Thursday's lead letter to the editor ("Restricting rights is the issue") noted that U.S. District Judge Wilhelmina Wright ruled against Gov. Tim Walz in the Northland Baptist Church case. True, but that point needs context — and there is more to the case than that one ruling.
The case challenges executive orders that were issued in June 2020. One limited attendance at worship services. As Judge Wright explained, well before then, the Eighth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which includes Minnesota, had issued a ruling broadly permitting state action during the COVID-19 pandemic, even if such action impacted some constitutional liberties. However, in November 2020, a per curiam ruling of the Supreme Court in Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn v. Cuomo changed the analysis specifically as to church closings. Thus the governor's action was well-grounded when taken, although Judge Wright followed newer precedent in allowing the lawsuit to proceed.
In addition, a fair summary of the case would also note Wright's rulings as to the claims by several small-business owners who challenged executive orders limiting their operations. She dismissed their claims in the case as unfounded in the law of equal protection or unlawful taking of private property.
As we citizens assess the performance of our governor and his legal team during this uniquely challenging time, we should seek out the full, detailed story.
Deborah A. Schmedemann, Minneapolis
The writer is professor emerita at Mitchell Hamline School of Law.
Balanced bills for a divided country
It's so rich that now, with the slimmest margin possible, the Democrats want to end the filibuster. The idea, as Sen. Amy Klobuchar suggests, that the filibuster has become more abused is laughable when considered that the Senate Democrats have been the ones using and abusing it for the last four years. How about, instead, trying to work with the loyal opposition?
The Senate is equally divided. The House has the slimmest majority it's had in decades. Maybe, just maybe, we are a nation equally divided and we need to govern in such a manner. That means from the middle. Not the left, not the right, where the loudest minority is (think the Twitter-sphere). But the center, where the quiet, busy majority lives, breathes and feels the effect of the laws passed by the slimmest majority that will also affect the other half of folks who didn't vote for them. Compromise isn't a four-letter word, but it's treated like it is.
Gail Mathews, Apple Valley
Believe us, there's a problem
" 'It's two different worlds' " about how Derek Chauvin's trial is viewed in small towns (front page, April 5) brings up so many things that I want to share with my fellow Minnesotans who live in small towns. I'm a white, 50-something dad from Minneapolis. I've witnessed mistreatment of Black people by police. Not always — there are so many great cops — but enough to recognize a persistent problem. I don't know a single person who thinks all Minneapolis police are the enemy, but almost everyone agrees that there are serious problems, which are excessive use of force against Blacks by some cops, a "blue wall" of silence when an incident occurs, and a repeating lack of consequences/change.
Rural Minnesotans have surely heard similar sentiments from others in the Twin Cities area. What I can't understand is, if they're not living it, why are so many skeptical about what we're telling them? (In the story, they "don't understand the fallout after [Floyd's] death.") I don't know what it's like to live in a small town where the sheriff knows everyone, but I believe what Waseca residents said about their experiences with law enforcement because they're the ones living it.
I wish people in small towns and rural areas would ask themselves: After the devastation and fear we city people experienced during the riots last year, why would we continue to protest (and be ready to do so again) if we didn't see a huge problem? We are the ones who suffered during the riots, not you. Please believe our experiences. (Also, please remember that much of the damage last year was caused by out-of-towners who came to riot, not residents who protested. We merely carried signs and are far more afraid of rioting and destruction in Minneapolis and St. Paul than you are.)
Jarred Jackson, Minneapolis
• • •
The April 5 article digs into why small-town views of law enforcement differ from those of many in Minneapolis. It was a start, but only if you don't dig deeper can you say the "differences around police-community relationships are easy to explain."
The officers in the article live in town and are known to most of the small community. Deputy Doug Gerdts apparently told the reporter that "anonymity breeds mistrust." However, more completely, anonymity breeds lack of accountability, and lack of accountability breeds misconduct. Mistrust follows. Not all law enforcement officers are like Gerdts, who tries to "do my best as a caretaker for the community" or else his mom will hear "something in church about her son being a jerk."
A critical factor in the different views of law enforcement is not even mentioned until late in the article when the reporter meekly offers that "one other factor may be race." May be? This factor was not explored in the published interviews. Waseca County is 95% white, and the reporter did not mention any discussions with people of color in the county to obtain their perspectives and attitudes regarding local law enforcement.
The reporter might have posed a hypothetical to the local people he did interview to explore the role of race in their attitudes toward law enforcement: "What would your attitude be toward local police if a local white farmer was arrested for passing a counterfeit $20 bill and the African American sheriff who commuted to Waseca killed the large, handcuffed arrestee by kneeling on his neck for more than 9 minutes while other farmers and townspeople stood by and pleaded with him to stop?"
And then follow up by asking: "What if this was not the first time a nonresident officer of color had killed a white local suspect under questionable circumstances? Would that affect your impression of local law enforcement?"
The responses would have added insights and depth to the digging.
Brad Engdahl, Golden Valley
BORDER WITH MEXICO
We treated POWs better than this
The situation at our country's southern border is, along with any other description, unfortunate and rather predictable. We can't directly blame President Joe Biden or any recent president for the oppression from which would-be immigrants are fleeing, the U.S. demand for drugs and the need for migrant labor in the U.S. Without a congressional immigration policy that addresses these issues and includes a true, navigable path to citizenship, the president must make his best decisions.
In "Behind Barbed Wire," author Anita Albrecht Buck describes the U.S. internment camps that held about 500,000 Italian, German and other prisoners of war during the final two years of World War II. About 20 such camps were located in Minnesota. The prisoners were provided housing, clothing and food comparable to that given to U.S. troops; reading materials; recreational facilities; religious services, and even education that earned university credit. According to the 1929 Geneva Convention, prisoners could not be forced to work on projects that benefited the host country's war effort, so many of these POWs in Minnesota worked in canneries, on farms or in logging camps.
Perhaps it's a result of the poisonous atmosphere that is politics today, but if we can humanely provide for so many enemy troops, what is it that prevents us from caring for 10 or 20 or 30,000 children who seek only to escape hopelessness and find a better life here?
Loren W. Brabec, Braham, Minn.
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