble keeping perspective? I definitely have. It is so easy to take a minor decision like 'what should I eat for breakfast?' and turn it into a two-sided debate that can last long beyond normal breakfast hours. You begin to debate whether you should have a healthy, balanced breakfast of wholegrain toast and fruit or if you can indulge (just this once) in a less-healthy meal of packaged pastries and a latte. Did you eat healthy enough the day before to reward yourself witha sugar-filled breakfast? Are you planning to eat better food for the rest of the day? These questions and more can add unnecessary stress and debate to your choice.

Those of us who are analytical by nature have an even tougher time not turning everything into a debate in our head. Take shopping for example. You find a great sweater on sale for ten dollars, but there is an even cuter sweater that you are sure you'd wear more. The cuter sweater, however, is forty dollars. What do you do? People like me start making mental lists of the pros and cons on each side of what has become a great debate during your day. Do you save the money but forfeit the better looking sweater? Or do you splurge and take some dollars away from another item you really needed to buy? What a task it can be to make choices like these when we let ourselves make big issues out of small ones.

Is there anything we can do to stop making ourselves debate each decision we make each day? I for one am tired of living this way. It is one thing to be intentional about the choices you make, but it is another thing entirely to overwork your brain with debates over breakfasts or new sweaters.

I guess I only have one piece of tested and tried advice to give people whose biggest opponent in any debate is themself: stop it. When you feel a silly debate about to be had in your head, just stop it. Take a moment to settle down your thoughts and to really consider how important this decision is. The chances are that it is not anywhere worth near the time and energy you will spend analyzing the choice. You will find, as I am beginning to, that ninety percent of the things I let become a great debate in my head are really not worth having a debate about at all. Have the unhealthy breakfast, buy the expensive sweater. Do what you want. Just stop being so indecisive about what that means.

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Rwanda S Children Emerge From Shadows Of War

(category: Politics, Word count: 389)
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It's been 10 years now. Still, Rwanda's 100-day war casts a long shadow across the lives of its children. It is estimated that more than 1 million Rwandans were murdered during the 1994 war - most at the hands of machete-wielding neighbors, friends and fellow churchgoers - in a genocide rivaling the horrors of the Jewish holocaust and Cambodia's killing fields.

Though Rwandans are working hard to rebuild their broken nation, nearly every child and family has at least one relative who was murdered or who remains imprisoned because of the genocide.

Compassion International was one of the few organizations able to maintain a presence in Rwanda long before, during and after the war. Compassion is a holistic child development organization working with children living in poverty in more than 20 countries.

Today, Compassion ministers to more than 19,000 children in Rwanda, but the devastating effects of war on the children are still evident.

One such child is 9-year-old Tuyisingize Alexie. As an infant, Alexie was sent to prison with her mother who was indicted for war crimes in 1996. The young mother continues to emphatically maintain that she was not involved in the genocide.

In 2000, government officials declared that older children living in prison with their parents needed to have foster parents and attend school. The first couple Alexie lived with after prison made her do hard labor and often kept her from school. As a result, she had to repeat first grade.

The only family Alexie knows is the family she now lives with (her maternal aunt, uncle and three cousins), along with her Compassion sponsors.

Today, Alexie is a lively young girl who enjoys sports and helping at home. She is often seen laughing and playing with the other children as if they were all siblings.

Compassion staff members report that Alexie's development has improved over the past couple of years since living with her aunt's family and becoming involved in a Compassion project. She attends project activities and last semester she was second in her class. Alexie wants to finish school, become a primary school teacher and help other students like herself.

Although she misses her mother, Alexis is very thankful for her new family and the blessings of Compassion's ministry.

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Government Obstacles On The House Building High Road

(category: Politics, Word count: 704)
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Two proposals set out by the government during the last quarter of 2007 are likely to have major impact on the house building industry in 2008 and beyond. The first being the call for 3 million new homes by 2020, and the second and most significant, the proposed introduction of a statutory new planning charge.

The planning charge is designed to help pay for the infrastructure needed for new developments, and encourage regions and local authorities to plan positively for housing and economic growth.

The Government's decision to scrap the controversial Planning Gains Supplement (PGS) in favor of the planning charge will be a relief to the industry, which feared that PGS would create a vacuum on the number of new sites brought to the market, and make many schemes financially unviable.

While the planning charge is a better way forward, it is not without its concerns. Any tax on land, which this undoubtedly still is, will either mean a rise in the cost of homes or will reduce the land value, which may have a negative effect on the number of sites coming forward for development.

The proposal for the planning charge is that it will based on a costed assessment of the infrastructure requirements specific to the development, taking into account land values. This is crucial as the cost of land in the South is significantly higher than in the North, and if the charging structure fails to take into account this regional difference then this will have severe consequences for the ability for house builders to develop new homes in higher priced regions.

The initial proposals by the British Property Federation, Home Builders Federation, London First and the Major Developers Group to the Government suggested that the charge should vary according to whether a site is greenfield, brownfield or regeneration scheme. Developers should be able to argue for a reduced tariff payment, if a scheme is not viable because of the tariff or other impositions, such as Section 106. This proposal will be key to the success of this idea.

One of the aims of the planning charge is to help make the planning process simpler. While this is to be welcomed this needs to go hand in hand with creating more land opportunities. Britain's house builders cannot build 3 million new homes by 2020, just on brownfield sites alone, the use of the greenbelt will be essential to achieving this. The Social Marketing Foundation said in August that approximately 2 million of these new homes will need to be built outside of existing town and city boundaries.

Natural England is currently proposing a review of the greenbelt, which will look into the possibility of releasing parts of it for development. The emphasis would be on creating green wedges and corridors to link the natural environment to built areas. I would welcome, as I am sure most of the house building industry would, a review which takes a realistic view of the existing greenbelt alongside the need for new homes. Originally the greenbelt was created to protect and prevent urban sprawl. However, in recent years it has become a political issue, which has resulted in it becoming untouchable.

Building on the greenbelt in sustainable locations where access to infrastructure is already in place, will ensure a much better solution to England's housing shortage than the development of new towns with little infrastructure or community.

The Government's decisions on planning and housing need to be carefully considered to take into account the needs of the population and not be based on what is likely to be a vote winner. What often seems to be forgotten is that it is house builders who build homes and not the Government. Therefore the Government needs to take care not to jeopardies development opportunities by implementing policies which might hinder supply or make developments economically unviable.

House builders have the capability and willingness to build more homes but are prevented from doing so through a lack of land, long and drawn out planning legislation and a lack of commercially viable opportunities. It is to be hoped that this new planning charge will aid and not hinder the industry.

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How Can We Detect And Stop Terrorist Acts From Happening

(category: Politics, Word count: 739)
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How Can We Detect and Stop Terrorist Acts from Happening?

"Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty"

Thomas Jefferson

Knowledge about the terrorist planning cycle is necessary in order to identify the key areas to implement effective counter terrorism measures. It is difficult enough just to summarize this cycle, let alone do something about it. Be that as it may, here are the steps typically involved with this cycle (investigations into terrorist attacks have shown that these steps are typical regardless of the cause).

First there is an original grievance. Grievances are usually localized (food shortage, ethnic tensions, politics, environment, religion and so forth).

The charged emotions associated with this grievance become focused and joined with a more universal common objective that helps vent the charged emotions (e.g. radical Islam's hatred of the western world). The best defense against this step is limiting the ability of terrorists to traverse the globe. Keep the grievances and the emotions that are inflamed by them at the local level. The Privilege of Passage Plan, proposed by author John Errett is one such plan that would nip this step right in the bud.

The next step of the planning cycle is when this larger group starts to act by gathering information. This usually takes place over a significant period of time. No attack on any US facility has ever been done with less than 3 weeks worth of surveillance. This portion of the planning is vulnerable to discovery because very often amateur grassroots operatives are used to gather information. Experts recommend surveillance detection as the best form of defense against this stage.

Step three is picking a target that will create the biggest damage and commotion for the risk involved. Next there will be pre-attack surveillance to determine any missed information, calculate terrorist escape options, target habits and so forth. Usually better trained operatives are used for this stage of planning. Surveillance detection equipment is still beneficial here.

The planning stage of the attack involves getting the equipment (including weapons, false IDs, vehicles and so forth) and highly trained personnel needed to carry out the assault. When all this is done the group will conduct rehearsals to remove any potential glitches. They will need for example to verify information, instruct participants involved and test equipment. They will even try their escape routes. They can tweak their plan by considering any hypothetical scenarios that might occur.

Next the attack plan is implemented. They go to their specific locations and wait for the target to appear if it is a mobile target Continued surveillance by the group will be conducted to determine if the plan is a "go" or not. Unfortunately, if the terrorists get as far as the execution phases the odds of doing harm are in their favor. There is no doubt that first responders need ongoing advanced training to thwart plans at this stage but the best plan is to prevent terrorists from ever getting to this execution stage. The most effective counter terrorism plans will address stages 1 and 2.

Finally, after the damage has been done, there is usually an escape plan with the

exception of the fanatic (who even then may have second thoughts and try to escape). The terrorists will now want to use media coverage to further their political or religiously goals. This is why terrorist groups claim responsibility for their own attacks and sometimes even for attacks that they did not do as well. Very often the terrorists' plan includes having someone film the attack or the immediate aftermath of the attack so that it can be released to the media.

Today the reality of radical Islam is not "if" terrorists will attack the Western World, it is when (see the internet video "Obsession").

We must detect them and stop them in their initial phases of their planning process. We must stop them from organizing their local grievances and moving them across international borders. We must be determined to detect them before they have opportunity to cause terror. This is a responsibility that all nations share. All nations must be vigilant prepared and held accountable for issuing passports to known terrorists. This is not a matter that law enforcement and the intelligence services can do alone. We are a global community and must all join hands to affect, detect and stop terrorism.

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Social Security System Is Inefficient

(category: Politics, Word count: 914)
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Ah.. Social Security... It's wonderful program that takes 12.4% of your income each year in order to secure you your future. Let's analyze Social Security a bit, shall we?

The purpose of Social Security is to help the average American save money for retirement. Although the funds average annual yield is 5.3%, it's backed by the United States treasury, meaning it's a guaranteed investment. 5.3% may seem acceptable when compared to the national average savings account yield of approximately 0.54%, but the truth is that many competitive money market accounts yield upwards of 5.4% without locking up your investment until retirement, or jeopardizing your retirement savings, as nearly every reputable bank is a member of FDIC and have lengthy histories of customer satisfaction. When was the last time you went to your local bank and they didn't allow you to withdraw your money?

Now let's compare Social Security to a safe investment in the stock market. History has proven that the safest investment in the market is the S&P 500 index. This index tracks 500 of America's most prestigious blue chip companies and is a sound investment, with minimal risk. The S&P 500 average annual return on investment is approximately 10.4% (This figure is based on a 78 Year average). The difference may not seem much, but it's gargantuan on a long term basis. See my calculations below:


Scenario: Let's say you begin working at the age of 25, and earn $40,000 a year. The government takes 12.4% of your income every year on social security alone. This is the actual percentage that they withhold from your income. (Your employer will adjust your salary in order to cover his side of social security without spending additional money. The employer pays ~6.2% for your social security and you pay ~6.2% this will be explained below.) Let's also assume you retire at age 65. That's 40 years of contributing to social security. Let's see how much you'll get back in social security when you retire, and how much you would have gotten back if you invested the same 12.4% each year in the S&P 500 index instead.

Social Security: *$696,699.17

S&P 500: $2,702,720.36

*The social security total is actually higher then it should be, because I used today's social security yield, instead of the 50 year average, which is LOWER the today's yield.


You may be confused about where the 12.4% was derived from. The way social security functions is that you, the employee pay 6.2% on each paycheck, and the employer pays 6.2% on the wages he pays you, the employee. You may think to yourself that, the 6.2% that the employer pays has no effect on your salary, but you are mistaken. Your salary is adjusted (decreased) to cover the employer's end of social security. This doesn't apply to all employees, but Milton Friedman, Nobel Peace winning economist, got several large employers to admit to using this practice. Let me provide you an example. Let's say, as an employer, you want to spend a total of $100 on your employee for his services. But you know that an additional $6 will be added on top of the base $100 salary to cover the employer's portion of social security. Instead of paying out a total of $106 (100$ to the employee and 6$ to the government, the employer will instead, pay the employee 95$ as a salary, and pay 5$ on top of it for the employer's portion of social security. Now the employer spent his intended 100$ on the employee, instead of the $106 he would have paid if he set the employees base salary at $100. Now the employee must also pay a 6.2% tax on the $95 he earned through wages. If Social Security did not exist, the employee would have received the full $100 in wages, instead of $95 minus social security taxes.

Don't assume that I don't agree with the general philosophy of Social Security. The purpose of Social Security is to provide for the elderly once they retire so that they may sustain themselves. I am not against its purpose, but I am strongly against the way it's forced down our throats. If the money is intended to be spent on your future, why can't the government allow you to save it on your own? The only way for social security to function in an honest fashion is for it to be voluntary. If an individual wants to invest their money elsewhere, that individual should have the option to opt out of the Social Security system. The government simply cannot spend your money in a better fashion FOR you then you can for yourself. An individual should have the liberty to decide how he chooses to invest his own money, instead of the government forcefully taking it and investing it in their place.

The S&P 500 is not a guaranteed investment, but history has proven it to be the safest investment in the market, and has a proven track record of 75+ years at an average annual return of 10.4%. Ultimately, an individual should have the choice of opting out of government run social security. Countries like Chile, Mexico, Britain, and Australia have already transitioned from failing government run social security type programs to healthier systems based on individual retirement accounts.

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School Prayer Right Or Wrong

(category: Politics, Word count: 818)
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In the Bill Of Rights, the First Amendment to the Constitution, titled "Freedom of Religion, Press, Expression" states the following: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.".

Now, I am not an attorney nor am I a legal scholar, and I realize that the courts have interpreted the foregoing in numerous ways, however, I also realize that how the Amendment is interpreted depends on which judge is sitting on the bench at the time a case is heard and just because a person is a judge does not mean that that person is infallible and it does not mean that that person does not have his or her own agenda. Judges are, after all, still human.

In my opinion, having organized prayer in school is not "an establishment of religion", but is instead the carrying out of the will of the majority of the people in this nation. I further believe that to forbid school prayer is "prohibiting the free exercise thereof". It is also "abridging the freedom of speech" of the majority. This nation is supposed to be a Republican Democracy where the will of the majority of it's citizens is supposed to rule. As far as I can determin, the majority of the citizens in this country believe in prayer, of one type or another, and only a small minority, comprised of certain athiests, far left politicians, "Hollywood celebrities", etc., are against prayer. To allow this small minority to override the will of the majority is wrong. To allow this small, very loud, very activist, very well financed minority to take away the right of the 'silent' majority, to pray as they wish, is to allow them to corrupt our system and to take away freedom of religion from our citizens. I realize that our citizens can still pray at home and in church, however, public schools are paid for with public tax dollars, and as long as the majority of tax payers want school prayer then they should have school prayer.

When a teacher leads a class in prayer, no one is forced to pray. Some people claim that when a child does not join in the praying, that child may be embarrassed or ridiculed by the teacher or other students, therefore they claim that class prayer is harmful. I disagree. No good teacher would criticize a student for not praying. If a teacher does so then that teacher should be reprimanded or dismissed because that teacher is not worthy of being a teacher. If some students ridicule a non praying student then those students have not been taught properly about the rights of others and should be corrected. For my own reasons, I never prayed during class prayer and no one ever said anything to me. I was never ridiculed or critcized. I knew others that did not pray and to the best of my knowledge they never had any problems, except that some of their parents embarrassed them by complaining to the school. It seems that while the non praying students did not mind school prayer, their parents did.

The majority of Americans find hope and comfort in prayer. To deny them the right to pray because a small minority does not approve, is just plain wrong. I realize that in a small number of cases some children do have problems with school prayer, but to deny the large majority of students the hope and comfort of starting their school day off with a prayer is to stomp on their rights. To deny the majority their religious freedom goes against what this country stands for.

One of the most important things about attending school is that children learn how to deal with other people. All kinds of things go on in school that affect or bother various students. They can not and should not be protected from everthing that they don't like. Some children are embarrassed by going to physical education class, should we then take physical education off the curriculum? Some children are bothered by certain things taught in history class, should we then take history off the curriculum? Some children are embarrassed because they are not good at math, should we then take math off the curriculum? If we took everything off the curriculum that might embarrass or bother a student there would no longer be any schools. If we protected the students from everthing that bothered them then they would not learn how to cope with problems and would not be able to function as adults.

In my opinion, forbidding school prayer is just another case of 'political correctness' gone overboard.

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