If you've read my previous letters to Jon Carroll, you should know all about him, so I won't repeat myself. If you haven't, then just go here, or here, or here, or this is getting out of hand. This letter was written as my past ones were in response to a column, this one because he mention the principle of separation between church and state. You'll find out my feelings on that one when you read on. Anyway, he is on vacation, so it will be a while before he can reply (if at all).

Subject: Hands off AA

Dear Jon,

I agree with you on the need for AA to keep to its steps and traditions. While I don't have any first hand knowledge of AA (my demons are other than alcoholism), I think they are doing just fine without government money. I bet they're not well enough off for the head (wo)man to embezzle millions without anyone noticing, but then I don't think their approach costs a lot of money. Once they change to get government funding, how will they resist more requests for change to keep it? We all know that he who pays the piper calls the tune. Rather than be the effective, unique organization they are now, they would mutate into one of the OK-I-guess organizations we have so many of now.

Anyway, I just want to point out a common misunderstanding you perpetuated in your piece (is that the right word for it?) when you said "would that be a violation of the separation of the church and state?". The First Amendment to the Constitution instead reads: "Congress shall make no law establishing a state religion, the practice of religion shall not be abridged". Thomas Jefferson used the separation phrase in a speech and it stuck (I guess it has a bit more "punch"). The two are not the same; the real standard is more of a declaration of neutrality or impartiality while the bogus implies, if you'll excuse the term, non-intercourse. An accurate reading of the Constitution tells us that the government should treat all religions the same, not that government should not have anything to do at all with religion. So we should really say, "does that establish a State religion". I wonder when some smoker's rights groups will get around to arguing that the government (Federal and some states) are establishing the no-smoking religion, not that I endorse smoking, mind you. I'll get off my soapbox now, before it gets too comfortable and I never want to get down.

Hey, here's an idea for a piece - why don't you print the Bill of Rights in your column? I'm sure it would fit. I know, the Chronicle might consider it too controversial, but still, it would be an easy way to take a day off as you wouldn't have to do the writing, I'm sure the copyright has lapsed by now, and best of all, it would be a Public Service. If you are worried about your readers making sense of it, remember it was written not by modern politicians, but by the leading citizens of revolutionary America for the common man and was therefore written with clarity and directness. Kind of like your column.

Kevin Murphy

PS I never got a reply to my last letter. Should I resend it? (It was a good one, if I say so myself, about your European Sleep System piece). If you've grown tired of my incessant yapping, just tell me to go bug some other columnist (like your favorite, William Safire), or words to that effect.

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This page last updated 15 April 1998

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