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Mailbag

Issue: "Year in Review 2002," Dec. 28, 2002

Role limits

Thank you for highlighting the recent "rift" between the president and certain Christian leaders regarding the characterization of Islam in the war on terrorism ("A little more conversation," Nov. 30). Rather than perceiving this as a disagreement, however, informed citizens (and Christians in particular) should view this as a function of the distinct roles and authorities of the church and the state. President Bush correctly stated that the United States is not waging war against Islam, but church leaders were equally correct in their critical assessment of Islamic doctrine. Both the church and state should pursue their God-given duties with all diligence and without apology, while recognizing and respecting the limits of their authority. - Thadd Buzan, Springfield, Va.

Your article on unions and dues was very timely. I am a graduate student at the University of Illinois, and we had elections this week on whether or not graduate assistants preferred to be represented by a union. I wouldn't mind paying dues to an organization that limits itself to improving working conditions, but I do not want my money to be used to support an agenda to which I am morally opposed. - Anita Saalfeld, Urbana, Ill.

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Thank you for the articles about union membership. I am a seasonal worker with the Internal Revenue Service and ended up conforming to the others and joining the National Treasury Employees Union. I have since received mail telling me what a great guy Chaka Fattah (the U.S. congressman from Philadelphia, Pa.) is. Right now I am working for the U.S. Army, and I still pray that God gives me the opportunity, faith, and self-control to do something other than work for the IRS. - Tom Muldoon, Philadelphia, Pa.

Mr. Thomas's comment that government agencies would not hire his well-qualified friend because it would embarrass the mediocre is an insult to those of us with A averages, master's degrees, and high work ethics. The government needs contractors, but their use must be balanced with effective management, technical oversight, cost control, and the need to retain "institutional knowledge" (something often lost after several contractors go through the same job). Government workers can respond to the challenge of fair competition and would welcome Mr. Thomas's review of the process to see if it is fair to all. I am confident that those of us who "really want to work" will meet the challenge. - Carl Wylie, Annandale, Va.

Beck up

As a member of the Teamsters from '92 to '94 in Watertown, Wis., I was verbally informed by the local union representative that I had absolutely no say in where my union dues went ("Look (out) for the union label," Nov. 30). I was never informed of my Beck rights. As a result, I supported Bill Clinton's campaign in total opposition to my wishes. When UPS hired me, I asked if I could not join the union. Your article would have helped me immensely, and I think it will be a great help to many union members today. - Robert J. Meredith, Golden Valley, Minn.

My husband and I once thought it would be a good idea, albeit impractical, for pastors and missionaries to form a union in order to protect themselves and their families from congregational and elder board abuse. One pastor we know led a very difficult congregation for seven years. After getting the boot just before Christmas, in desperation he took a job in a local grocery store. He found it humiliating at first, but eventually his entire family became eligible for affordable dental and medical insurance through his union. It is odd-and worse, a serious indictment-that a pastor found better compensation and more humane treatment from a big bad union than he did from a congregation and ministry organization. - Arlene Maass, Buffalo Grove, Ill.

Feds respond

Cal Thomas's column trashing federal employees was unfair and in poor taste ("Bidding war," Nov. 30). Apparently on the basis of his undocumented assessment of the views of "most people on the outside of government," one bad experience at a federal office, and one friend's difficulty in getting a federal job, Cal Thomas has determined that federal employees are lazy, incompetent oafs. In my experience, federal employees are as hard-working and as conscientious as private sector employees. The public perception is different because extensive regulations and paperwork and multiple levels of bureaucracy can make work slow. As for his friend, send him my way. We are always looking for people of that description, but usually can't get them because the pay in the private sector is so much better, and they don't have to put up with unfair critics like Mr. Thomas. - Gary O'Keefe, Canton, Mich.

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