LETTERS: Comet February 28
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THE letters published in the Comet on Thursday, February 28.
GAY MARRIAGE DEBATE
SIR - The debate regarding same sex marriage rages on, and shows no sign of abating, if the tone of the letters printed in your newspaper is any measure.
Many are worried about the prospect of same gender couples being allowed to marry in church, but I suspect that in reality, the numbers choosing to do so will be very small. There may be one or two who will choose to do so, if for no other reason than to make a point. But, does it really matter?
There are vast numbers of heterosexual couples who marry in church every year, for whom a church wedding is little more than window dressing. It was a situation I witnessed many times when I was a chorister. Couples who had never been to church in their lives would attend to have their Banns read, and continue attending church for two or three months after the wedding, and then vanish.
I suspect that the priests and ministers now crying “For shame” are well aware of this scenario, and have themselves officiated at many of these ceremonies, and still they rattle their thuribles and bash their pulpits and scream “Hell fire and damnation” at the thought of same sex marriage.
How many of them have put the same time and effort into protesting against the abhorrent treatment of the sick, disabled and their carers, as they have protesting against same sex marriage?
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It is about time they learned the meaning of the word perspective, especially when they know that there are quite a few serving priests and ministers who are themselves in same sex relationships.
Sir - The good pastors of Baldock respond to a number of points in my letter of February 14. They rightly point out that the issue is one of authority.
They state that “the Bible does claim to be the Word of God for all time and for all societies”; I am interested to know which particular verses justify this. I understand that it claims to be the ultimate authority for Christians (and there are various statements throughout the New Testament that confirm this), but I do not see any that make it binding on non-Christians. On the other hand, the Qur’an does make the claim to universality, does claim to be directly inspired, does claim to be the ultimate revelations, yet I suspect that our pastors will not accept its authority over them. Why not?
Their enthusiasm for etymology, which they played as a trump card in defining “matrimony”, then appears to desert them. I referred to “their cult”, which they choose to interpret in a pejorative sense. The word “cult” simply means practice or observance, often with religious overtones. It is quite usual in Roman history to talk of the “cult of Mithras” or the “cult of Isis”; within their own religion, it is quite normal to talk of the “cult of the Virgin Mary” and so on. The word lies behind such noble concepts as culture and cultivation. If they wish to play the insulted religionist, then that is their right, but it is entirely accurate to use the word “cult” in the way I did. The question of the status of Jesus, which they see as central to the debate, invokes a version of Lewis’s trilemma (the “lunatic, liar or god” argument), a logically worthless argument that creates a false dilemma by asserting without argument that only three answers are possible. Yet the status of Jesus is irrelevant to the debate about equal marriage, unless one is already a Christian. To non-adherents, this is just plain irrelevant. There are gay Jews, Hindus, Buddhists, atheists, Wiccans, to whom the status of Jesus is supremely uninteresting. Never mind that “our nation’s Christian foundations” (the words of an anonymous letter writer, not the pastors of Baldock) provide the context for our contemporary society: we now live in a pluralistic world, where the medieval shackles of a single state-imposed religion have been lifted and we are free to follow our own convictions within the law of the land.
There is a debate to be had, but it is one that involves human rights, not subservience to religious writings; it involves human dignity, not unproven claims to divine authority; it involves human equality, not the singling out of one group for different treatment. Try replacing the words “gay” or “homosexual” in any of the letters braying about how marriage for gay people is against the writers’ religious beliefs with “black”, “Irish” or “disabled” and you will see the appalling levels of prejudice being expressed. It seems that this is the last surviving prejudice that it is acceptable to articulate openly; I am unsurprised that arguments from religious scruple are used to justify it.
Keith J Fitzpatrick- Matthews
SIR - The current horsemeat scandal is only the tip of the iceberg. Most of the meat in our supermarkets gives us no information about the welfare of the animals, of course the higher welfare products carry labels like ‘free range’ or ‘organic’ but other products offer little or no information on how the animals lived and died. This means that pork could come from pigs who have had their tails docked without anaesthetic, lived their lives in barren pens on slippery slatted floors and have never been given a straw area to sleep on. The average chicken could be one of the 27 per cent that Defra estimate go lame before they get sent to slaughter-and that’s an awful lot of birds in pain. Around 200 million a year.
I think it’s high time we were given a window into the lives of the animals we eat. I’m supporting Compassion in World Farming’s campaign to get compulsory labelling of all animal products, so we can know how and where those animals were reared, how long they were transported for and how they were killed.
Sir - Heathcote students and teachers will be disappointed that you did not cite their excellent results (63 per cent) in your article ‘School league table shows divide’. Heathcote School closed in August following the local authority’s decision to create much larger schools as the way forward for Stevenage. In its final years, under the leadership of Edward Gaynor and Mike Stevens and with a committed experienced staff, the final cohort of 106 pupils were rewarded with the best results in the school’s history.
Mr Westergreen-Thorne notes that the league tables do not tell the complete picture of the achievements of the students. The students worked extremely hard with strong parental support. It is not always easy to keep your child in a closing school and the staff strived to make this a special year. Students were involved throughout in their learning and the social life of the year.
Each and every Heathcote student left with five or more GCSEs. More than one in five students could be designated as disadvantaged but they achieved 57 per cent A*-C. Fortunately, the local authority maintained its financial support for the school which meant smaller classes and individualised approaches to students? learning. It was a pity that such a successful school closed. We wish all those students well in the future.
(Former Director KS4)
SIR - With reference to your article titled ‘Woman’s 40-minute wait for ambulance’ from (Thursday, February 7) and a follow up (Thursday, February 14) we wanted to give some context regarding our responses to patients.
We endeavour to reach all patients as quickly as we can, and often we reach someone much more quickly than expected. On occasions, this isn’t as achievable as we would like due to high call demand. When the 999 call was made for this particular patient, it was triaged as a ‘Green 2’ call, which means it was serious but not life-threatening and we need to be there within 30 minutes. Our crew arrived four minutes afterwards.
On this day and every day, crews are attending people who have had heart attacks, strokes, are unconscious and so on, which requires an eight-minute response. Non life-threatening calls therefore have to be prioritised, allowing for the most seriously ill patients to be seen first.
I especially wanted to clarify how the location of an ambulance station relates to our responses. Our ambulances are often leaving a hospital when they are dispatched to a patient, or might be going to a patient but diverted to a more seriously ill person anywhere in a community; crews physically being dispatched from a station isn’t as common as people are led to believe, as they’re often all already out and about.
Anita welcomes a meeting with the Trust and MPs and I will be making contact with her in order to support this. In the meantime, I would like to point readers to our Right Call information on www.eastamb.nhs.uk which helps explain the triage process and gives some FAQs and mythbusters.
East of England Ambulance
SIR - I am expecting an appointment to see a cardiologist at Lister, so disappointed to read that we may have to go to Watford. I tried the Traveline website to see how I would get there by public transport, and their answer is train to Finsbury Park, underground to Euston, train to Watford Junction, then I have to find the hospital. This seems a pretty awful journey for someone who may be seriously ill. It seems to me that concentrating services reduces costs for the NHS but increases difficulties and costs for patients and their visitors.
Sir - Re: Traffic Information Signs, (Comet, February 21 2013).
This looks like another pointless toy for the highway planning boys to fiddle with from the comfort of an office somewhere. These systems rarely, if ever, are any use (look at all the useless information on the equivalent motorway systems), where is the traffic supposed to go instead? The timing is interesting, no doubt we are at the ‘use it or lose it’ stage of the financial year, and this futile proposal appears to be a way of squandering budget. As already pointed out, £200,000 plus would be much better spent on repairing potholes and other worthwhile activities.
Sir - I am, as I am sure are many local residents, sad to see the loss of two more Comet country pubs with the demolition of the former Orchard and Anvil in Nightingale Road, Hitchin and the closure and sale of the former Green Man pub in Ickleford.
The loss of The Green Man is particularly significant as it represents the loss of another village pub, a further rural pub was recently closed in Weston. These establishments provide a focal point and serve an important social need in these villages, but it seems they cannot survive in the current financial climate with only the local trade to support them, what is needed to ensure the survival of these institutions is a greater client base, requiring them to look further afield than the local area for customers. This presents a problem for these isolated pubs as it is difficult for the customers to reach them due to the lack of any public transport provision and current drink driving regulations.
To enable customers to visit, and assist the survival of these much loved institutions, I would suggest that at certain quiet times, and only for the more experienced drivers, after 11pm at weekends for example, that rural roads and some arterial routes be exempted from the application of drink driving regulations. This would enable customers to travel to these establishments, and overcome the significant problem of the lack of public transport which is a factor in the demise of the village pub.
To explore this potentially positive plan to help these communities, our new Police and Crime Commissioner could perhaps take this on board and convene local discussions with publicans, parish councils and police to explore on which routes and at what times this might most effectively be implemented. These realistic measures could ideally be introduced as a local informal initiative which would not require any change in legislation if this pragmatic approach to the difficulties of these vital local businesses was taken by these authorities. I would like to look forward to seeing some progress towards this in the near future.
SIR - Proposal re 10,700 homes in North Hertfordshire - Letchworth Garden City. I went to the drop-in exhibition this week in the Grange, Letchworth Garden City.
There must have been well over 300 visitors. It is a pity that only two hours on a freezing Monday night were given to residents to have their say about the future of the first Garden City.
It was so crowded that looking at the plans was extremely difficult.
There were not enough display copies of the ‘infrastructure delivery plans’ for the hundreds of interested residents to look at. As we all know a lot of older people don’t use computers.
Aren’t people like this excluded from in the consultation process?
I had to leave at about 7pm but many people were still streaming towards the centre. Shouldn’t this exhibition be shown in central Letchworth - and for a decent length of time?
Then people really can have their say about the future of their First Garden City.
Dr Sieglinde DLABAL
Letchworth Garden City
Sir - In your issue dated February 21 you printed an article “waiting restrictions set for busy road”.
Can anybody explain to me how planning permission was ever granted to Tesco to open a ‘Tesco Express’ on that corner, where there is no provision for customer parking, and I have witnessed a Tesco delivery lorry making a delivery to the store and parked in Walsworth Road?
Now there seem to be concerns by all the emergency services. Were they not consulted before planning permission was given for this totally unsuitable development?
Sir - I travelled to Luton Airport today to collect a relative and was so ashamed to admit I live in this area. Who is responsible for cleaning the embankments of the A505 between Hitchin and Luton?
The amount of rubbish dumped at the side of the road is just plain dangerous. Items like the packaging from a washing machine, two huge pieces of white polystyrene that could easily blow on to the road and cause a horrific accident. From what I saw today it’s very clear that no cleaning has been done in several months.
Why not use those serving community service to clean these embankments? Our road tax is high enough in the first place, but to completely waste the money on things like road signs when the roads themselves are in such a state is a joke.
Someone needs to clean this major road before someone gets hurt or even killed while trying to avoid debris that could be blown on to the road. It’s a very serious matter and I feel this needs to be made a priority for the highways agency responsible for this section of high speed road.
Sir - On Saturday at 11.15pm my 16-year-old daughter fell off her moped. She was turning from Great North Road onto North Road in Stevenage.
A driver in a white car in his 20s saw her on the ground, turned around came back and helped her up and offered to get her medical help. She was in shock and said that she just wanted to go home. The driver who was on his way home to Baldock then followed her to the Oval in Stevenage to ensure she got home. She tried to give him £5 towards his fuel as it was all she had on her and he turned her down. I really would love to find this man to thank him so much for helping her, can you help me please?
Mrs Chandra Green
Sir - On Saturday, my wife and I attended the Settlement Players’ production of ‘Lord Savile’s Crime’ at their theatre in Letchworth and, for me, there is only one word to describe the performance, ‘Excellent’.
Well done all of you, on stage and backstage.
Sir - Examining the details of the proposed areas of expansion for the future housing needs of Stevenage, I was surprised that the area around Warren Green was included. This was the scene of Hertfordshire’s worst-ever air disaster when, in August 1944, two American B17 bombers collided whilst gathering in formation for a bombing raid in Europe. The wreckage of these aircraft, including their entire bomb-loads, cascaded down over a wide area around Warren Green. What considerations are going to be made regarding the search and removal of the threat of a large number of unexploded bombs, which no doubt remain hidden around that area, prior to any development?