Frank LaFerriere: Separation of church and state

To the editor:

"Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between man and his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legislative powers of government reach actions only, and not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should 'make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,' thus building a wall of separation between church and State." — Thomas Jefferson to the Danbury Baptist Association, Connecticut, January 1, 1802.

"The civil government functions with complete success by the total separation of the Church from the State." — James Madison, 1819.

"The Government of the United States of America is not in any sense founded on the Christian religion." — John Adams, the Treaty of Tripoli, 1798.

Right-wing Christians in this country, especially in our government, believe they have every right to put forth laws based on the Christian religion. I hear them scream time and time again, there is no such thing as separation of church and state, despite Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, James Madison, James Monroe and Thomas Paine using the phrase separation of church and state to describe the meaning behind the First Amendment. We have both, freedom of, and freedom from religion. No one should be allowed to force any form of religious ideology upon anyone else, and that includes those right-wing Christians in our governmental bodies.

I also hear Christians screaming about how the Muslims constantly want to install Sharia Law in our country. Yet? They have no damn problem wanting to install Christian Taliban laws in the United States. Now, the news breaks that Reince Priebus is frothing at the bit to start putting forth laws based on the Christian religion, against abortion, same-sex marriage, and many other things, as are many others like him.

Christians want to force into our public schools their religious ideology. They demand we bring prayer back to our public schools. Of course they hypocritically then strenuously object to having Ppgan religions, or any other religions other than Christianity be taught in our public schools. This is a clear violation of another of Thomas Jefferson's Acts titled the Elementary School Act of 1817, where he stated the Christians and all religions were to stay out of our public schools, that is what religious schools were for, not public. Public schools are run mostly with taxpayer funds, which automatically then forbids any religious ideology being pushed upon public school students, because of the separation of church and state law.

All of these acts are clear violations of the idea of the Founding Fathers and the separation of church and state. Religious belief, is in fact, an opinion. It is the theists opinion their religion is the right one out of the literal thousands of variations on the same theme. We do not have a theocratic government, we have a secular government. Secular means religion stays out.

As Jefferson said, your religion is between you and your God and does not belong in our laws, or legislative actions, or even in our public schools. Separation of church and state is a fact. I and many others are plain sick and tired of Christians trying to force their religious ideology upon the rest of us who want absolutely nothing to do with theirs, or any religion.

It is your right to have a religious belief, just like it is my right to not have one. But when your religious beliefs starts interfering with everyone's right, under the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, to their idea of life, liberty and their pursuit of happiness? That is when I and many others will in fact, draw a line and stand up and fight back.

Again, Christians scream how they do not want Muslim Taliban Sharia Law here in the United States. Well, there are many of us who do not want Christian Taliban Sharia Law here either, and we will fight, tooth and nail, against those who dare violate the Constitution, the Bill of Rights and the Separation of Church and State rules.

In closing, Thomas Jefferson also stated, in his Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom, the most important law first, which is "II. Be it enacted by the General Assembly, that no man shall be compelled to frequent or support any religious worship, place, or ministry whatsoever, nor shall be enforced, restrained, molested, or burthened in his body or goods."

So, keep your religious laws out of our government, our laws and our public schools.

Frank LaFerriere


Elizabeth Ruediger: They were the greatest panhandlers I had ever seen

To the editor:

I’m sure many of you own a Shop Vac and you understand the industrial strength of its suck power.

Well, imagine the subsidy-ridden, vacuous vortex of the former farmer’s market. On the surface, it was a feel good community get together for area producers and consumers to come together in a fun and festive atmosphere. However, if you look at their operating budget, the opposite is true.

The former market relied heavily on government subsidies and area corporate donations to sustain and maintain its existence. As the market was being originally developed, I remember vividly that this well-funded entity encouraged my business (a sole proprietorship that actually relies on sales of goods to sustain itself) into a larger space, with little regard if I was biting off more rent than I could chew.

As a “rural, woman entrepreneur,” I submitted my membership application with my check in support of their efforts and had the office door shut in my face, by the former executive director.

After moving into a space double the size and double the rent, I sat in bewilderment as checks would be slipped under WREN’s door, one after another.

My take away was that as a non-profit “business,” they were the greatest panhandlers I had ever seen. The palm was always out and it was consistently getting greased.

Now, keep in mind that they are good to their market vendors who only paid 5 percent of their earnings up to the administrative functions of the market. I wish my “rent” was 5 percent of my earnings. How do you think my landlords (who were good to me) would have felt about that?

Their mission was to move vendors from tent to rent, and I felt all along their mission was to move existing businesses from rent to tent. This is not a sustainable model, but one that relies on the goodness of the taxpayers to support and again, subsidize the market.

Over several years of operation, the market grew out of its location on Mechanic Street and opted for the backside of Main Street, aka Pleasant Street (drawing business off of Main Street to a concrete wasteland).

They also outgrew their office and moved into free accommodations via Tri-County Cap, on upper Main Street. They expanded their programming and hosted psychic fairs and book signings, once a prominent feature of a Main Street business.

Looking for more suitable accommodations, they tapped into more subsidies and grant money to purchase their current location in the heart of downtown and then, most recently, moved their farmer’s market to Gorham.

Now, with the discussion of carrying on the formation of a Main Street market, the city of Berlin has set aside a small pittance to get the new collaborative effort underway. This is nothing compared to the $50,000 food grant WREN received from Harvard Pilgrim in 2016.

The original grant program was for $5,000 for a variety of groups to manage a food exploration program for low income families. Because they wanted more public relations “bang for their buck,” Harvard Pilgrim foolishly decided to increase the amount and decrease the number of awards.

I voiced my displeasure to Mike Devlin of Harvard Pilgrim, that this measure would serve fewer communities and a $50,000 award for “gardening” was the most ridiculous amount I had ever heard of. What on earth could they have spent that money on? Nevertheless, the City of Berlin opted to allow WREN to apply for the grant.

WREN was awarded the full amount, and Laura Jamison, market manager, offered the city $500 — a pittance. So, if there is an example of biting the hand that feeds you, this is it. Berlin would starve if relying on the goodness and graciousness of the original market.

So, let us hope that the new organizers will develop a sustainable model that serves the community and provides a draw to the remaining Main Street businesses that we so desperately were hoping for with the original WREN market.

With regard to the skate park, a little bird called me the other day and informed me that the City of Berlin did not pay for the original skate park in Community Field.

He said that the skate park was built entirely by donations and volunteer work on a “Day of Caring.” The lumber, concrete and the know-how of construction was donated by area contractors.

This can be recreated. It just requires a little outreach to our area businesses to come together for such a valuable and common goal.

So, all of the hubbub about city funding for this project can be stifled by organizing around the need to bring people together to make the project come to fruition.

I am sure there are plenty of contractors who would love to be a part of making Berlin great again. If this is panhandling for our youth, I guess I am willing to engage in the practice. But at least I know that when the investment is made, that concrete half pipe can’t just up and move to Gorham.

Elizabeth Ruediger


Bill Dwyer: Rebuilding the skate park is the right thing to do

To the editor:

I really enjoyed reading Saturday's newspaper. I enjoyed reading the news regarding the skate park. It's the right thing to do. I also enjoyed reading the letter to the editor submitted by Donald Enman. I agreed with every statement he made in his letter. People ask me why I care about a skate park. I'm 65 years old with a broken back and and artificial hip so I surely won't be doing a skate boarding. Well, let me tell you. When I grew up in Berlin there was the community club. It had bowling alleys, pool tables, swimming pool among other things. It was a place to go to meet people. Across the street from there was the tennis courts. Well, that got torn down in the 1980s and a skate park went into where the tennis courts were. It was a place for kids to go. Well, along comes a Burgess Power Cogen Plant that asks the city to use that area for a switchyard. Could have been located anywhere but it was more convenient to put it there. Well, the city says sure. Now did we give it to them or did they buy it? If they bought that area where's the money. If they were given that property what gave you the right? I thought at the time that we were promised a replaced for the kids to use. Still waiting. And as far as who will use it even if one mother and her child use the new one it would be worth while for it was stolen from the city and needs to be replaced. It's the right thing to do.

Bill Dwyer


Julia Vigue: Valedictorian's speech was heartwarming

To the editor:

Anyone attending Berlin High School’s graduation this year was met with a most pleasant and heartening experience when the school’s Valedictorian invited several other students onto the stage to speak with her, allowing others to share their thoughts and inspiration with the audience. I am not from Berlin, but I have to say that I have never before witnessed this level of generosity from a Valedictorian, and I have attended a great many high school graduations in my lifetime.

All of the speakers were wonderfully well-spoken, conveying obviously heartfelt connections to their mentors. This was an amazing testimony to the professionals associated with Berlin High School.

I offer my congratulations Berlin High’s Valedictorian Myra Arsenault, to each of the speakers who joined her on stage, and to the entire Berlin High Class of 2017.

I also offer my congratulations to the parents of Ms. Arsenault for raising an extraordinarily open-hearted young woman in an age when self-centeredness has become a way of life.

Julia Vigue
Waterville, Maine

Robert Theberge: New VA Transportation Program

To the editor:

Let the Veterans Administration (VA) do the driving. The new program, Veterans Transportation Service (VTS) provides enrolled veterans with free transportation to and from your home in Coos or northern Grafton Counties for any healthcare appointments either to the VA Hospital in White River Junction or to the Community Based Outreach Clinic (CBOC) in Littleton.

Options may include:

• Door-to- Door rides in wheelchair accessible vans;

• Door-to-Door transportation for veterans who are unable to drive because of vision impairment or medically challenges issues.

Veterans may travel with a companion, if space is available after contacting the VTS scheduler. For program information, contact the White River Junction VTS by phone: 1 800-941-8387 or email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

The purpose of the VTS is to assist veterans with travel to their appointments with the goal in mind of free transportation back to their residence ASAP in conjunction. VTS works, where possible, with private and public transportation services.

Rep. Robert L. Theberge
Coos, Dist. 3. (Berlin)
State Veterans Advisory Committee