I respectfully disagree with the May 7 letter writer who states that the University of St. Thomas should have given volunteer credit to the student who volunteered at Planned Parenthood, and that adhering to rigid Catholic doctrine is a betrayal of UST's mission to value the fundamental compatibility of faith and reason.

The key is compatibility. Planned Parenthood teaches that the world's problems stem from lack of access to birth control, which is directly in opposition to Catholic teaching.

Note that the student is still allowed to volunteer there, just not receive academic credit for it. St. Thomas is still obliged to act as a Catholic voice in today's world while respecting academic freedom. Allowing academic credit for volunteering at an abortion provider would be the real betrayal of UST's mission.

Catholic institutions are called to be a light to the world, not to conform to whatever passing fancies this world has to offer.


An exceptional and living gift The founder of Habitat for Humanity, Millard Fuller, observed "American's love to give to things they can take a picture of." So it was exceptional to see the generous gift of $10 million by Eugene and Mary Frey to the University of St. Thomas for scholarships (Star Tribune, May 9).

Buildings will crumble and fall, but gifts that enhance the lives of young people will live on for many generations to come.


How Minnesota can influence the auto industry Chrysler just unveiled its "Let's Refuel America" program (Star Tribune, May 8). It gives buyers a card that allows them to purchase gasoline or diesel fuel for a mere $2.99 a gallon. Good for up to 12,000 miles, this sweet little benefit is designed to motivate people to invest in SUVs and other types of vehicles that aren't exactly known for fuel efficiency, such as the Jeep Commander.

This type of gasoline subsidy is not new to the U.S. auto industry. Who can forget the cash cards people received when they purchased a large gas guzzler? The cash card was pumped as a key to bringing Americans "energy independence."

While Japan, Europe and the rest of the world develop energy-efficient vehicles that get well over 35 miles to the gallon, it is clear the American auto industry will use its creativity to keep on designing and pushing large low-mileage vehicles. This shortsighted policy is bad for long-term economic reality, air quality and greenhouse gas reduction.

The Minnesota Legislature should join other states that have signed on to California mileage standards; clearly actions by the auto industry underscore the fact that this needed action won't happen without government intervention. Currently the Clean Cars Act is locked in committee in the Minnesota Senate and passage in the House remains tenuous. Please take the time to let your senator and representative know you want them to pass the Clean Cars Act (Senate File 481).


Playing politics with child safety It was with disgust and disappointment that I read that Minnesota legislators had once again opted not to upgrade the state's child passenger safety law because Gov. Tim Pawlenty believes the decision "ill-considered."

Minnesota's "current" law is 25 years old and only protects children up to age four because neither booster seats nor their known benefits existed in the early 1980s. A 2003 study by the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia reviewed 30,000 State Farm Insurance claims and determined that children between the ages of 4 and 8 are 59 percent less likely to be severely injured in a motor vehicle crash if they are riding in a booster seat, than are children who are riding in the seat belt alone. Booster seats are not car seats. They are merely inexpensive devices that allow a child to sit up higher in the car, so that the adult seat belt fits them properly. Thus, the child is being protected by the seat belt, instead of being injured by it, in a car crash.

Given that 43 other states in this country have already chosen to upgrade their child restraint laws to reflect current technology and best practice, it seems to me that the only ill-considered decision happening at the Legislature last week was on the part of the governor who chose to play politics with an important child safety law.


Obama explains, and America can be better for it Michael Gerson's criticism of Barack Obama as intellectually and ideologically elite (Opinion Exchange, May 9) reflects an endorsement for the dumbing down of America. Gerson chastises Obama's "arrogance of the academic" and criticizes Obama for trying to "explain and analyze."

Gerson's column, next to an article about the Minnesota Historical Society's display of an original copy of the Declaration of Independence, is an irony too juicy to pass up. I can see Gerson in 1776 criticizing the founding fathers in Philadelphia for being too intellectual. After all, they articulated their grievances and, in analytical fashion, explained and justified their revolution. These guys were out for change, big time.

Gerson is an effete, intellectual snob who is obligated to give us 500 words every few days. Obama is trying to secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, including food, shelter, health care, energy and real security in a tumultuous world now run by a president no one can accuse of being too intellectual.