Readers Write: Minneapolis and the environment, religious freedom

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The recent article about groundwater problems around Lake Nokomis is misleading (“The hole story in Nokomis”, April 20). The article implies that houses were built on peat dredged from Lake Nokomis. Not true. Park Superintendent Theodore Wirth may have been overly aggressive in redesigning the shorelines by today’s standards, but he didn’t create “100 acres of artificial buildable land.” What was dredged from the lake was used to fill in the surrounding wetlands, which are now the beach, bathhouse, parking lot and playing fields, mostly to the west of the lake, not residential properties.

Even dredging did not create Lake Nokomis; it defined a previously marshy shoreline and deepened the lake. If Wirth and the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board are to blame for water issues, it’s because by creating a more clearly defined and, in their eyes, more attractive lake, they have created an attraction for new homes to be built nearby. These homes were built on soils that the Parks Authority had left untouched. The detailed historical summary in the cited white paper on Park Board action in the area showed only that peat soils were known to be a problem.

In conclusion, the article should have mentioned an important finding from the white paper: Most homes in the study area with water problems are 5 to 19 feet above the surface water level of Lake Nokomis and Minnehaha Creek.

Let’s not blame the Park Board for excessive rainfall or where people have built houses. In fact, the Park Board deserves credit for trying for many decades to rectify some of the excesses of park planners in the less informed past at Lake Nokomis and elsewhere in the city.

David C Smith, Minneapolis

The author is the author of City of Parks: The Story of Minneapolis Parks.


I appreciated the recent article on the 30×30 initiative to protect wild ecosystems in 30% of the United States (“Minnesota falls short of federal land protection goal,” April 26). I would like to add a few points to your report.

This is not just an idea of ​​the Biden administration, but a goal of a governing coalition to protect global biodiversity.

This is important because humans are changing the world much faster than evolution can keep up. Non-human species have to cope with human-made pesticides, toxins, plastics and climate change, as well as the destruction of forests, grasslands and oceans. And we’re probably one of those species that can’t keep up either. The millions of species that make up the web of life (which also supports us) do not survive human takeover of their environment. We have witnessed a dramatic decline in insect and bird populations in even the span of a millennium. This destruction is accelerating and has catastrophic potential for human well-being. And how do you reweave this web when the threads are missing? Humans cannot reverse biodiversity loss; It will take nature hundreds of thousands of years to achieve this.

I strongly disagree with US Rep. Pete Stauber’s characterization of the effort as “no further use of our land.” This is not and cannot be an attempt to keep people out of 30% of the world. This is about people using land and water wisely, with sustainable farming, logging, and fishing (even mining!) practices, rather than destructive ones. There may be protected areas, but this will always be a small percentage of “protected” lands and waters.

Ultimately, this must foster a mindset in all of us that humans and nonhumans all have an important place in the natural world and that we depend on one another for our well-being and happiness. This is true everywhere from our lakes, forests, farms and suburban yards to city parks.

David Brockway, Hopkins


When one makes a personal commitment or promise to God, as Joseph Kennedy did, who is left to keep that promise? (“Judges Hear Coach Prayer Case,” April 26, and “High School Coaches Should Not Lead Prayers,” Opinion Exchange, April 19.) When a public figure in a position of power makes a public display of his or her personal beliefs then it creates an implicit obligation on others to honor and participate in this ritual.

Public tokens of gratitude to God for athletic achievement are common but not always appreciated. Taking a knee and pointing to the sky after a touchdown was sometimes the subject of excessive celebration. I’m sure I’ve never seen such a gesture after a missed free throw. These gestures seem like a “Look at me!” Moment instead of personal and private devotion. Interrupting a mixed social gathering by wanting to pray aloud for the upcoming meal is a form of narcissism that both the Bible and the Qur’an abhor.

If you feel that public prayer, which attendance is required – or ex officio – is a matter of religious liberty, then you must accept the same from a Muslim or otherwise non-Christian trainer.

Jerrol Noller, Anoka


As long as the practice is voluntary and generic, the Supreme Court case is much ado about nothing. Ditto for the former Vikings kicker’s opinion (“High school coaches shouldn’t lead prayers”). Too many liberal left politicians, media and unbelieving citizens continue their tacit push towards universal atheism. Who knows, maybe the Pledge of Allegiance will be next.

The faithful founding believers of this country, and generations after, held firm “in God we trust.” It seems that the more we stray from this principle, the more uncivilized we become. Minnesota beautiful? Hard to find in Minneapolis, home of the Vikings, where violence day and night has become the new normal. Maybe, just maybe, it’s time for more good old-fashioned religion and a Protestant work ethic. Of course, that would require a conscience and discipline that are no longer attractive to many today.

But then again, today’s playbooks don’t work, so what do you have to lose by trying something different? Certainly it would require a different type of leadership than that in charge today.

John D Smith, Stillwater


The Bill of Rights was enacted in order to secure in the constitution the rights of the people against the dictates of the government. That its very first clause prohibited laws “respecting an institution of religion” shows how important it was to the Founders to protect us from government dictates as to what religious tenets are “right.”

A problem arises when public servants attempt to use their position to express their personal religious views. That’s what Kennedy did when he was a high school football coach near Seattle. He began kneeling at the 50-yard line to pray after games, and when students joined him, he would pray aloud. He said he did this to make his players better people. Kennedy v. Bremerton School District, currently in the Supreme Court, is a case in which the First Amendment’s establishment clause conflicts with Kennedy’s claimed freedom of worship and freedom of expression.

At the very least, the founding clause prohibits the government from forcing people to adopt religious practices that it prefers. Coercion encompasses more than the government’s ability to fine or arrest people. They may feel that they should comply with government requests to signal their patriotism or to please their peers by conforming to group behavior. As former Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote in the Lee v. Weisman decision, “The government must use no more social pressure to enforce orthodoxy than it can use more direct means.”

Judge Kennedy noted that children are particularly susceptible to psychological pressure. For this reason, the government must take special care not to bring any religious beliefs into public school activities.

Former coach Kennedy agreed to restrictions on his right to religious expression when he accepted a state job at a public school. But he also demands the right to take center stage at the 50-yard line of a crowded stadium. The court must consider not only the rights it asserts, but also the right of the students in its charge to be free from religious coercion by government officials.

George Francis Kane, St Paul

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