GAY MARRIAGE

What's the right role for government, religion?

The religion-minded have every right to argue whatever position they believe, but I would caution them to be wary of just what it is they preach. Denying gay couples the right to marry is a denial of equality under the law ("Same-sex couples file action against marriage law," May 12). If we are to claim tradition's precedence over these rights, we must ask ourselves: What would Jesus do?

Would he deny his brothers and sisters the right to enter into one of society's great contracts? Would he deny them an institution that, statistically, makes people happier and healthier and increases life spans? Would he be able to accept so conspicuous a mode of discrimination?

Religion's role in society is a story of extremes, a long and varied history. At one moment, it will tell us both that the woman's role is in the home, submitting to her husband, and that women are equally deserving of societal recognition and the right to vote. It will simultaneously tell us that slavery is for the benefit of slaves and slave owners alike, and that slavery is an abomination against God.

Religion is at its best when it argues for the equality and dignity of all people -- when it is a positive force, opening doors and hearts. When we find our religion becoming a negative force -- when faith demands us to say no to our neighbors instead of yes -- we should reconsider what side we are truly on. We should remind ourselves that Jesus preached love and acceptance, not denial.

CONNOR GALLAGHER, ST. PAUL

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It is time for Minnesotans to recognize that government involvement in the institution of marriage is the problem. Everyone has the right to choose a partner in life. It shouldn't be up to government to determine the makeup of that choice. We need to repeal all aspects of marriage from government and leave it to the religious institutions. It is time to replace the marriage license with a partnership recognition certificate that will give all legal aspects that the current marriage license does.

CHRIS LUND, HAMBURG, MINN.

Catholic scandal

Acknowledgment from Pope welcome, if late

Finally, Pope Benedict acknowledges "sin inside the church" ("Pope directs focus to 'sin inside the church'," May 12). It took the church centuries to acknowledge its sin against Galileo and the Jews. Admission of sin is hard for the church -- which is also a sovereign state, a preserver of art treasures worth billions and a powerful presence in world politics.

That Benedict said the mea culpa that begins the Catholic Mass is indeed something.

MICHAEL ALLEN MIKOLAJCZAK, Minneapolis

BUDGET BATTLE

Tax hike plan reflective of taxable income

As a tax preparer, I am compelled to correct a common misconception held by state politicians, by a May 12 letter writer and now by the Wall Street Journal ("Democrats always want higher taxes," Opinion Exchange, May 13).

The misconception is usually a variation of this thought: "It would be unwise to raise taxes on incomes over $200,000 because that would include most farmers and small businesses. Because small business creates most jobs, to raise their taxes would be a jobs killer."

Taxpayers do not pay taxes on their income. Taxes are paid on taxable income, or income after tax deductions. A small business may have income of $500,000, but taxable income of less than $75,000. By the time a small business arrives at taxable income, it has already taken deductions for all business expenses, which include employee wages and all payroll expenses. If a small business has a taxable income of more than $200,000, that taxable income is no different from that of a wage-earner employee who has a taxable income above $200,000. By the time a small-business taxpayer arrives at taxable income, he or she has already hired (and will receive a tax deduction for) every employee needed. To reduce taxes at this point will neither encourage nor discourage small businesses to hire additional employees.

There is no rational explanation why a small-business owner should pay a lower tax rate on taxable income than a wage earner or investor or any other taxable income earner.

JOHN DEITERING, HOWARD LAKE, MINN.

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The Minnesota Republican and DFL leadership seem hell-bent on declaring themselves irrelevant to Minnesota's future.

My income is not even close to putting me in the DFL's proposed new top tax bracket, but even I would be willing to pay a percent or two more to guard Minnesota's future by educating our children, keeping our libraries open and providing humane care for our most vulnerable citizens. The DFL's tax-the-rich mantra is a deception that panders to a majority that want to think they shouldn't have to share the burden.

The no-new-taxes-ever -- no matter what the situation -- Republican governor more than matches the DFL in this game.

Neither side is facing the music. Real leaders could talk to us honestly about sharing the fiscal pain.

Heaven help us a year from now, when the state budget is projected to be even more desperate. Between now and then, we have a chance to elect real leaders.

J.H. FONKERT, ST. PAUL

Arizona

Yet another new law ups the ante on bigotry

Where is Arizona leading this nation? One wonders after reading the online story "Arizona governor signs bill targeting school district's ethnic studies program" (May 12). So Native Americans, African-Americans and, most pointedly, Mexican-Americans can no longer study their heritage in Arizona schools. According to Arizona's head of education, such study promotes hatred toward whites.

How much more bigoted and racist can that opinion be? Where is this country headed? Where is the sanity? How many more steps backward does Arizona have to take us?

JON ROEDER, ST. PAUL