I just placed this editor’s note on a passel of letters to the Open Forum slated for publication on Saturday: “Today concludes publication of pre-election letters concerning Amendment One. Some letters submitted after Tuesday did not meet the deadline for inclusion. Thanks for partipating.”
Whew. It’s been a ride and a half.
Since mid-April we’ve published 40 letters concerning Amendment One, or what some call the marriage amendment proposed for the North Carolina Constitution. Two of our staff writers contributed columns concerning the measure, which has been before voters over the past couple of weeks during the early voting period. Election Day is Tuesday. We have also published an editorial in opposition to the amendment, which we believe is a governement intrusion into not only private lives but the operation of churches. The U.S. Constitution provides for a separation of church and state. It is our belief the measure is unconstitutional and will be overturned by a federal court at some very expensive juncture.
For many of our readers, the proposal, put forth by the GOP legislature last year, transcends politics or even government. It’s an emotional issue steeped in a view of morality and the teachings of the church. Interpretations of the Bible vary in some circles, but for people who take every word literally there is no wiggle room. I respect their faith and so does the Times-News.
And the measure also creates an interesting political dynamic. People who often criticize big government initiatives, embraced this particular one. That’s what I mean by transcending poltics.
Beyond the many guided by strong religious or political beliefs, though, there is a smaller element of the public fueled by discrimination, hatred or anger based on sexual preference that can’t be overlooked. As an editor who plays referee of the Open Forum, it’s impossible to read through the motives of people who write. I like to think the best of our readers, and will continue to do so.
Stil, this issue has been a tough one to moderate.
What I tried to do is allow as many different voices into the Open Forum as I could. Best I can tell, those for and against the amendment split pretty evenly. The againsts led for awhile. It’s a well-organized movement. The fors made a last-minute rush and caught up or passed them in sheer numbers of letters. It’s pretty close — just as I suspect the vote will be on Tuesday. Polling indicates the amendment will pass. I’m pretty sure the polls have it right. How tight the voting turns out should be interesting.
While we published a high number of letters, we did refrain from allowing guest columns about the amendment. In all, I had six guest columns submitted for possible publication. Because I could not or would not print them all, I did not wish to print only one or two.
I also didn’t want our regular columnists to write about it in the final week because there is not enough time for those in opposition to respond. Our religion columnist Mark Fox, for example, had a column he wanted to turn in for Saturday about marriage in response to a letter by the Rev. Daniel Kuhn published this past Monday. I asked Mark to provide another column instead and he agreed. Timing is one factor in that decision. The other is that I do not like for columns to be used in response to letters. It’s not fair to the letter writer.
Besides, I had a ton of letters responding to Kuhn already.
What I did decide to do today is post four of the columns online. You can find them under guest columnists or click on the following names: Mark Fox Craig Holt Jeremy Troxler and Skip Foster. Craig and Jeremy are longtime guest contributors. Craig is a former Times-News staff member who worked with me in the sports department in the 1980s. Skip is a publisher in our company for the Shelby Star and he offers an interesting take on the constitutional and moral issues involved. I hope online readers can get something from all four.
What we tried to do concerning Amendment One is follow our standard procedures. We want to be balanced and fair in our news coverage and keep our opinion page open to all who wish to speak. I was very proud of our news package two weeks ago about the amendment in which we tried to answer questions readers might have. We will bring the same balance to our election coverage next week. I also believe our Open Forum has truly been open.
Again, I thank everyone who participated.