Rising above
our foibles

Editor of the Reformer:

In response to a recent letter ("On religion, gender ..." March 4) and the rather negative view of religion this individual expressed: Many of the issues this individual voices are sadly true. There have indeed been too many wars waged in the name of religion and they continue on today. Throughout history many cultures were not properly respected. The three major Western religions rooted in the Bible have been fundamentally patriarchal and woman for centuries have been marginalized and often mistreated. However, I believe the letter writer grossly mistakes the purpose of religion, and the fundamental concepts behind these three.

As a Christian, I know that the human element often falls short of the lofty goal and ethic of religion. Throughout the ages, pure religion has suffered from the human intervention of creeds and dogma and greed and lust for power, which have corrupted their primary principles.

At the core of Christianity is the simple rule to love God, the Creator of all good things, and to love your neighbor, to love those that love you and to love your enemies as well. To be compassionate, to be humble, to be merciful, gracious and kind. At the root of all three major Western religions are the Ten Commandments including respect for elders, not to steal, covet, lie, commit adultery or kill. All of these key elements are worthy human qualities we should all strive to embody.

For a long time I did not have faith, mainly because of what I perceived to be hypocrisy. But I also always realized there was something much bigger than me. And at some point I realized the hypocrisy was not part of true religion, it was part of mortal existence, and religion is a structure which encourages and enables one to strive to live beyond those foibles.

We live in a vastly beautiful world/universe in which one cannot help but wonder about its origins and the simple truths that govern it. Religion at its core is a worship of the Creator, which I take to be principle, or law, truth, life and love.

As it would turn out my particular sect of Christianity was discovered and founded by a woman, Mary Baker Eddy, a New Englander. Through this religion I have grasped a higher idea of life, a more ethereal consciousness of being, which also brings about healing to myself, to others and to the world.

I should also mention that woman are making wonderful strides forward both in societies around the world and in religious hierarchies. In fact my sister-in-law is a Methodist minister whose church provides a place of worship for LGBT individuals (though not exclusively) and strives for their equal place in our society.

Simply put, the God and behavior that this letter writer associates with these religions in not the God I worship or the behavior I approve of. I have no problem with this person’s desire to remain an atheist, but in doing so I wish they could find a way to accept and respect those who strive to live by laws of goodness which they find in religion.

John Kohler,

Brattleboro, March 5

The gas tax and education funding

Editor of the Reformer:

A statement attributed to the chair of Westminster School Board ("Westminster voters approve ‘breathtaking’ tax increase," March 3) warrants closer attention and a correction.

As an explanation for an increase to the statewide property tax rate increase, the chairman of the School Board claimed that this was due to a lack of revenue generated by the state’s gasoline tax, as environmentally friendly Vermonters are purchasing less gas for their fuel-efficient vehicles.

I have great empathy for the chairman because he has the unenviable position of having to explain the unexplainable to the voters of Westminster, while trying to keep up with a complex system that continues to evolve into an even more complex web of shifting pieces. For this reason, I don’t fault him for getting it wrong on his comment about lower gas tax revenues having an impact on the property tax rate.

To set the record straight -- the gasoline tax does not support the state’s education fund, nor does it have an impact on the statewide property tax rate. While not relevant to the education fund, it is worth pointing out that the gas tax was increased last year to replace lost revenues attributable to lower gas and diesel consumption. Revenue from the gas tax funds the transportation fund, which goes towards the maintenance of our roads and bridges.

There are a number of factors driving up the statewide property tax rate, but they principally come down to statewide growth in per pupil spending that exceeds the rate of inflation, a stagnant grand list, growth in income sensitivity payments, and erosion of general fund support for the education fund (as a proportion of overall funding).

While reasonable people can disagree on whether we have the right education finance system, there can be near universal agreement that we have an incredibly complex system. The system has become so unwieldy that it is now virtually impossible to understand the link between school spending decisions and tax impacts.

Oliver Olsen,

Jamaica, March 6

Pageant not about perfection

Editor of the Reformer:

In regards to a recent letter regarding the Winter Carnival’s Princess Pageant ("What do we value?" March 5), I would first like to say, congratulations to the letter writer’s daughter and all of the other contestants for even trying the pageant. It’s not easy to get up and perform in front of people. I never felt the pageant was about perfection, but about getting over your fears and making new friendships and finding new strengths.

At last year’s pageant, we had all different shapes, sizes and colors of participants. And there was a nice variety of talent as well. Every year is different because you never know what kids want to participate or what parents will let their daughters participate. The committee and Kelly’s has nothing to do with who participates (except when it comes to age). I believe a good number of girls from Kelly’s participate, but it’s because they want to and their parents let them.

Kelly donates a lot of her time to this and many other events in the community. She has done tap dance classes at pre-schools (to which she also donated tap shoes) and she choreographs the dances for the Princess and Queens Pageants, which is donated time as well. My girls used to go to Kelly’s and they loved it. She did a great job with the kids and I’d recommend her dance classes to anyone. My girl no longer dance because they have fallen in love with sports, otherwise they’d still be dancing. I don’t know Kelly personally, but for someone to bash her and the girls that go to her academy and participate in the pageant is just absurd to me.

Because of people like the letter , it makes "new" people to these experiences very hesitant to join. Not everyone is going to win, not everyone is going to have a great or good experience in something like this. But to single out someone that has nothing to do with who or how the pageant is run is disgusting to me. She should be more focused on reassuring her daughter and encouraging her to try again. As for giving out the trophies on stage, that’s a good idea and should be something the committee should look into.

My point is that Kelly is a great person that donates her time and studio for events and that’s the only way she’s involved in the pageant. As for a variety of girls, that’s all in the girls wanting to participate and parents letting them. This is a great pageant and I don’t want the letter writer’s experience with it to discourage others from trying it.

Amber Pillsbury,

Guilford, March 7

Schadenfreude?

Editor of the Reformer:

I’d like to welcome the residents and Town of Vernon back to the regular (unsubsidized) status of the rest of the smaller towns in Windham County. We have no town police departments and use the Windham County Sheriff’s Department out of Newfane and the Vermont State Police who have a barracks in West Brattleboro. We pay private companies (one of which is in Vernon) for our trash pickup. We have modest recreational activities programs. We pay our fair share of local and state property taxes. I realize you’ve felt like you "had it good " for over 40 years and have gotten used to the lowest costs of living in Windham County. But you have also born the burden of potentially highly toxic environment with Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant in your backyard. We’ll all feel safer with it closed, once the highly toxic 40 years worth of spent fuel is dealt with. You can stop complaining about having to now pay your way instead of having Vermont Yankee paying it for you. Welcome to the real world.

Carol Levin,

Guilford, March 10