Hopefully, Mr. Smith Will Never Go to Washington
(Printed in The Towanda Daily Review on 7/2/96.)

In his responses to my writings, Tom Smith of Ulster (PA) has referred to me as a lonely, boring, condescending, pathetic, irate, arrogant, cyber-space whizkid whose opinions are plagiarized and grotesque. According to Smith, I'm also the "Merry" Ferri, John-Boy, a militant, a libertarian, and the fast-Ferri with the venom-dripping pen. He added that I was a philosopher and that my writings were great intellectual accomplishments and masterpieces. But I don't think he meant the last few in a flattering way.

Tom, you have to try harder. Friends (I have a few) have called me much worse.

In Smith's June 29th letter about homosexuals, he provided two quotations from homosexuals implying that they would like to overthrow traditional society. Smith then asks if these opinions should "be embraced and protected in the name of multicultural open-mindedness." They certainly don't have to be "embraced", however, our First Amendment does guarantee freedom of expression. Opinions -- mine, Smith's, homosexuals' -- are protected regardless of popularity or content. Censoring any one person or group compromises everyone's freedom of expression.

Smith then quotes from another source that would like to limit the rights of homosexuals because of "homosexual activity", the implication being that such activity is immoral. Granted, some homosexuals may be immoral, but so may some heterosexuals. Morality is not based on one's sexual orientation, or even on one's religious beliefs. Religious beliefs, sexual orientation, and morality are independent.

If rights are to be denied, the basis should be morality -- not the Bible or religious dogma, not sexual orientation, not one's opinions. According to Socrates, morals are the rules that civilized people should live by. Our legal code is based on these rules. Break the rules and some rights are justifiably denied.

Smith then commented that I believe that my opinions "warrant constitutional change." The last thing I want is Constitutional change, particularly the First and Fourteenth Amendments. The First is about freedom of speech and the Fourteenth about equal protection for ALL persons, not only those that conform to the limited notions of bigots and homophobes.

He claimed that I was anti-religious? Ridiculous. The First Amendment again -- freedom of and from religion. But I am vehemently opposed to religious dogma having any influence on the laws of our land. Referring to the First's Establishment Clause, Justice Black said in 1962, ". . . a union of government and religion tends to destroy government and degrade religion."

Smith also claimed that I used "smoke and mirrors" by asking "debater's questions" about prayer in my June 20 letter. I might be wrong, but I thought this was a debate, whose definition is to engage in argument by discussing opposing points. Apparently Smith's dictionary defines debate as, "Attack your opponent, forget objectivity, and distort the issues."

If Smith feels that this letter-to-the-editor forum is unfair, we could continue in a series of formal Lincoln-Douglas style debates. Tom?

John L. Ferri

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