In response to the Rev. Edward Holland's July 3 ("We must not weaponize religious beliefs") commentary contending that a new proposed rule by the Department of Health and Human Services will be used to "weaponize" religious beliefs, I would submit that nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, this new rule simply clarifies that medical professionals retain their full complement of civil liberties and thus cannot be forced by the government to perform or be complicit in actions that violate their consciences and/or religious beliefs.

While initially claiming to "affirm the dignity … of every individual," Holland promptly denies that same dignity to a whole class of citizens, namely, those who serve us as medical professionals. Sadly, he does so by mischaracterizing the doctor/patient relationship, not as a relationship of mutual trust and respect, but as an ominous power struggle always tilted in favor of the medical provider. Then, based on this distorted view, he proceeds to assert that government must always give priority to the dignity of the patient even at the cost of denying the First Amendment rights of religion and conscience to the provider.

The repeated and dismissive reference to the "so-called rights" of providers is disturbing and certainly not in keeping with the "spirit of love" invoked by Holland. Indeed, I would call on all people, especially people of faith, to speak up in support of the new rule, which is to say, in support of the religious and conscience rights that are guaranteed to every American.

THE Rev. Fredric Hinz, Gaylord, Minn.

PLEDGE OF ALLEGIANCE

The freedom the pledge celebrates includes the freedom to not recite it

I am an 80-year-old white man living in Edina. I served in the U.S. Army and was proud to be the flag carrier in several parades. I have always respected many of the values that the American flag represents.

I am saddened to hear that there are Americans who don't respect one of the values so basic to the American way of life. The thought that some people would disparage others who prefer not to recite the Pledge of Allegiance, or to force schoolchildren to recite it, goes against what our flag stands for. All of us have the right to take advantage of the freedoms that so many Americans have died fighting for.

Those who believe that attendees of schools, court proceedings or City Council meetings must recite the pledge, or any other expression of so-called patriotism, should heed the words of former Supreme Court Justice Robert Jackson writing for the majority of the court in a case where a school tried to force students to recite the pledge:

"If there is any fixed star in our constitutional constellation, it is that no official, high or petty, can prescribe what shall be orthodox in politics, nationalism, religion, or other matters of opinion or force citizens to confess by word or act their faith therein."

Ron DeHarpporte, Edina

FIREWORKS

The battle of the 'boom'

No, no, a thousand times no to legalizing "aerial and audible" fireworks ("Fireworks talk makes big noise at Capitol," July 6). This is one time where the lesser of the two evils is to let people buy these things in adjoining states and keep not enforcing the law. As abhorrent as that is, I can't imagine what it would be like if those kinds of fireworks were legal!

I live on the North Side and for weeks before and after July 4th, we are plagued with the sounds of fireworks. On the 4th, the activity starts before dusk and continues until after midnight. The noise is so loud and constant that it sounds as if we're in the midst of having our city bombed. Ask any North Sider who doesn't set these off, and you'd know I'm not exaggerating! Our pets are traumatized, not to mention humans with PTSD or other issues. The air is so smoky, you can't see across the street, and the smell lingers through the following morning. Last but not least, the mess that's often left behind for the rest of us to clean up is frustrating and adds insult to injury.

Please, please, please don't legalize additional fireworks. Most of our cities have displays of "aerial and audible" fireworks that everyone can enjoy. It's bad enough in our neighborhoods as it is with those that are currently legal, and people who want the others seem to have no problem getting them.

Don't help them make our neighborhoods war zones any more than they already are!

Jeanne Torma, Minneapolis

WORLD CUP REACTIONS

Politics distract from the game

Although not a big soccer fan, I watched the U.S. women's team in the soccer World Cup played in France. The team was successful on the pitch; they competed hard and won.

I was disappointed, however, that one team member, co-captain Megan Rapinoe, refused to fully participate with the team in our national anthem prior to games. (Opinion editor's note: Rapinoe did not sing or put her hand to her heart during the national anthem in France.) That demonstration seemed peculiar when compared with how players representing other nations handled the situation when their country's national anthem was played.

My view is participants representing our country in international sporting competition should not use it as a platform to make political statements. On game day, be apolitical. Just play the game. That's why we watch.

Bob Jentges, North Mankato, Minn.

• • •

The spectacular U.S. women's soccer team would be kicked out of the Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference.

Jack Priest, Minneapolis

• • •

Equity in sports coverage needs a better look. Going through the July 7 Sports section reveals a consistent bias in sports reporting. Here are examples in the Star Tribune:

• Women's World Cup final was on the last page when a not-major golf tournament got four pages.

• The NBA, which is not in season, got more space than the in-season WNBA and the current major event in Wimbledon.

• U.S. men's Gold Cup finals were only mentioned briefly.

With a top Sports section in the nation, the Star Tribune should be leading in equitable coverage of the most relevant and major events and equal consideration for all sports and genders.

Bob and Bobbi Hoebelheinrich, Eden Prairie

• • •

Yay, they won! The U.S. women's national soccer team has won the Women's World Cup for the second time in a row. They are magnificent competitors.

Let's invite them to Minnesota to play at Allianz Field so we can show them some love. They have earned continuing accolades.

Mary McLeod, St. Paul

JULY 4TH CELEBRATION

Some muddled history by Trump

I don't understand why everyone is laughing at President Donald Trump's speech on July 4th. Doesn't everyone remember from history class when General George Washington led his troops across the Delaware River to the battle of Philadelphia International Airport? The front line at the baggage claim carousel six was the deadliest for both the Union and the Confederacy!

Avi Rosenman, Minneapolis

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