Letters

BY

We like to think that the U.S. stands as a symbol of freedom, but the citizens of Massachusetts do not enjoy the basic freedom to choose their representatives in the state legislature. Massachusetts ranked dead last in the nation in competitive elections in 1998 and 2000. Almost 60 percent of the general races in the last election cycle had only one major party candidate and the primaries were even less uncompetitive.

In 1998 the voters of Massachusetts, by a 2-1 margin, passed by referendum a public financing statute called the Massachusetts Clean Elections Law. This law would help improve the state’s electoral system by making it easier for challengers to overcome the fundraising advantage enjoyed by incumbents. Candidates can opt-in to the public financing system by gaining a set number of small campaign contributions. Under the law, Clean Elections candidates receive a set amount of public funds depending on the office they are running for, and an additional dollar for every dollar their opponent spends, up to twice the original amount of public money.

For the past three years, the Massachusetts legislature has repeatedly tried to thwart the voters’ clearly expressed will that the state’s elections not be determined primarily by fundraising ability. The chief culprit in this undemocratic defense against the public has been Speaker of the House Thomas Finneran, who has:

1) Penalized legislators who support the law by cutting off funding to their districts;

2) Retaliated against Clean Elections supporter Rep. Douglas Peterson by removing his position as chair of the Natural Resources Committee;

3) Traded increased funding in their districts to some legislators for opposition to the law, even though the legislator’s constituents overwhelmingly supported the law.

Currently, $22.4 million has been earmarked for Clean Elections funding over the past two years, but the legislature is close to killing the law. The money already set aside has not been appropriated to the necessary agency and the current house bill that would appropriate this money eviscerates the law by making future funding depend on taxpayers voluntarily contributing to a Clean Elections fund. This directly contravenes the will of over two-thirds of the voters, who demanded that every citizen be bound to support public financing just as they are bound to fund all other state expenditures.

Should the current budget negotiations, expected to be released by November 9, not allocate funds, the hopes of potential Clean Elections candidates and the citizens of Massachusetts will rest on a lawsuit pending before the Supreme Judicial Court. The suit alleges that the state Office of Campaign and Political Finance and the Secretary of State violated Article 48 of the Amendments to the Massachusetts Constitution, which requires that the Commonwealth either appropriate enough money to fund a referendum or repeal the law. The legislature has tried to sit on the fence for three years by neither incurring the public’s wrath by voting down the Clean Elections Law or jeopardizing their incumbency by funding it. It is time to do what the citizens of Massachusetts demanded in 1998. As citizens of Massachusetts, please contact your representatives and tell them that it is time to fund the Clean Elections Law.

Matt MarinelliAppleseed Center for Electoral Reform

I would like to express my gratitude to Kelly Hartline and to the RECORD staff for fostering a frank and open dialogue concerning homosexuality. Kelly deserves great respect and support for sharing a message of hope with people struggling with homosexuality. I agree with her that homosexual behavior is incompatible with Christian faith, and I am encouraged that she identified programs that can help people address their homosexual feelings. No one should be forced to hide their struggles and to bear their pain alone.

I also congratulate the RECORD on publishing Kelly’s column despite the animosity with which their action was met. It is disturbing that such vituperative objections should be raised to her informing those unhappy with a homosexual lifestyle that there are people who want to help them. The purpose of a free press is expressly to inform the public and to challenge assumptions by a full and fair presentation of fact and opinion. This trust cannot be fulfilled if one group is given control of the discourse and arguments to the contrary are suppressed.

The quality of legal scholarship at Harvard has been put in doubt by this controversy, but not because of any sources that Kelly used. What is alarming instead is that the basic constitutional rights of freedom of speech, belief and the press, even when referred to by those responding to Kelly, are dismissed as trite and insufficient to justify the RECORD’s publication of her column. These detractors seem to believe that such rights ought to be dispensed with if they dislike what is expressed.

Thomas Paine wrote, “He that would make his own liberty secure, must guard even his enemy from oppression; for if he violates this duty, he establishes a precedent that will reach to himself.” It may seem a small and harmless thing to treat with contempt the mere expression of a belief that opposes your own, but that is exactly the attitude that has precipitated each and every fascist regime. That’s something you ought to understand even before you take FYL. As Cicero said, “To be ignorant of what occurred before you were born is to remain always a child.”

Fortunately, the reactions to Kelly’s column do demonstrate that members of the HLS community are serious about their beliefs. This is a good thing, although it doesn’t justify intolerance, because the opposite extreme from intolerance is a relativist ambivalence in which each person’s beliefs are considered equally true. To openly consider a belief which contradicts your own beliefs as equally accurate is absurdity. We must endeavor to protect a rational balance in our community which allows each person to hold their own beliefs deeply while still permitting anyone else to express theirs.

This intellectual discourse is one of the reasons that we are living in the United States of America. When the press avoids printing ideas or facts because of pressure from certain groups, the press has effectively ceased to be free and we have lost the core of what makes this country great. If you have any doubt about that, ask any immigrant or refugee how precious the Bill of Rights is to them. Their response should be enough to convince you that Kelly Hartline and the RECORD staff have done exactly what they should have, and that it is important for all of us that they continue to do it.

Anthony Bushnell

Hypocrisy abounds

In his restaurant review cum personal attack, Mr. Bitkower not only wrote about small-minded intolerance, he exemplified it. He was, I think, funnier than he intended to be.

No one has a monopoly on hypocrisy. We already knew that, but the recent discussion on homosexuality elucidates the point. Not those who seek repentance and forgiveness for transgressions while disdaining others for their struggles. Not those who promote tolerance and diversity while spewing vitriol and seeking homogeneity. Not those who implicitly advocate censorship while preparing to be outraged if the same forum doesn’t air their retorts in full. And call me both weak-minded and morally impoverished if it makes you feel better, for I confess that throughout my life I have been guilty of these and many other inconsistencies.

Perhaps it is not possible to have any opinions or convictions — even Nihilistic ones — unaccompanied by at least a few hypocrisies. But we can certainly do our best to minimize them. I applaud Adam Teicholz and Scott Levin for supplying two responses that — for the most part — sought to avoid these pitfalls. As a result, each furthered his cause with at least this reader, something others that responded, despite their sometimes wittiness, failed to do.

Michael Nunnelley

No debate

I regard Kelly Hartline as a personal friend. We probably have different views on homosexuality, but we have a good relationship because it is respectful, tolerant and kind. I agree that the response to her article on Exodus was not very ‘loving,’ and perhaps excessive given that it’s just a drop in the bucket when you think about all the social forces that are arrayed against homosexuals.

However, the subsequent letters criticizing this response ‘missed the point.’ You can only oppress people for so long before you get a strong, emotional response. Maybe not one article, maybe not one insensitive comment, but when you read article after article … after article (and don’t pretend this isn’t the case) … then BOOM! and they snap and tell you where to stick it. The road to hell is paved with good intentions, but it’s a weak morality that discriminates against people who are different, subtly tries to undercut their public support, plays against their self-esteem … or merely fails to take a stand and steps back, sits on their holier-than-thou Harvard tush, and with the condescending tone of an benevolent courtroom judge ‘encourages discussion’ (as if you would really be so open to having a debate on the merits of heterosexual rights or the validity of your sexuality in general). In your attempt to appear objective and tolerant, I fear you display your cowardice and heterosexual privilege. (I notice you didn’t criticize Austin Bramwell who felt it his place to monitor what type of sex everyone is having and provide recommendations). Don’t worry, though. The downtrodden don’t count on you, you’ve never been very useful on the front lines. I love Kelly, but was it so unreasonable to think her efforts a little misguided? Wasn’t this like bringing up abortion? I mean, didn’t we all sort of form our opinions back in eighth grade? If anything, these debates are just boring because it’s the same old arguments. In short, you don’t have to think homosexuality is ‘OK.’ Just don’t bring the debate to my door and then get mad when I slam it in your face.

Lee Payne

Finding LIPP

I was pleased to see your editorial advising students to find out the facts about HLS’s greatly improved loan forgiveness program, the Low Income Protection Plan (LIPP). I would like to suggest, though, that students who really want to know how LIPP will work for them go to see Lisa Dealy, the Director of LIPP and Summer Funding, rather than me. Lisa works in the Financial Aid Office but we work as a team to try to help students pursue their career interests. Lisa is the real expert on LIPP and is in fact one of the foremost experts in the country on loan repayment programs. She was also a major force behind the changes to LIPP. I encourage all students contemplating public service, or other relatively lower paying positions, upon graduation to talk to Lisa about debt management during law school and to get the facts about LIPP.

Alexa ShabecoffDirector, Office of Public Interest Advising

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