Durham News: Opinion

What you’re saying: Valerie Lathern, Wendy Diaz, Mark G. Rodin, Lynne Kane

Judge gives comfort

Judge Marcia Morey’s column “White skin in a black robe” (DN, July 27) was a very good and honest response to current and past societal issues.

As a law-abiding black woman I’d like to thank her for her understanding, but most importantly for her willingness to acquire the understanding necessary to bridge the gap. Her position in the judicial field is vital and can affect the lives of many youth who may have made a mistake.

I get great comfort in knowing those youth that may appear in front of Judge Morey may be judged fairly and possibly given a chance to succeed. It takes a multicultural village to raise our youth and I appreciate the judge being a part of the village.

Valerie Lathern

via www.thedurhamnews.com

Nominate a tree

On March 6, 2016, four trees across the city and county were recognized for their size and significance during Durham’s Arbor Day ceremony at the Museum of Life and Science. The trees were nominated by their owners last fall and were evaluated by The Durham Master Gardeners and volunteer arborist Guy Meilleur. The Durham Master Gardeners confirmed tree measurements and the 2015 Durham Finest Tree winners were:

▪ Willow Oak (Quercus phellos); Watts Street, Trinity Park Neighborhood – 95 feet high, 222 inches in circumference, 82 feet canopy (https://durhammastergardeners.wordpress.com/2015/10/page/6/)

▪ Black Tupelo (Nyssa sylvatica); Broad Street, Old West Durham Neighborhood – 80 feet high, 117 inches in circumference, 95 feet canopy (https://durhammastergardeners.wordpress.com/2015/12/)

▪ White Ash (Fraxinus Americana), McCormick Road, Parkwood Neighborhood – 90 feet high, 123 inches in circumference, 85 feet canopy

▪ White Oak (Quercus alba); Par Place, Watts-Hillandale Neighborhood – 100 feet high, 204 inches circumference, 100 feet canopy

All four trees were winners in the “large” category of the competition. The Black Tupelo was also a winner in the “meritorious” category.

The Par Place White Oak received recognition in the “historical” category because John Sprunt Hill admired it and saved it during the development of the Watts Hospital Neighborhood in the early 1900s. For more information about the trees visit the Master Gardener Blog links as provided. Please respect private property and view the trees from the street.

This initiative is a partnership between Trees Across Durham and Durham County Extension Master Gardeners. Do you want to nominate your own tree this year? Submit your nomination form now until the deadline of Oct. 1, at http://durhamnc.gov/1580/Durhams-Finest-Trees. Feel free to send an email to the Extension Master Gardeners at durhamsfinesttrees@gmail.com, if you have any questions about the program.

Durham’s Finest Trees program recognizes significant trees in Durham County, promotes discovery and ability to identify trees, and helps preserve the best examples of specific tree species, particularly native and those trees well adapted to Durham County.

The program also promotes awareness of trees in our community and hopes to catalog fine examples of magnificent specimens of trees due to their size, setting, historical importance, or significant feature.

Trees on private or public property can be nominated in each of the three categories: largest, historical, or meritorious. Preference will be given to native North Carolina tree species. Non-native trees may be considered if they are of a species, subspecies, variety or cultivar proven to be relatively long-lived and well-adapted to North Carolina. Winning trees will be recognized on Arbor Day 2017. Please read the official rules before submitting a nomination.

Wendy Diaz

Durham Master Gardeners

A nation of many faiths

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.” – Article 1 of the Bill of Rights, 1791

I am concerned about the “God Before Government” movement that religion writer Flo Johnston mentioned in a recent Durham News column. Apparently, the movement advocates placing a Christian flag above the United States flag when it is publicly displayed. According to the column, the God Before Government movement was established a year ago at a Baptist Church in Shelby.

America is supposed to have separation of church and state, meaning there is no official religion. We are a nation of many faiths with differing views of God, depending on whether you believe the Old Testament, New Testament, Koran or other sacred religious document of faith.

Ms. Johnston quotes the Shelby church’s pastor as believing the “Christian flag movement is a ‘Bible-based’ way to define patriotism.” My concern is the very public activism by many Christian groups to what I view as serious and strong attempts to impose their religious beliefs on government policy, especially regarding a woman's right to an abortion and equal rights for the LGBT community. We see these efforts culminating in the current presidential campaign. This effort is also motivated by our choices for president and 33 U.S. senators elected to the next Congress influencing who is nominated to replace Justice Antonin Scalia on the Supreme Court.

Our government is a democracy, not a theocracy. We must not allow one religion’s strongly held beliefs to become the guiding law of the land – in God's name or the principle of privacy – thereby interfering with the rights of other persons who have different beliefs. All, including Christians with sincerely held views opposing abortion or same sex marriage, should have the constitutionally guaranteed freedom of religion, speech and petition of government to redress grievances. Allowing one religion to impose its views on the rest of us means America becomes no better than ISIS or what is happening now in Turkey.

Mark G. Rodin


Are you ethical but non-theistic and seeking a Jewish alternative in contemporary life? Are you part of an inter-cultural family? Consider attending the Kol Haskalah, a Humanistic Judaism Congregation, Open House from 10 a.m. to noon Sunday, August 28, in Murphy Hall on the UNC campus in Chapel Hill.

We explore the full range of Jewish experience to choose what is relevant and meaningful, with belief in our power and responsibility to shape our own lives. Jewish ethics serve human needs and foster freedom and dignity for all humans.

Our pre-K through B’nai Mitzvah Sunday School enhances self-respect and responsible behavior in an engaging program grounded in the ethics and culture of Judaism. Teachers will be present August 28 to discuss their classes and our music component, learned Sundays along with congregant families. David Sennett is our Education Director.

Rosh Hashanah will occur early October 2016, when the shofar will call us to a celebration of reflection and renewal of self and action in the community.

An ongoing activity is providing and serving a dinner one Sunday a month at the Urban Ministries of Durham.

A related Humanistic Judaism Book Group meets every other month, alternating fiction and nonfiction books to discuss.

Kol Haskalah is part of the Society for Humanistic Judaism begun in 1963 by Rabbi Sherwin Wine. We share a deep connection to the future of the Jewish people, ethics, and culture, acknowledging human courage and independence as the path to human dignity for all people.

Lynne Kane

Publicity chairperson


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