Letters - August 11, 2006

Beach replenishment: Bethany’s top priority
• Where are we today?

The Corps of Engineers estimates that $14.4 million (federal share) is needed in FY07 to begin construction of the Bethany-South Bethany project. These funds will be matched by the state through a 65 percent/35 percent cost sharing agreement. To date we’ve been funded a total of $3 million dollars. The Senate Energy and Water Appropriations Subcommittee recently approved an additional $3.0 million for our project. These FY07 funds, if approved jointly by the House and Senate, will be added to the $3 million that Congress appropriated for the project in FY06. Because of the nature of these projects, work cannot begin until a set amount of money is “in hand” to award a contract to a private-sector, i.e. the dredging company who will pump sand onto the beach from offshore.

• What has the Town of Bethany Beach accomplished?

The Town has gone to Capitol Hill in D.C. numerous times to emphasize to the Delaware delegation the urgency of funding this project; the Town jointly with South Bethany, hired a renowned D.C. lobbyist to work with the Army Corps of Engineers and Congress to keep this project on track; the Town continues to stay in contact with Delaware members of Congress, DNREC, the Corps of Engineers and the Town has obtained the majority of private property easements required for the replenishment process, working closely with DNREC and the Army Corps of Engineers.

• What can you do to help?

If we want beach replenishment, we need to get busy. If we don’t get beach replenishment it will be because we didn’t get federal money, and if we don’t get federal money it will be because we, the public, didn’t let Congress know that this project has our support. It is absolutely imperative that you contact your Congressional delegation now. We have made it easy for you to do so. You can help us by sending an electronic message to your member of Congress by visiting our Web site link at: www.townofbethanybeach.com, go to: “Help Save Our Beaches,” click on: “click here to make a difference,” click on: capwiz.com/mandcmp/go/Delaware07. Enter your zip code and you are there. The main points are outlined for you but you can add your own personal reasons why our beach is important to you.

It is important for Delaware property owners to contact Congress. Even though our Delaware members of Congress are solidly in favor of the project, contact them anyway to make sure they know how much local support there is for our beach. However, Sen. Biden, Sen. Carper and Congressman Castle can’t do it alone. We will not get federal funding without support from outside of Delaware. Property owners who are permanent residents outside of Delaware can get that support and must reach out to their Congressional delegation.

For Ohio property owners, a key member of Congress is Rep. David L. Hobson, Chairman of the Energy and Water Appropriations Subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee. If you are an Ohio resident, it is essential that you e-mail him with your support even though you may not live in his district. E-mail your two senators and your representative as described above, and then separately go online, enter Rep. Hobson’s name, go to his Web site and leave your message.

Please tell your friends, relatives, neighbors, and renters to contact their Congressional delegation using the Town Web site. We must all contact Congress to get this done.

Our beaches are the heart of our economy and our way of life. We know that you share our strong feelings and understand the need to restore and protect these valuable natural resources.

Thank you for your support.
Town Council
Town of Bethany Beach

Dorfman, council make good decisions

Calls for a Bethany Beach referendum on residential construction standards and the upcoming elections are a reminder of time-tested principles of representative democracy. Over 36 years in federal government and corporate service taught me that elected representatives have to earn public trust by the quality of their decisions and accessibility to the electorate.

Regardless of your position on home standards, aesthetics, building heights and roof slopes, these issues are entrusted to town council for a good reason. We simply cannot do everything by citizen vote. We should trust those elected to represent our interests in council.

Change is potentially painful. As owners who rebuilt, my wife and I voted with our pocketbooks and feet to commit to a future in Bethany West. Here we found Jerry Dorfman, a neighbor and a Bethany statesman.

What we ask of Jerry and his fellow council members is that they be accessible, ethical and thoughtful in their decisions – and that they have been. Jerry decides on the issues, taking all of his constituents’ interests into account, and not for personal gain. We joyfully joined the majority of Bethany Beach residents who have committed to a quiet, family resort home. We got a wonderful town government in the bargain.

We should guard against the impulse to revisit every council decision, especially by resorting to referenda where voters are expected to understand better than the council. When we see conflicts of interest, poor decision-making or refusal to listen to constituents, the ballot box gives us the best alternative.

I’m voting for Jerry and several of his fellow council members because I believe my neighbors, the volunteer council members who study these issues, are making good decisions.

Edward J. Appel
Bethany Beach

Reader hopes governor is forward-thinker

It is not a surprise that then-Gov. Carper made a stupid mistake regarding gasoline formulations for Sussex County. Too many of his decisions were hastily made and uninspired.

The kicker is that he is now our senator, his mean-spirited attacks on Sen. Roth and the gullibility of the citizenry put him there. And the beat goes on. Hopefully, Ms. Minner will prove to be a deeper thinker.

Paul F. Phillips
Fenwick Island

Chairperson offers thanks for tour success

On behalf of the Friends of the South Coastal Library, I would like to offer my sincere and heartfelt thanks to our fantastic Cottage Tour Committee and the wonderful volunteers who worked together to make the 15th Annual Beach & Bay Cottage Tour a resounding success.

Hostesses, ticket sellers, drivers, parkers, sign installers, flower arrangers and raffle sellers worked together with a dedicated group of committee members to spend countless hours in the coordination, preparation and implementation of this popular summer event.

This year’s committee members were Michael Headman, Faith Denault, Carole Lindes, Donna Wade, Terry Drizd, Joan Thomas, Claudia McClenny, Pat Drizd, Cynthia Headman, Dave Flickinger, Dick Fox, Bette Meredith Pamela McComas, Cherie Dorfman, Barbara Carlson, Joan Gordon, Aubre’ Duncan, Ginny McDowell, Jean Newins, Linda Kulin, Sara Carlson and Cathy Hamick. For the seventh year in a row, the tour attracted a sellout crowd.

To the homeowners whose beautiful homes were showcased on the tour, I offer our utmost thanks. Lawrene and Tom Anfinson, Jean and Leo Cangianelli, Jean Athan Dugdale, Linda and Ed Feulner, Donna Gregg, Regina Marsilii, Cherrie Rich and Lanis Dubois, Roseann and Patrick Spinosa, Susan and Bob Stone and Karen Taylor graciously shared their lovely homes with tour-goers, thus enabling the Friends of the South Coastal Library to raise funds to expand the services and facilities of the library. Without their generosity there would have been no tour.

Thanks also to the restaurants that provided prizes for our annual “Dinner for Two” raffle. They included The Den At Bear Trap Dunes, DiFebo’s, Magnolia’s, Oak Arbor Inn, The Parkway and Sedona. I also would like to express our gratitude to Rose Ann Cialella, Dorothy Harrison Braun, Aubre’ Duncan, Carol Dyer and Laura Hickman for donating exquisite framed artwork for the art raffle.

To the many advertisers represented in our booklet and on the tote bag and to the generous donors who made financial contributions, I offer our sincere thanks and ask for their continued support next year.

I would like to thank the Salt Pond Golf Course for providing parking for hostesses and the Bethany Beach Christian Church for the use of their parking lot to shuttle tour participants by bus to one of the homes.

Thanks also to the towns of Bethany Beach and Ocean View and the Bay Colony Property Owners Association for cooperating with us concerning parking logistics for those who were touring. We truly appreciate their help and understanding.

I wish also to thank the Beebe Medical Center for once again providing the booties for tour-goers to wear. We are very grateful for this donation.

Special thanks to Vickie York for her work coordinating sponsors for the tote bag and to Greg Hastings for his support over the years. You both have been great friends of the tour. I would also like to thank Tony McClenny and Bob Stone for their assistance this year.

To Gov. Ruth Ann Minner, I again wish to express our appreciation for her continued support of the library by graciously acting as honorary chairman of the tour for the third year in a row.

Finally, I would like to thank everyone who attended the 2006 tour. I hope you had a wonderful time here in the Bethany area as you visited these 10 delightful homes. Please join us again next year; the 16th Annual Beach & Bay Cottage Tour will be held on Wednesday, July 25, and Thursday, July 26. Reservations for the 2007 tour will be taken by mail after Jan. 1, 2007, and at the library beginning in April 2007.

As we approach the time of making the expansion of our South Coastal Library a reality, we thank you for your support.

Donna J. Repass, Chairman
2006 Beach & Bay Cottage Tour

School district should be praised, not trashed

A recent article in the New York Times went out of its way to report on the lawsuit that a Delawarean is pressing against the Indian River School District for allegedly allowing a prayer during a high school graduation which included her daughter while she and her family attended.

She professed to be so offended by the mention of Jesus Christ during the prayer of benediction on the students that she and the ACLU are seeking a settlement of reputed six figures for the alleged offense.

The article portrays a Mrs. Dobrich as someone who has been victimized, whereas the truth seems to be the opposite.

A study of the facts surrounding that case shows that there was no intentional offense against her nor was any religious thing forced upon her. She just happened to be present at a public gathering. It was a case of a person who refused to allow others the privilege of religious expression in her presence. She clearly states that she demonstrates her own religion publicly and openly and that of her family as a right — and she is correct in that. But, what she objects to is seeing the same thing from others.

Her case has been taken up by the ACLU, which is notoriously against all religions, including her own, on the basis of the false premise of “separation of church and state,” a statement which is found nowhere in any of our founding documents but was created out of thin air by a corrupted Supreme Court.

Since the ACLU opposes public expression of religion of any denomination, she is cooperating with them in an act that, if successful, would encourage the denial of public expression of her own religion — if she is unaware of that end result. Yet, as Americans we are all guaranteed freedom of religion and freedom of speech, each of which are twisted by the ACLU to mean the opposite. The combination of Mrs. Dobrich and the ACLU is a hard one to figure out.

In other words, there is discernable real basis for her case against the Indian River School District and those who object to her action have a right to disagree with her intolerance and lack of respect for the religious expression of others while insisting on the unlimited expression of her own.

It is not anti-Semitism to disagree with a Jewish person; they are no more 100 percent right than any other American and, while it is politically correct to call any criticism of a Jew anti-Semitic, nevertheless not all criticism is of that nature. Yet, a local news cartoon labeled any criticism of Mrs. Dobrich’s lawsuit as “Jewish families being ridiculed, harassed, and threatened” by the Indian River School District, 2006.”

Actually, if there were any threats, ridicules or harassments, where is the public or police record of them, for evidently they exist only the mind of Mrs. Dorbrich – without proof.

Since this case has not yet come to trial, any comment of fault is entirely uncalled for. I can speak freely as having been involved with the state of Israel in my former position as manger of government contracts for the Westinghouse Defense Center in Baltimore, in which one of my clients was the state of Israel, where I have visited and been involved in their fight against terrorists even then.

I experienced religious instances there where Christians and Jews practiced their religions side by side without incident, tolerant and respectful of each other. I experienced Jewish religious ceremonies where a rabbi invoked prayer upon us all and I accepted it as a well-intentioned gesture.

That mutual tolerance and respect was absent from Mrs. Dobrich; she was “offended” because a Christian pastor placed a prayer of blessing on the graduating students of which one was her daughter. It is also curious that she considers a “six figure dollar settlement” will somehow assuage her offended feelings.

Since the ACLU promotes profanity, abortion, pornography, homosexual acts, same-sex marriage, euthanasia, and man/boy sex on the basis of privacy and free speech, it is also curious that they agree with Mrs. Dobrich that an expression of religion is a worthy basis for a lawsuit and in their inverted logic not a matter of free speech. Is it any wonder that people do not agree and ask her to be tolerant and to stop discriminating against Christians who show tolerance toward her?

If anti-Semitism exists, then so does anti-Christianism. If one is to be observed, so does the other. Tolerance is a two-way street.

The Indian River School District has not ridiculed, harassed and threatened anyone for any reason as reported by the New York Times and one of our local papers. Their stand for two-way tolerance is as American as you can get and should be respected and not abused.

Charles N. Valenti
Rehoboth Beach

Heavenly Lunch once again a huge hit

The Ocean View Presbyterian Women’s Heavenly Lunch was a success.

The Women’s Sewing Circle and the 150th Anniversary Celebration Committee would like to thank the Eastern Shore Poultry Company in Georgetown for donating the delicious chicken that made our California Chicken Salad; Hickman’s Discount Liquors for their ample supply of ice; and Ocean View Produce and Tropicals for the fruit that created our refreshing fruit salad.

Hearty thanks to all the church volunteers that staffed the kitchen, dining room and greeting areas for their time, hard work and enthusiasm.

Finally, sincere appreciation to some angels from the community who blessed us with their time and talents: Sharon Weber, Kate Frey, Jordan Frey and Heather Haaga.

All proceeds go to the 150th Anniversary Celebration and Women’s Missions.

Liz Hobler, Moderator, Women’s Circle

Amy Peoples,
150th Anniversary Committee

Reader takes his stance on Ocean View

Stated below are facts as I see them. While there is more, this is a partial case against Bill [Wichmann].

Mr. Wichmann has practiced deceit as a normal course of operating as a town council member. His integrity and ethics are, at the least, questionable. Mr. Wichmann took the oath of office, including his swearing an oath to protect, defend and uphold the Constitution.

Article 4, Section 4, of the Constitution states the type of government to be enjoyed by us, the citizens, is a “republic” form of government. Not a representative democracy, not a monarchy, theocracy, dictatorship, or even an oligarchy (which they use). A constitutional republic.

What is a republic? It is the government our founding fathers gave to us at the cost of their blood, their sweat, pain and anguish. Only after much thought did they arrive at the decision that the only way to be truly free (Land of the Free) was to give the government to the people. The people are the government. We, the People!

In a republic, we are the government. We and we alone decide what our representatives will do. In a republic you are free to do anything you want, with only one exception. You cannot violate the rights of another citizen, or they yours. And any of our representatives acting unilaterally is without our permission. You could say this alone represents a lack of integrity and ethics.

This is the type of government Mr. Wichmann swore to uphold and live by. Did he?

Mr. Wichmann routinely acted in consort with other council members to deny our sovereign rights (a crime under USC) every time he voted for an action without our express permission.

Yes, I know, everybody does it. Malfeasance is running rampant. It is still a violation.

He continued to perform these actions even after being corrected. His correct and ethical action was to admonish the other council members and insist that the town adhere to the tenants of the constitutional republic.

Recently, Mr. Wichmann voted to give a Christmas bonus to the town’s employees of $150 each. If the Citizens Auxiliary Patrol received any of these funds, he basically voted to give himself $150. Both a conflict of interest and a monetary gain. Also, by voting to give public money to private citizens, he committed a crime. Public officials may not hand out the public’s money as “gifts.” His ethical and correct stand should have been, at the least, to abstain.

The Police Station, part one: Mr. Wichmann, a member of “CAP,” after hearing from several CAP members on the need for a new building, should have acted with integrity and ethics by again abstaining. Instead, he voted from a position of conflict of interest. He, as a member of the town council, was adamant in having the council exclusively decide for the construction of the new building. His correct position, again, should have been...

The Police Station, part two: Mr. Wichmann, as the world now knows, without consent, violated several town ordinances by hiring someone he met at a party to wire the unauthorized generator. This person was not on the town’s approved contractor hiring list, and no one has yet stated whether the electrician was properly insured. Obviously, he did not do the job properly. By the way, thanks for buying the town a generator from your personal funds, as that is the only way it is legal.

If you have read the papers lately you know I have only touched on a few of the ethical shortfalls this person suffers with. Thankfully, we may yet see relief from Mr. Wichmann’s actions. As Mr. Wichmann acted outside the bounds of the Constitutional government he, along with the others who voted yes, are solely responsible for the costs they incurred. We, the people, never said yes.

As you know, no one can sign a contract in your name, or force you to pay for what they agreed to and you did not. The Uniform Commercial Code is very plain in that regard. Electing him is not a contract for him to do as he wants but as we want him to act.

He is also in violation of the state’s constitution. Section 15, Article 6, states a public servant may be dismissed for “misbehaving.” Upon conviction of misbehaving, the governor may dismiss the offender. As he has repeatedly acted without ethics, and upon his own admission, (read confession) he has, without question, misbehaved. But first he must replace the funds he has squandered. It’s not his money, it is ours.

Wally Brown
Ocean View

Let Dewey be Dewey

I am writing in regards to a recent story I had seen on the news regarding the Town of Dewey Beach’s plans to pass along the cost of their police department onto the clubs, bars and restaurants in Dewey Beach.

I have also heard them say that they are considering other options such as a property tax; however, from what I have been told, that is highly unlikely, since the property owners would have to approve such, via a vote, and attempts to do so have failed in the past.

So what do they do? They decide to pass the buck off on the businesses which have driven Dewey Beach along for the past 30 or so years.

I heard one town official say that Dewey Beach is a family town. I am in my mid-40s and until the last decade or so, Dewey Beach had always been known as a recreation spot for mostly people in their mid-20s and early 30s. It was never really a family town.

However, a lot of people who once came to Dewey in their youth, and had a fun time, have purchased property in the area, and now have decided that since they have families that others can not enjoy what they once had.

If they wanted to reside in a family-oriented beach community, they should have purchased property in Lewes, Rehoboth or even Bethany Beach, but not Dewey.

More and more hotels in Dewey have been replaced by condos and it would appear to me, that the trend is to push out the businesses by raising property values for land.

A lot of people I know spent their summers in Dewey Beach, but once they got too old for the scene, and had families, they knew it was time to move on and let the next generation have their turn.

Maybe those who wish to change Dewey Beach should reconsider their actions and let Dewey remain what is has always been — a place where young adults can go and have a good time. As it stands now, I foresee a day when the Bottle and Cork will be gone, just like the Stone Balloon has since passed on in Newark.

Chuck Cobb
Ocean View, Newark

Convenience, planning could help woes

I suppose the reason why some of these people speed down these back roads I’ve been reading about south of Sea Colony is because they need to conserve time.

Once they get to Route 1, they’re forced to slow down on their way to Ocean City or Rehoboth to go bowling or to the movie theater, etc...

If they build something for people to go out here, they could take their time.

And all the developments, business or residential should be required to pave bike paths along these back roads.

Plus, adding a convenience plaza out here would cut the Route 26 congestion.

Focus on who is responsible for planning and zoning.

We could have a model here similar to what’s planned for Millville by the Sea.

C.T. Crovo
Shady Dell Park

Referendum needed for unclear ordinance

Much has been written about the petition being circulated around the town of Bethany Beach. I read the ordinance, the letters written by Mr. Steele, and the white paper written by Mr. Costello.

Then I decided to sign the petition that says: “We the undersigned Bethany Beach property owners petition the Town’s Council to provide for a public referendum on its April 21, 2006 ordinance raising the height limit in R–1 from 31 to 35 feet.”

I signed because the ordinance to amend is ambiguous. Mr. Steele clearly states what he believes the amendment says. Mr. Costello clearly states what he believes the amendment says. Both are intelligent, thoughtful men. Obviously, any legislation that can be interpreted at least two ways is a very poorly worded document. Thus, the Town of Bethany Beach can be challenged — probably successfully — by someone who wants to interpret this to his/her advantage.

No, I’m not a lawyer, but I did show it to two attorneys and a builder, and they laughed. It is not clear. It is poorly worded. It is shameful that at least 700 property owners have to go to this length to make the Council listen.

I look forward to a clearly worded ordinance that everyone can understand. It is unfortunate that we have to have a referendum to make that happen.

Lois F. Lipsett
Bethany Beach

Healy: I am a serious candidate in Bethany

Your lead story in your July 28, 2006, issue quoted, “Healy was most recently noted as one of Mulligan’s fellow aspirants for the May 2005 vacancy on the council. But unlike the other four candidates, he opted not to show up for the special meeting at which the replacement was selected and made no public statement promoting his candidacy.”

The rest of the story, from my perspective and in concert with my objective in April 2005, was in fact to file early and allow the five sitting council members, if they wished, an opportunity to contact me to weigh my candidacy. There was no contact, as might be expected, since I assume the group generally had already made up their minds as to whom they would appoint. Certainly, the devil you know is a much easier choice than one you don’t know.

Early in the week of the May 20, 2005, meeting, I received a courtesy call from a young lady from the town manager’s office, informing me of the meeting. I first asked her how people had filed. I then stated to her that I had a commitment that Friday to be a chaperone at my daughter’s prom and therefore would not be available. I stated that I would e-mail her office a brief statement and asked that the town manager communicate this publicly on my behalf.

My comments could have been communicated easily in a minute or two. My assumption from your column is that my request was not honored. I understand that the meeting was held and a selection ensued.

It does not seem outside of the realm of reasonability, with so few candidates to choose from, that at the conclusion of the selection process one might expect that a brief phone call or e-mail might be forthcoming.

Needless to say, no further courtesy, the extension of which I assume was deemed inappropriate or unnecessary, was made.

Yes, I was and am a serious candidate. My actions in April and May of 2005 were calculated to get a feel of the council members’ willingness to explore an alternative candidate.

Joseph T. Healy Jr.
Bethany Beach

Editor’s note: All eight candidates in the 2006 Bethany Beach town council election will be afforded the opportunity to frame their bids for the four open council seats with their responses to the Coastal Point’s traditional question-and-answer series in the coming weeks.

Reader supports petition in Bethany Beach

Bill Veeck of the old White Sox called it “addition by subtraction” to explain the logic of a bad trade. In Bethany, we call it “subtraction by addition” when adding 4 feet of height to residential and commercial buildings.

What a trade! The majority in Bethany lose a long-principled building height restriction so a few can have a 8-foot attic or more commercial space. The attic will become a loft room when the inspectors are gone and the commercial people will demand more parking. Who cares about blocking the neighbor’s sun? Why weren’t the public hearings being held in summer when most owners are around?

[Dan] Costello has initiated a petition to bring this new height law to public referendum, or at least for the town council to understand the majority are against changing the old height restriction. In return, the council criticizes the petition for “not dotting all the I’s” when their new law isn’t understandable by most average folks.

Jack Walsh, the mayor, is to be commended for voting against the additional height limits; and the other councilors should be answerable to the people at the September elections.

In baseball, when a general manager makes bad trades, he gets fired.

Milton P. Hill
Bethany Beach

There are many questions to ask

Reading Mr. Cleary’s letter to editor published in Coastal Point on July 28, 2006, I fully agree that the most important issue for voters in the upcoming September election for Bethany Beach Town Council members is beach replenishment. It surpasses all other issues that have been mentioned, including the Streetscape controversy, the recent height and architectural guideline changes for residential and commercial property, and the new prospect of third-floor condos, apartments and offices in commercial structures along Garfield Parkway.

Seeing people crowded on the shrinking beach this summer and fishing from the south end of the boardwalk during high tide last spring vividly illustrate Mr. Cleary’s conclusion that a real “plan for sand” is needed now.

In addition to the questions posed by Mr. Cleary for voters to ask Council candidates, here are a few more that should be asked of the mayor, all other current Council members and the town manager regarding their stewardship:

What happened to the Bethany Beach portion of the coastal replenishment project? Why is Bethany Beach (with South Bethany) the only section from Ocean City and Fenwick Island, through Dewey Beach and Rehoboth Beach that has not been renewed? When you look at the map, it just doesn’t make sense in any way: planning, engineering, logistics, administration, use of financial and human resources, or any other related factors. It is a real mystery to me and we’ve never heard a satisfactory answer.

Is Bethany Beach’s exclusion the result of something we did or didn’t do? Did we miss a submission filing deadline? Was it something that was said or not said in a submission or to some official in the chain of decision making on such matters? Or, were we just inadvertently or mistakenly left out of an overall plan? There must be a reason for this glaring omission.

One guess, based on comparing written accounts of development plans in Coastal Point and other papers, is that Bethany Beach’s justification for replenishment may have put the emphasis on protecting commercial and residential property and interests in the recreational use of the beach, whereas Ocean City, for one community, put its major emphasis on the need for a wider sand buffer to save lives and protect road infrastructure for evacuation in the event of a storm. But that may not be the reason.

Whatever the answers might be, the questions should be asked to determine why Bethany Beach is in the dire beach situation we are in today. This is more than idle curiosity. It’s a matter of public understanding and lessons for future planning on this vital subject.

Going back to Mr. Cleary’s call for a real plan, the stress must be on realistic and prompt action now. There were several thoughtful suggestions in his letter for consideration.

Simply continuing to rely on a lobbyist and urging people to write to their Congressional representatives, while desperately hoping and waiting to win sufficient federal largess in a tight federal budget era, is a feeble and, so far, ineffective strategy. It can only leave us in a worsening situation the longer we wait.

So, this is a matter that deserves the priority attention of all current officials as well as the new candidates for the contested Council positions.

Jerry Hardiman
Bethany Beach

All religions need to be recognized, or none

Normally, it is enough to let the rantings of an extremist, fanatic or zealot speak for themselves.

Indeed, the rantings of frequent letter-writer Charles Valenti have often been allowed to speak for themselves in local newspapers, so obvious are they in their intolerance, prejudice and attempts to vilify those of whom he disapproves from his righteous perch that no further comment is required.

But I am unable to sit by as he attacks Mona Dobrich in much the same manner she and her family were attacked by a vocal group of those who attended a 2004 meeting of the Indian River school board.

At that meeting — though Valenti apparently questions whether what many witnessed and most found repugnant even happened — citizens of this school district (notably not Valenti’s home district) not only freely expressed their own religious beliefs but also told a shy teenage boy who had already been subjected to harassment and ridicule over his faith to remove a religious symbol, his yarmulke.

They acted like a mob, cheering not only their own right to express their Christian beliefs but, in many cases, the open intolerance of the Jewish family’s differing beliefs that Mr. Valenti claims to himself respect. (If Mr. Valenti was in the room to witness this, as hundreds were, he failed to mention it.)

I don’t recall Mrs. Dobrich asking school board members or those attending any school board meeting or other school function to remove their crosses or to desist from I don’t recall Mrs. Dobrich asking school board members or those attending any school board meeting or other school function to remove their crosses or to desist from praying outside their official duties. Indeed, the acts to which she objected were less in the way of expressing personal beliefs than using the public pulpit provided by the school system to promote a single faith.

To publicly pray not to Jesus Christ, but in his name that others will convert to Christianity might be seen as a blessing by many. But to those who are fulfilled in other faiths, it is an assertion that their faith is flawed, that Christianity is superior. And coming at a school event, that assertion is easily perceived (especially by the young) as an official endorsement of that particular faith — something clearly protected against by this nation’s founding fathers.

Doubly troubling is that this school district has historically made no real effort to allow equal time or standing for other faiths on an official basis — something that might slightly mitigate their stance.

While Bibles are handed out during class time, those who so vilify the Dobriches would be unlikely to endorse the handing out of the Koran or “Satanic Bible,” or any other book of another faith. Rabbis and Buddhist monks are not the religious speakers invited to school events. And I don’t expect approval of an Indian River Wiccan Club to be coming anytime soon.

Indeed, it seems that in the Indian River School District, the only thing that is required to make for a suitable official expression of faith is that it be of the dominant faith. Those who object are deemed anti-religious, no matter how deep their own beliefs are regarding the personal expression of faith outside official venues, by individuals and not those invited by the school district or government to speak in an official capacity.

Mr. Valenti’s assertions are, again, not only in abrogation of the real facts of this case, but misleading even in the bizarre assertions that they make regarding the Dobriches’ motivations and their current connection with the ACLU (none), as well as that group’s stance on any number of issues.

One hopes most readers are aware how fantastic these suggestions are, how skewed the vision presented, as well as how deep Mr. Valenti’s need is to further his own particular agenda through the area’s newspapers.

One also hopes that his efforts to recast Mrs. Dobrich as a quasher of religious freedom will be seen for what they are: the same sort of endorsement of official expressions of faith that this nation’s forefathers and court system (however corrupt Valenti believes it to be) have seen fit to soundly and repeatedly reject.

They have done so in an effort to protect the minority, such as those who came here seeking to avoid religious persecution and the tiny minority of those in Sussex County whose beliefs are not the same as those of Mr. Valenti, current (and likely future) Indian River school board members and the vocal portion of meeting attendees who shouted their own beliefs at a traumatized family who were trying to do the right thing for all of us and our children.

By allowing our public schools to be turned into podiums for proclaiming a single, dominant religion to our children, we diminish their value as venues for objective education, welcoming corridors for understanding of our differences and places to teach mutual respect for all of our fellow human beings. We also diminish our faiths, in that they become a fulcrum upon which disrespect, hatred and fear can so easily be turned.

Liz Johnson
Ocean View