My wife and I, like millions of viewers worldwide, watched the Miss Universe contest. We were appalled by the horrible way that it ended. How embarrassing for the pageant and for the contestants, but most of all for Miss Colombia. She was crowned, bannered and given flowers, only to be told in a most embarrassing way, in front of the world, that she was not Miss Universe. And how awkward Miss Philippines looked and felt while the crown and banner were removed from Miss Columbia and placed on her instead. No matter how much host Steve Harvey apologized for his error, there is absolutely no excuse for that ever happening. As a retired Twin Cities broadcaster, I found his excuse not professional in the least. He had the cue card in his hand with the correct information, yet made the verbal error. Not Miss Colombia's fault, not Miss Philippines' fault; Steve Harvey's fault. He should never be permitted to emcee the pageant again. There are many professional people better qualified to do so, and I would urge the pageant committee to move forward in selecting someone better next time.

Morton Garren, Minnetonka

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The main problem with beauty pageants is they don't know how to count. They count: winner, first runner-up, second runner-up, etc. First runner-up sounds better than second place. Then again, maybe we should all count like that. Saying that the Minnesota Vikings were first runner-up four times sounds much better than saying they were four-time Super Bowl losers. In a feel-good society, we should only have first runners-up. New counting system: winner, first runner-up, first runner-up to the first runner-up, first runner-up to the first runner-up to the first runner-up, etc.

Dan Kirk, Edina

BLACK LIVES MATTER

There was an inconsistency in the group's position on protest

Black Lives Matter Minneapolis has maintained that the Mall of America owes it a platform for protest. It has claimed this despite the mall's status as private property. Protest organizers have argued that by pursuing a restraining order preventing planned trespassing (an order upheld in part on Tuesday by a Hennepin County judge), mall management had somehow infringed upon free-speech rights.

Consider this. Black Lives Matter Minneapolis maintains a Facebook page that it uses to rally support for its cause. Comments raising reasoned concerns about the intersection of free speech and property rights have been deleted by the group, and certain commenters have been blocked from posting. Naturally, Black Lives Matter Minneapolis retains every right to moderate comments on its Facebook page. But isn't it hypocritical when a group that lays unauthorized claim to private venues in the name of "free speech" denies a platform of its own to others? If the Mall of America owed Black Lives Matter a protest venue, didn't Black Lives Matter owe the same to anyone who opposes its views? Or does this version of "free speech" only work one way?

The essence of property is access control. If you own a thing, you control who gets to use it and on what terms. Black Lives Matter clearly exercises such control over those things that it deems its own. Why doesn't it, in turn, respect the property claims of others?

Walter Hudson, Albertville, Minn.

The writer is vice chairman of the Republican Liberty Caucus of Minnesota.

TERRELL MAYES INVESTIGATION

It seems like a powerful gun must have been used

Wait! What kind of gun was this, that "a stray bullet" can penetrate the walls of a house? (" 'Who wants to tell me … they killed my child?' " Dec. 22.) Was the army shooting the day 3-year-old Terrell Mayes was killed? How can such armaments be available for nonmilitary use? What a conundrum. Oh, wait. The NRA says that's protected by the Constitution. Poor Terrell and his family. I guess it just can't be helped.

Patricia De Francis, St. Paul

ST. PAUL SCHOOLS

Negativity about Central High threatens to harm its purpose

I am a parent of two St. Paul Central High School children. Without question, I am dismayed by the harm a student caused to two of our exceptional faculty members. But I am equally dismayed at the relentless negative publicity that Central has endured without regard to the impact that this has had on the students.

Central is a nationally recognized senior high school. Our principal, Mary Mackbee, is passionate and dynamic. The teachers are top-notch, the students are vibrant and the environment feels safe. Like any underfunded school with a large and diverse student population, there are challenges.

The students are persisting in their forward trajectory toward success but find the negative publicity distracting and disheartening. Students from rival urban schools are posting disrespectful comments on social media about Central.

There is no fail-safe protection from unpredictable human misconduct, yet as a society we seem to have a need to place blame. Will suing the already-underfunded school district solve the problem ("Teacher files claims in assault," Dec. 22)? Instead, we must properly fund our public schools to ensure that resources are in place. The media can do its part by reporting a balanced perspective of Central so that the students feel supported as well.

Jeanette Boerner, St. Paul

BLAINE HOLIDAY CONCERT

Different faiths, different languages, same sentiment, no?

There are times that I really wish people read and thought before they posted their thoughts online ("Muslim song stirs concerns in Blaine," Dec. 19). Yes, students at Blaine High School sang a Muslim song at a holiday, which supposedly contained the lyrics "Allahu akbar," which translates roughly as "God is Greater" or "God is [the] Greatest." They sang the song alongside "Away in the Manger" and "Silent Night," and supposedly a Jewish song as well. Seemingly predictably people responded with harsh cries of '"indoctrination!" and outrage; I hope that these were mostly people outside the Anoka-Hennepin School District. The students also sang a Hallelujah chorus. If people were not aware, "Hallelujah" means "God be praised," with an explicit reference to Jehovah and Yahweh, which are different translations for the Hebrew word for God.

So, we have, in the same concert, students of a variety of faiths singing "God is Greater" and "God be praised." I almost want to say that I don't know of any way to approve of students singing one faith's song while opposing another's without being a religious bigot, but only God knows what is in people's hearts. I hope instead that people were uninformed and can now consider themselves more knowledgeable.

Teaching and exposing students to other religious faith traditions, while it can be tricky to do right and can sometimes be unbalanced, is no more indoctrination than is teaching people a foreign language. Was I indoctrinated by Frau Mugge when I learned to speak a bit of German in junior high? I like to think not, but then again, I do like schnitzel. Exposing students to a variety of cultures, religions and nationalities is an important role that our schools must play to be competitive in a global market. Religious and cultural fluency is an asset for businesses.

Kudos to Blaine High for putting on its holiday concert. I am sure that it was a wonderful opportunity for students and parents to be exposed to potentially a new religious culture and new music. I hope that it was also a touch of something familiar for our Muslim neighbors.

Mark McKenna, Eagan

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I have five words for the school administration in Blaine: separation of church and state. No religious material belongs in public schools. It is better taught and appreciated in private homes and places of worship.

Judith Anderson, Minnetonka