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Embarrassed for our city

As a 13-year employee with the city of Colorado Springs, I am embarrassed for our city and our state in lieu of the juvenile and underhanded tactics of discrimination handed down from Gov. Bill Owens and Mayor Lionel Rivera by their refusal to sign letters of welcome to the Atheist Alliance convention held in Colorado Springs last weekend.

As civil servants paid by public tax dollars, it is our sworn duty to serve every citizen within our community without prejudice or discrimination as to what their personal religious, political or philosophical views may be -- even when (or perhaps especially when) those views may conflict with our own. Evidently Owens and Rivera have already forgotten that.

While Rivera claims to support every person's right to believe as he or she will, his actions demonstrate otherwise since it was he who volunteered the "timing" (i.e., coinciding with Easter) of the atheist event as the reason for his denial. This shows that he allowed his personal religious convictions to dictate what is and is not an acceptable venue -- at least in matters of conscience -- for others to decide for themselves, and to convene at a time of their choosing.

If Lionel Rivera wishes to froth at the thought of nonreligious people in his midst during his time of religious reflection (and 14 percent of the American population is "nonreligious"), he is certainly free to do so, but that is something to be expressed on his own time, outside the chambers of his civic duties!

Gov. Owens and Mayor Rivera owe the Atheist Alliance an apology to be sure, but more than that they owe the people of Colorado an apology! Any sleight against a law-abiding, tax-paying group of citizens is a sleight against us all and sets a dangerous precedent that leaves open the question of which "group" might be the next to be excluded by these or future elected officials.

-- Bruce Monson

Colorado Springs

Behaving like extremists

I was again disappointed to read that the Free Thinkers/Atheists are not welcome in Colorado and Colorado Springs. I feel compassion for the group because I don't feel welcomed in Colorado Springs either.

If we are going to preserve our freedom in this country and not turn into the countries we say we are liberating from extremism and religious oppression, then we have to welcome pluralism and not make excuses when people do not agree with our worldview.

We need to start doing unto others, as we want them to do unto us. The same vulnerability Christians feel when they are 5 percent of a population is the same vulnerability others feel when they are 5 percent of a Christian population. It is scary to be a minority. I find it interesting how concerned we are about Christians when they are the minority of other countries like China and much of the Middle East, and then we turn around and mistreat our own minorities and minority thinkers. If you don't want Christians to hide and worship in other countries, then you have to create an open society in your own country.

We are moving in the direction of behaving like extremists, and that only leads to religious oppression and war. Separation of church and state is what is going to keep the next generations from killing each other in the street. I want my descendants to choose their thinking and to be exposed to as many choices as possible. That is what freedom means to me.

-- Pam Jones

Colorado Springs

Maybe, someday, tolerance

Big surprise that Bill Owens and Lionel Rivera did not want to send a welcome letter to the Atheist Alliance. This is Colorado, where you don't count unless you are a hard-core religious right Christian (not even the moderates count here).

Focus on the Family controls this town, and Bill Owens wants Focus to control the entire state. Having lived in Colorado Springs for 20-plus years, I have seen our progression to becoming a "hate-state," an intolerant state that shows no tolerance for gays, Muslims, Buddhists and so on. But this is not true. It was less than a hundred years ago that this was a KKK state, and there are some organizations like the National Alliance that want to turn it back.

Not being a Christian, I get all sorts of inquiries about how I think. A few people are very closed-minded, but most everyone is very pleasant and just want to communicate with people, not attack them. This is truly what's represents Colorado Springs to me, that everyone is welcomed and tolerated, whether Christian or not. Most everyone, I believe, agrees with me, and I only wish our illustrious mayor and governor would welcome everyone to the state, not just people that share their religious background. Maybe, someday they will get some religious tolerance and think of all of their citizens.

-- Geoff Kramer

Colorado Springs

One good egg

This is an open letter of thanks to City Councilman Richard Skorman for welcoming members of the Atheist Alliance to their convention in Colorado Springs.

After Gov. Bill Owens and Mayor Lionel Rivera refused to sign a letter of welcome to the Alliance, Mr. Skorman showed up to express his personal welcome.

None of us should be surprised that this story was picked up by the Associated Press without comment, but leaving no doubt, once again, about the provincial peculiarities and religious bigotry of the conservative right.

Throughout his time on the council, Mr. Skorman has consistently voted his conscience against the partisan majority. His unerring moral compass and consistent fair-mindedness continue to remind me what it really means to be free in America.

-- W. Dean Morgan

Colorado Springs

Flower power

Re: Cara DeGette's Public Eye from last week: You had me ROFLMAO (rolling on the floor laughing my ass off) with your listing council people and their respective flowers!

Thanks for the laugh, and the insight.

-- Thomas McCullock

Colorado Springs

Weiss is losing it

I am very sad and disheartened to find out that Rich Tosches did not replace John Weiss as publisher, as the latter clearly seems to be losing it.

In his April 7 publisher's note, Weiss wrote: "We still live in the greatest democracy on earth, where consumers and citizens still rule. "

What the hell are you smoking???

I guess the manifestation of such ruling is that places like the Chinook Bookshop are being replaced by Barnes & Noble and that Wal-Mart is killing mom-and-pop shops everywhere.

If that's an expression of democracy, I can do without it.

As to the first half of that statement, I doubt seriously it was true 10 or 15 years ago, but it most certainly is absolutely wrong since the coronation of Bush and his axis of evil and the passing of the PATRIOT Act. Don't you read your own shit, mon? I mean you state on the same page that five behemoths control about half (make that 80 percent) of America's media. How do these statements jibe?

And talking about April Fools' jokes -- nobody said anything about Al Franken's piece in the April 1 edition. He similarly seems to have lost it. Guess he was so overtaken by self-importance after being asked to entertain the troops and getting a medal that he forgot his liberal Jewish upbringing. "God bless America" every night?

Has it ever occurred to you that this is one of the most arrogant things around? I mean, why America, why not every country and everybody? This is like the embedded priests blessing their respective armies before the battle and telling them that God is with them, on both sides, right before they go out trying to annihilate each other.

I repeat -- you guys have lost it. Now go back and find it and stop writing this nonsense.

-- Peter Brebach

Manitou Springs

Breach of ethics

Your March 11 news article about Congressman Joel Hefley was a succinct snapshot of the stench in Congress.

You people do a great job at the Colorado Springs Independent. It's comforting to know that there are real reporters/journalists still around.

-- Denis Hanlon

Colorado Springs

World-class columnists

Although I moved from Colorado Springs a number of years ago and have exchanged the little city by Pikes Peak with San Francisco, I do check in regularly with the CS Indy. I enjoy its "conservative" liberalism. I know, that term must hurt. In Colorado Springs, even the liberals are really conservatives. Must be the Peak.

I remember you back when I had an office next to Poor Richard's and you were planning your first issue. You've come a long way, and congratulations. Along those lines, I also want to congratulate you on getting Rich Tosches on your staff. Reading his articles in the Gazette was the only thing I read in the Gazette when I was in the Springs on business. Now I have no reason to read it at all when I'm there (also considering that my hotel has complimentary copies of the Rocky Mountain News and not the Gazette).

Given that there might be more than one of us in this wide world who keeps tabs on the Indy, but doesn't happen to live in the Springs anymore and can't get a copy of the paper, might you consider your columnists having e-mailed subscriptions? I know, much of the scope of the Indy is local, but the insights of some of your writers are truly global and as valid as anything we can read on the NYT Online, WSJ Online, SFGate Online, or L.A. Times Online. Consider me your first subscriber, should you decide to do it.

-- Rob Warren

San Francisco, Calif.

Editor's note: Thanks for the recommendation. Meanwhile, our columnists can be read online weekly at

www.csindy.com , including those archived back to the summer of 1999.

Pot calls kettle

That Tosches is not the new Indy publisher comes as no surprise. But, let me get this straight: There are things printed in the Independent we're supposed to believe are true?

-- Michael Salkind

Colorado Springs

Editor's note: Mr. Salkind is an occasional Independent contributor -- and a lawyer.

A friendly home

I can't tell you how happy I am to see that Rich Tosches has found a new and friendlier home. I've been reading some of the comments and am encouraged. Rich Tosches is a friend and the treatment he received at the "Gazelle" is unforgivable.

Since I don't read the Gazette nor do I watch any of the local TV newscasts (for obvious reasons), I just heard about this great transition. I'm off now to subscribe for home delivery of the Independent.

-- Linda Mills

Colorado Springs

Checking the obits

Glad to see Rich Tosches at the Colorado Springs Independent. Now my only reason for reading the Gazette online is to check the obituary column.

-- Troy Thomas

Barnett, Mo.

Twice the volume

The Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) envisions eight lanes of highway cutting through the heart of Colorado Springs, carrying nearly twice the volume of cars that I-25 carries now.

Why? Well, gee, we all know that I-25 is congested for four hours per day, during rush hour. What else can we do?

For one thing, we could start thinking about creating real alternatives for getting around this town and for moving along the Front Range.

And how about managing the peak flow of traffic during rush hour? This isn't just a problem on I-25 but also on all major arterials. It has been shown time and again that accommodating the peak by expanding roads and highways does nothing but encourage more traffic.

The city should be working with companies to stagger work times, offer vanpooling, and create incentives for employees to use alternatives. This plan affects everyone because when those cars aren't on the highway, they are in our neighborhoods.

It is time we join together to create a vision for Colorado Springs that is people-friendly, not just car-friendly.

We should spend no more money on highway expansion until we have a comprehensive transportation plan for the city that includes alternative modes of transport. There is a public hearing on the highway expansion proposal from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. at the Le Baron Hotel just off I-25 at the Bijou Street exit on April 22, Earth Day.

What better way to celebrate Earth Day than to speak out for the future of Colorado Springs?

-- Nancy Strong and Michael Smart

Colorado Springs

Bush's careless war

An open letter to President Bush:

I want you to know that I support our troops, but I no longer support you as a constituent. I am so grieved and disappointed in you; it brings tears to my eyes every time I see you on television or in print.

My son has joined the Marines and will attend basic training right out of high school this fall. I am incredibly proud of him for wanting to defend his country, but he may become one of those dead Marines or infantry soldiers I read about so often. For what? Not our freedom. Not our defense. That excuse is a sham. Did you forget about Afghanistan? About Osama bin Laden? And where are those weapons of mass destruction?

Have you given any thought to your careless war? What those young men and women are losing? A future? Not for them. No right to pursuit of happiness. No family. No children. No grandchildren. Parents losing sons and daughters. Children losing fathers and mothers. Husbands, wives and lovers losing the light of their lives. Dreams blown away like smoke in the wind, on the smoking barrels of rockets and grenades, thrown by a people you say want to be free, people that obviously don't want to be freed by America.

But I guess that means nothing to someone in your shoes. Son of a wealthy man, ruler of the free world, oil baron, sitting in a lovely oval office, able to dictate orders and send people to their deaths without a qualm in the world. Do you realize that 40 soldiers have been killed in the last week?

Jesus would never, ever, have done that. I hope the people wake up and vote you out, and if not, I can take comfort in the fact that our government limits presidential terms of service to eight years. Thank god. Our young men and women don't deserve this. The honorable President Reagan and your own father were much better presidents than this.

Until I see improvement in your job performance, I am no longer a Republican; I will vote Democrat or Libertarian from now on.

-- Dorothy Wilson

Colorado Springs

A trust violated

How many more Americans must die in Iraq before the leaders of our country are called to account for the horrible mess they have gotten us into?

The degree of hubris and arrogance displayed by the Bush administration when it justified the invasion and occupation of Iraq as the central front in the war on terror is breathtaking. Besides the promised weapons of mass destruction, they said that if we remade Iraq in our image the problem in the Middle East would resolve itself and we would soon see a domino effect of democracies spreading throughout the region.

Can it be that the Iraqi people really do not want us to decide what type of nation they will become? Should we really be surprised that many of them are rebelling against the occupation of a Western power? Was it really that long ago that our leaders told us we would be cheered and welcomed as liberators?

I voted for President Bush because my biggest concern, as a retired military officer, has always been the defense of this nation. I sincerely believed he would surround himself with a team of far-seeing, sophisticated men and women who could guide us safely through these troubled times.

It now seems apparent that the "Bush Team" is simply not capable of understanding and winning this new type of war. The widespread rebellion in Iraq strongly suggests that we are making more enemies than friends in that war-torn country, and the troubles in the Middle East seem worse than ever. It is hard to see how we will prevail in a global conflict that is sure to last for a generation.

Finally, and most importantly, I believe our leaders should only get one chance when it comes to the lives of the men and women in our armed forces that have been entrusted to their care. They have to get it right, period. War is too horrible, and it must always be an absolute last resort.

An unnecessary war of choice, justified primarily by ideology, is absolutely unforgivable. It no longer matters whether this administration simply misjudged the situation or whether they intentionally "shaded" the intelligence. In the final analysis, they got the most important questions wrong, and hence, they can longer be trusted to lead this nation.

While we do not know for sure what a Kerry administration would bring us, we have no doubt, now, about the ineptitude of the Bush administration.

-- William Thomas

Colorado Springs

Cara DeGette's column, Public Eye, does not appear this week. It will return next week.

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