Courier Letters to the Editor

Remember true history

Dear Editor,

Phillip Bowers is on the school board and led the successful charge to stop the 4.7-mill tax increase for even more buildings, supported by Alex Saitta and Henry Wilson. They led the fight to bring prayer back to school board meetings.

Those who urge a property tax increase do so in spite of the fact the state is holding back money from all school districts and local governments. The state legislature has reduced the money going to local governments and school districts. The per-student state funding is $500 lower than it was in 2008. It is as if these liberals want to force school districts and local governments to increase property taxes to make it up.

Please remember the true history of the property tax in Pickens County. In 2005, the residents of Pickens County voted down a $197 million building plan. The next year, the school board did an end run around the voters and voted for a $387 million plan and a 39-mill property tax increase. School taxes have risen three times since then.

Weldon Clark


Letters short on the facts

Dear Editor,

I read the recent letter advocating even higher school taxes. It was long on emotion and short on the facts — particularly in guessing how the majority of the county feels about taxes it already pays and how such an increase wouldn’t hurt anyone.

The school tax is not a lower tax than it was seven years ago. In fact, it has risen from 128 mills to 165 mills the last seven years. As a business owner, I keep all my tax bills. How do they believe all these new school buildings have been paid for? The county taxpayers, paying much higher school taxes!

Most of the county property tax burden has shifted to businesses like my husband’s shop in Easley. I have to tell you, our business didn’t rebound from the recession. I don’t think the recession ever really ended for many small businesses. My husband works more than 50 hours a week, and as the owner he gets no overtime pay. Income taxes are much higher on small business owners. Competition is fiercer than ever with more of the big chains coming in. Obamacare is crushing small business, and now the school district wants to take even more of the little profit we earn. It is a vicious cycle for the small business that the writer doesn’t seem to know of, understand or care about.

The citizens in this county voted down a school building plan, and what they got and paid for was twice that. After the bait and switch, “No” is the majority when it comes to even higher school taxes. I would bet if this proposed tax increase went to a referendum vote, it would fail by a bigger margin.

If the school district budget is being pinched now, it is because the district built more buildings than it could afford, not that taxes haven’t been raised enough.

The writer complained employees did not receive two pay raises during the recession. Social Security recipients didn’t receive pay raises for two or three years. The government isn’t making up those raises now. They were permanently lost. Many workers went two, three and even four years without a raise. Their bosses aren’t making them up either. Now, is it fair to raise these people’s taxes so school employees can get their two lost pay raises restored? I’d like to see how that plan would do in a voter referendum.

It may be a small tax increase — it usually is. This is what government does. They nickel and dime the public in a hundred different ways. I can remember it now, ‘oh, we are raising the sales tax just one penny.’ Go into your local restaurant and you’ll see the sales tax is now nearly 10 percent. They are pennying us to death, and the people are tired of it. And we do not have “miserly behavior reminiscent of Ebenezer Scrooge” as stated by another writer from Clemson. To be an Ebenezer Scrooge, you need to have a substantial amount of money you are hoarding, but most of Pickens County’s citizens do not have a lot of money.

Lynn O’Donald



Analyzing controversy over laws

Dear Editor,

I’ve heard and read about the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) the past few weeks. These laws were created by state legislatures, and the U.S. Congress won’t decide the issue, because this is a constitutional issue the federal courts will ultimately settle.

These laws put two major clauses of the Constitution at odds. The Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment ensures religious freedom is protected. Specifically, government shall not make any law prohibiting the free exercise of religion. The Equal Protections Clause of the 14th Amendment ensures the government shall not make any law that abridges the privileges or immunities of citizens.

Be it a gay couple planning their wedding or a religious photographer asked to shoot that wedding, depending on which clause is put forth, both sides can claim their rights are being violated, the federal and state law is unconstitutional and the court will have to decide which clause is controlling.

Indiana’s initial RFRA law was built on the Free Exercise Clause. It stated the government may not substantially burden a person’s exercise of religion. A gay couple looking to hire that photographer but denied that service could have argued their equal protection was denied by that law.

Indiana’s amended RFRA law is built on the Equal Protections Clause. It added the following: a business cannot refuse to offer services based on race, color, age, disability … and sexual orientation. The amendment also provides punishment for violations. The photographer could argue his right to freely exercise his religion is being denied by that law, and he’ll be punished for it.

More on that later, but let me first explain what this case is not. Those saying the photographer would be discriminating against the gay couple like whites discriminated against blacks on a Montgomery bus do not understand this issue. The bus driver or the manager at the lunch counter was not expressing a religious tenet or identifiable religious belief that was protected by the First Amendment.

Throughout the Old Testament, homosexuality is classified as a sin. For example, Leviticus 18:22 states, “Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is abomination.”

The New Testament also labels homosexuality as a sin. It is not just the Judeo-Christian religion that labels homosexuality a sin. Islam states the same, and others, too.

Next, there is a difference between an action and an event, which few commentators seem to realize as well.

If two men walk into a photography store, announce they are gay and want to buy a picture frame, no one is saying the photographer will not sell them the frame. Rights are put in conflict when the gay couple asks and then demands the photographer participate in the marriage ceremony by shooting the wedding pictures — at an event the photographer believes is sinful and potentially damning.

The photographer is not discriminating against the couple, but first and foremost trying to protect himself from participating in a sinful event and hence staining his soul in the eyes of God. Unlike selling the picture frame, clearly when the business activity puts the photographer in the middle of an event that clashes with his religious beliefs, it is a hard-line hit. I believe the courts will see it that way, too.

If the photographer can provide the proof he is a practicing man of faith, his faith clearly indicates homosexuality is a sin and the photographer has consistently applied his faith in his business dealings, he’ll be protected by the Free Exercise Clause. That is, any law forcing him to shoot that wedding or that punishes him if he doesn’t will be struck down as unconstitutional and ruled as a violation of the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment of the United States Constitution.

Finally, I don’t believe the federal courts will force the photographer to provide the service against his religious belief, because there is a very easy remedy for the gay couple — readily available alternatives. For every religious photographer who chooses to pass on the wedding, there will be many other photographers who won’t. The gay couple will not be denied the service by society because a few individuals have a strong belief and act to justly defend themselves.

Alex Saitta