Guns-in-churches bill

creates many problems

Editor, Times-Dispatch:

The Virginia Senate has passed SB 372, an attempt to repeal the current law prohibiting dangerous weapons in places of worship. The Catholic Conference of Virginia and the Virginia Interfaith Center for Public Policy (VICPP) spoke against this bill in the Courts of Justice Committee. More than 400 persons representing a diversity of faith groups from across the commonwealth met with legislators to reject this bill.

This legislation creates more questions and problems than answers or solutions. First, it raises the question of separation of church and state. How does this impact local policies or procedures to manage persons who want to bring weapons into a place of worship? If there is no policy in place in a congregation, what does that mean to the general permission for a person with a concealed weapon?

It also raises the issue of public safety by potentially permitting reckless, untrained, or even unstable persons with concealed weapons into a place of worship. Their intention of responding to a “threat” may turn into an unsafe, unwarranted response, causing more harm.

Finally, this bill raises psychological and spiritual questions. What impact does the visual awareness of weapons have upon the congregants — upon a child or an adult, when they see the threatening sight of a weapon of violence? This is a psychological question. But, for many congregations this would also raise a spiritual question about the place of weapons in their context of beliefs.

Working together with local police authorities to learn how to make responsible policy and how to respond to dangerous situations is more sensible. The local police have advised that having civilians with firearms makes an active shooting situation more confusing for law enforcement and therefore more dangerous for the public. Let’s work collaboratively with police and local religious leaders on a real solution — not have one imposed that is more questionable.

The Rev. Charles Swadley,

Rabbi David Katz,and 11 other

members of the clergy.

Williamsburg.

Taste test between

the two parties

Editor, Times-Dispatch:

What’s the difference between Democratic pork and Republican pork?

Republican pork tastes like crow.

W. Courtney Ryan.

Midlothian.

Richmond will dearly

miss Stephen Smith

Editor, Times-Dispatch:

How saddened I am to hear that Stephen Smith is stepping down from his position as musical director of the Richmond Symphony. I grew up with a mother who loved classical music, so naturally I hated it. If the music wasn’t a backdrop to a Bugs Bunny cartoon, I wasn’t interested.

Because of what Smith has brought to the community with the symphony, my whole attitude has changed. Rush Hour at Hardywood (the symphony at a brewery?), Casual Fridays (the symphony in jeans?), and the open air concerts under the Big Tent. And tickets starting at just $10. What marvelous ideas he has brought to Richmond and how he has opened up the symphony to the masses.

Thank you, Mr. Smith, for everything. You will be missed.

Vicki Ward.

Richmond.

Banning face veils

restricts religious freedom

Editor, Times-Dispatch:

In Denmark, it is likely that legislation will soon be passed banning the Islamic full-face veil.

It is unwise for countries to interfere in the religious practices of their citizens. Ironically, many of the proponents of this bill believe that Islam is a religion that deeply restricts freedom. However, Islam is a religion that gives women the right to decide for themselves if they want to wear the veil or not, as there is “no compulsion in religion” (Quran 2:257).

While some Muslim-majority countries have laws that force women to wear veils, other countries like France and Denmark are now also creating laws that unduly restrict women from choosing their clothing.

When will these lawmakers give women the authority to choose on this issue, in the same manner that Islam commands? Other countries should follow the model of our great nation, which categorically grants religious freedom.

Faizan Tariq.

Richmond.

There are better ways

to raise revenue for schools

Editor, Times-Dispatch:

Richmond welcomes Jason Kamras, our new Superintendent of public schools. I fervently hope he is able to fulfill his promise of improving our schools — they desperately need help.

It’s nice to read in his letter, “Schools superintendent: Support eateries, schools,” that he likes our restaurants. Although patronizing in tone, he does seem to recognize the value of our food scene, and how it is helping establish Richmond as a standout foodie destination spot. With a salary of more than $250,000 a year, he won’t feel the pinch of an increased meals tax as other less affluent folks might.

This proposed meals tax is a bad idea. It puts the financial responsibility entirely on restaurants that are already burdened with a meal tax higher than in neighboring counties. Add another 1.5 percent and we’ll see more diners thinking twice before eating out in our city. That loss of sales will impact revenue across the board for Richmond. We gain nothing. It’s a simple-minded fix that will do more harm than good.

Sharp minds like Mayor Stoney’s and Kamras’ could come up with a much better solution than this. Why not spread the cost around, asking all Richmond merchants to accept a slight increase on goods and services? We’d have more revenue sources, with less hardship placed exclusively on restaurants. Increase the tax on smoking products, alcohol, and other discretionary products and services, and you’ll realize even more revenue streams.

I’m a city resident, and I’ll gladly pay a little more in my already-too-high taxes to help support our schools. My wife and I are paying five figures for our daughter’s private school education because of the condition of Richmond schools. Moving to Chesterfield or Henrico is a constant consideration, even though we love this city.

We wish Kamras the best. We hope he eats well, and reconsiders what serves Richmond best.

Michael Spanel.

Richmond.

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