A belated thank you to the Star Tribune Editorial Board for its Oct. 29, 2016, re-election endorsement of U.S. Rep. Erik Paulsen (“Third District: Paulsen earns nod”). It makes a handy measuring stick for evaluating Paulsen’s work this session.

The Editorial Board wrote: “Congress needs more moderate Republicans like Paulsen.” Based on voting records, Congress already has 240 Republicans like Paulsen, though it’s tough to call them “moderate.” Paulsen and his fellow Republicans have voted in lockstep in favor of the Trump-Ryan agenda: yes on the Muslim ban, mountaintop removal, and nondisclosure of payments to foreign governments.

The board wrote: “Given his standing, Minnesotans should expect to see more leadership from Paulsen on a broader array of issues in the next Congress.” We have yet to see any such leadership. The editorial mentioned health care as one area in which Paulsen might excel, but the GOP effort to repeal Obamacare seems to have hit a wall (“GOP now wants to ‘repair’ health law,” Feb. 4). Calls to Paulsen’s office turn up no clues on what Paulsen is doing or wants to do to our health care system. Paulsen has not held a true town hall with his constituents since 2010, leaving the people he purports to represent in the dark.

Paulsen’s role in the 115th Congress has been to rubber-stamp someone else’s right-wing agenda. It is time to drop the illusion that Paulsen is a moderate or a leader. And it is time for this paper to hold Paulsen accountable by the standards it set for him last fall.

Chris Evan, Maple Grove

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Under “Reforming Health Care” on Paulsen’s website, it reads: “I support these common sense reforms: Expand access to health care by protecting patients with pre-existing conditions, allowing dependents up to age 26 to stay on their parent’s plan, and prohibiting insurers from turning away patients when you renew your plan simply because you may be sick.”

Sound familiar? Those are not reforms. Those are key provisions of Obamacare. We cannot let Paulsen present these as reforms when they exist in the health care law that he and his colleagues claim has failed all Americans.

Congressman Paulsen, the basis of the fair and accessible health care system that you envision already exists.

Jim Hancock, Hopkins

RELIGION AND POLITICS

This is about the exchange of ideas in the public square

The Feb. 7 commentary “Nonprofits, including churches, should get a voice in politics” makes a good point. Freedom of religion and freedom of the press are linked in the First Amendment to the Constitution, because they are both about the free exchange of ideas and influence in the public square. Ideas and influence are not control. They’re democracy.

Then-Sen. Lyndon Johnson’s 1954 amendment that effectively sought to silence the churches was simply a mistake. Those of us who marched and worked in the 1960s civil-rights movement were largely, and pretty openly, encouraged, supported and enabled by the American religious community. I personally went to Selma, and later body-guarded for MLK Jr. in an angry Boston parade, precisely because I thought that it was something that Jesus wanted me to do.

Those today whose version of “freedom from religion” equates to “shut up” don’t seem to proclaim “freedom from the press.” Oops, my mistake. We actually do seem to have some today who want the latter. Their mistake.

Leonard Freeman, Long Lake

The writer is a retired Episcopal clergyman.

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If churches and nonprofits wish to use their special status to push specific opinions into the minds and mailboxes of their congregants and contributors, fine. But all taxpayers should not absorb the special tax-free status currently bestowed upon these organizations. Many of the organizations generate hundreds of thousands (some millions) of dollars, tax-free, while requiring the same costly local, state and federal services of for-profit businesses. All services paid with tax dollars. If they wish to include active political posturing to impose their beliefs, they become just another business lobbying for their specific interests and should be taxed. Thus the reason for the Johnson Amendment.

Living under a “shadow of fear” in expressing their beliefs is hogwash. If such an organization is unable to communicate their beliefs without tax-exempt status, then maybe the fault lies with the message and membership.

Todd Embury, Ramsey

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As a Christian, it galls me to contemplate millions of dollars of offerings intended for the work of Christ’s church going into that black hole of campaign finances (“Trump vows to ‘destroy’ limits on church politics,” Feb. 3). I believe any of our faith groups in this country would be appalled. In church parlance, this would be terrible if not criminal stewardship of church funds. This money is intended to further the work of the church in this world: feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, comforting the widow, sharing the Gospel. I would leave any church that diverted money intended for ministry and mission to that black hole. I’m not sure where Trump’s evangelical supporters are on this issue, but I call them to task to fight this proposal — in the name of Christ.

Harald Eriksen, Brooklyn Park

MINNESOTA LEGISLATURE

At hearing about state vs. local control, citizens silenced

I attended a farce of a public hearing at the Senate Office Building on whether the state should prevent local governments from setting their own policies, called “pre-emption.” Some politicians are seeking to overturn the St. Paul and Minneapolis city councils’ decisions to extend paid sick and safe time to employees; their legislation had been determined after extensive public input. Many citizens took time off work and came to St. Paul to testify against the Senate bill; accordingly, the hearing leadership decided to limit testimony to one minute for a total of 30 minutes against pre-emption. Those speaking in favor of pre-emption were fewer and primarily paid lobbyists. This hearing on a law that would take away basic rights and hurt our most vulnerable people is not how good policy is informed nor democracy respected.

Amy Blumenshine, Minneapolis

SUPER BOWL

The image, the volunteers

As happy as I am for the state of Minnesota securing the 2018 Super Bowl, I’m begging you please, please, please can we not go down the very, very well-worn road of “we’re a bunch of hayseed Norwegian farmers?” Please let’s retire the tired “you betcha” (“Ready for a Super Bowl? You betcha,” Feb. 7). This is a state that is forward-thinking, very culturally mixed and highly intelligent. I could not be more sick of having us depicted as if the year is 1800 and our state is just being settled. Please let’s not hold on to such easy and extremely tired branding.

Jerry Pope, Minneapolis

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Apparently the Super Bowl Host Committee is starting its push to recruit 10,000 volunteers to help at next year’s game and related festivities. Volunteering is definitely an admirable activity. I know that I personally could and should do more of it. I must say, however, that billionaire owners, millionaire players and well-heeled out-of-town fans do not stand out as the people most in need of volunteer assistance in our community.

Sean Foley, Richfield