Readers Write: Minneapolis and the Environment, Religious Liberty


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The recent article on groundwater problems around Lake Nokomis is misleading (“The Story of the Hole at Nokomis”, April 20). The article implies that the houses were built on peat dredged from Lake Nokomis. Not true. Park superintendent Theodore Wirth may have been too aggressive in reshaping the shorelines to today’s standards, but he didn’t create “100 acres of man-made building land.” What was dredged from the lake was used to fill in the surrounding wetlands which are now beaches, bathhouses, parking lots and playgrounds mostly west of the lake, not housing grounds.

Dredging also did not create Lake Nokomis; it defined a previously marshy shoreline and deepened the lake. If Wirth and the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board are to blame for the water problems, it is because by creating a more defined and, in their view, more attractive lake, they have created an attraction for new homes to be built at proximity. These homes were built on land that the Park Board had not touched. The detailed historical summary in the cited white paper of the Park Board’s actions in the area simply demonstrated that peat soils were known to be a problem.

Finally, the article should have noted a key finding from the white paper: most homes in the study area with water issues are between 5 and 19 feet above lake surface water levels. Nokomis and Minnehaha Creek.

Let’s not blame the Park Board for excessive rainfall or where people have built homes. In fact, the Park Board deserves praise for trying for many decades to ameliorate some of the excesses of park planners in the less informed past, at Lake Nokomis and elsewhere in the city.

David C. Smith, Minneapolis

The writer is the author of “City of Parks: The Story of Minneapolis Parks.”


I really enjoyed the recent article about the 30×30 initiative to protect wild ecosystems on 30% of the United States (“Minnesota lagging behind federal land conservation target,” April 26). I would like to add a few points to your report.

It’s not just an idea of ​​the Biden administration, but a goal put forward by a coalition of governments to protect global biodiversity.

This is important because humans are changing the world much faster than evolution can keep pace. Non-human species have to deal with man-made pesticides, poisons, plastics and climate change and the destruction of forests, grasslands and oceans. And we are probably one of the species that will also be unable to keep up. The millions of species that make up the web of life (which also sustains us) do not survive the takeover of their environment by humans. We have seen a dramatic reduction in insect and bird populations even over the lifetime of a millennium. This destruction is accelerating, with catastrophic potential for human well-being. And how do you reweave this web, when the strands are missing? Humans cannot reverse biodiversity loss; it will take nature hundreds of thousands of years for this to happen.

I vehemently disagree with US Representative Pete Stauber’s characterization of the effort as “more use of our land.” It is not, and cannot be, an effort to remove humans from 30% of the world. It’s about humans using land and water wisely, with sustainable farming, logging and fishing (even mining!) practices, rather than destructive ones. There may be reserves, but it will always be a small percentage of “protected” land and water.

Finally, it should foster in all of us a mindset that humans and non-humans all have an important place in the natural world and that we depend on each other for our well-being and happiness. This applies everywhere we are, from our lakes, woods, farms and suburban yards to city parks.

David Brockway, Hopkins


When someone makes a personal commitment or promise to God, as Joseph Kennedy did, who else should be held to that promise? (“Judges Hear Coaches Prayer Case,” April 26, and “High School Coaches Shouldn’t Lead Prayers,” Opinion Exchange, April 19.) When a public figure in a position of power publicly displays his personal faith, creates an implicit obligation for others to honor and participate in this ritual.

Public displays of thanks to God for athletic performance are common but not always appreciated. Taking a knee after a touchdown and pointing to the sky has sometimes been over-celebrated. I’m sure I’ve never seen such a gesture after a missed free throw. These gestures seem to me like a “Look at me!” moment rather than a personal and private devotion. Interrupting a co-ed social gathering wishing to pray aloud for the upcoming meal is a form of narcissism that both the Bible and the Quran find abhorrent.

If you believe that the public prayer in which participation is requested – or, by force of authority, forced – is a matter of freedom of religion, then you must accept the same from a Muslim or non-Christian coach.

Jerrol Noller, Anoka


As long as the practice is voluntary and generic, the Supreme Court case is much ado about nothing. Ditto for the former Viking kicker’s advice (“High school coaches shouldn’t lead prayers”). Too many liberal leftist politicians, media and infidel citizens continue their unspoken movement towards universal atheism. Who knows, maybe the next thing to do will be the Pledge of Allegiance.

The faithful founding believers of this country and subsequent generations held fast to “in God we trust”. It appears that the further we stray from this principle, the more uncivilized we become. Nice Minnesota? Hard to find in Minneapolis, home of the Vikings, where day and night violence has become the new norm. Maybe, just maybe, it’s time for more good old-fashioned religion and a Protestant work ethic. Of course, that would require a conscience and a discipline that is not easily appealing to many today.

But then, today’s playbooks don’t work, so what have you got to lose by trying something different? Of course, it would require leadership of a different kind than those in charge today.

John D. Smith, Stillwater


The Bill of Rights was enacted to guarantee in the Constitution the rights of the people against the dictates of the government. That its very first clause prohibits any law “respecting the establishment of a religion” demonstrates how important it was for the Founders to protect us from the government dictating which religious tenets are “correct.”

A problem arises when officials try to use their position to defend their personal religious views. That’s what Kennedy did when he coached high school football outside Seattle. He began kneeling at the 50-yard line to pray after games, and when students joined him, he prayed out loud. He said he did this to make his players better. Kennedy v. Bremerton School District, currently before the Supreme Court, is a case where the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment conflicts with the free exercise of the rights of religion and free speech claimed by Kennedy.

At the very least, the Establishment Clause prohibits the government from coercing people into the religious practices it prefers. Coercion is not limited to the government’s ability to impose fines or arrest people. They might think they should comply with the wishes of the government to signal their patriotism or to please their peers by conforming to group behavior. As former Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote in Lee v. Weisman, “government can no more use social pressure to enforce orthodoxy than it can use more direct means.”

Justice Kennedy noted that children are particularly vulnerable to psychological pressure. This is why the government must take particular care to avoid injecting religious beliefs into the activities of public schools.

Former Coach Kennedy consented to restrictions on his right to religious expression when he accepted a government job at a public school. However, he is also asking for the right to be the center of attention on the 50-yard line of a crowded stadium. The court must consider not only the rights it claims, but also the right of the students in its care to be free from religious coercion by government officials.

George Francis Kane, St. Paul


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