Public Opinion

From The Associated Press Excerpts from recent editorials in newspapers in the United States: On federal park passes: The federal government should monitor its new program for annual passes that will allow visitors to enter national parks, forest...

From The Associated Press

Excerpts from recent editorials in newspapers in the United States:

On federal park passes:

The federal government should monitor its new program for annual passes that will allow visitors to enter national parks, forests, historic sites and recreation areas that already charge a fee.

The passes will go on sale Jan. 1, but current parks and recreation passes that are still valid will be honored until they expire.


The cards will eventually replace a handful of other passes, and the cost will be tiered according to eligibility. For example, the passes are $80 for visitors 16 and older; $10 for senior citizens; and free to people with disabilities. Passes for seniors and people with disabilities are valid for life.

Critics are concerned that the revenue from the passes will be distributed more widely to include federal recreation areas, thus reducing the amount of money going to national parks. That's a valid concern. ...

Lawmakers have tried to generate revenue for the parks by using other means. ... If monitored correctly, though, the new passes could provide more information about parks as well as the revenue stream.

A Parks Service official says that bar-coded passes will allow the federal government to learn more about visitor trends at federal sites, but what remains unclear is how the revenue will be distributed. The National Parks Service, U.S. Forest Service and U.S. Department of Agriculture -- all issuing agencies -- must act transparently by showing the public precisely where and how the revenues will be spent from the new passes.

-- Fort Collins (Colo.) Coloradoan

On holiday greetings:

Christians are the largest religious group in this country. Yet, our nation was founded in part on religious tolerance, which has given rise to a diversity of religious practices. But in recent years, this has become the season when religious tolerance can reach a boiling point.

There has been heated and continuing debate over whether government buildings should display religious symbols of the season, such as Nativity scenes and Menorahs; and whether retailers trying to get shoppers in the buying mood should display signs that say "Merry Christmas" or "Happy Holidays."


The Constitution -- and recent U.S. Supreme Court rulings -- make clear that there should be a separation between church and government. Putting religious symbols on government property violates the law and challenges the constitutional right of religious freedom. That includes freedom from being oppressed under a majority religion.

The law is black and white, but often real life falls within gray margins. Boston officials recently found themselves trying to straddle the law by at first saying it would put up a "holiday tree" after years of having a "Christmas tree." An outcry by Bostonians prompted officials to call it as most people know it, a Christmas tree. ...

During the winter season, three major and historically interconnected faiths -- Christianity, Judaism and Islam -- celebrate sacred days.

On private property open to the public, such as malls, it should be tolerable to have greetings that acknowledge the Christian majority who might celebrate Christmas and those who celebrate other holidays or just the spirit of the season.

But it seems a contradiction of the season to insist that every holiday banner say "Merry Christmas."

There should be tolerance for all expressions of faith. That's the foundation of this nation. Celebrating Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa and other observances are American traditions. And stores should be free to put up both "Merry Christmas" and "Happy Holidays" signs without causing a stir. Both slogans are reflective of the season.

-- Courier-Post, Cherry Hill, N.J,

On the U.S. citizenship test:


What does it mean to be American? Does it mean knowing what colors are in the U.S. flag? Or what is celebrated on the Fourth of July, or who was the first president of the United States? These are some of the questions asked by immigration officials testing immigrants for citizenship. But the test left a lot to be desired. It required answering questions by rote; it didn't require any understanding of what it means to live in America. And that was an issue about which the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services began to think hard. So it decided to redesign the test.

New citizens "need to be able to integrate into American society and comprehend basic English," explains Chris Rhatigan, spokeswoman for Citizenship and Immigration Services in Washington. The new test -- a pilot project in 10 cities, not including Chicago -- will ask questions about civics, history, geography, and rights and responsibilities. It will require more thinking about what it means to live here.

Some immigrant groups already are railing about the pilot test, which will be launched in January for a four-month trial. They say it will make it even more difficult to become American. But it won't be more difficult; it will just require immigrants to demonstrate a more significant depth of understanding about what being an American citizen means. Surely that isn't asking too much of those who choose to make this country their home.

-- Chicago Sun-Time

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