Emails with Helen

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Emails with Helen

 

I copy my Florida Today LTE to a lot of people
Voltz offers a smart-ass response
I politely reply with my position on religious freedom
The point of which she completely misses
I try again to explain religious freedom to her
But she doesn't get it, so she insults me
--personal attacks, the last bastion of the ignorant
So I try one more time to be nice

The following is the email exchange that took place between myself and [no longer] County Commissioner Helen Voltz on November 10 and 11. Her inability to understand and respond to my very simple statements was disheartening. But her insult to me regarding my children and her threat of eternal damnation were disgusting. It is very frightening to have someone like this representing me in local government.

First, I copied to her my Letter To The Editor of Florida Today as follows:

-----Original Message-----
From: Dianna Narciso
Sent: Wednesday, November 09, 2005 8:46 AM
To: [redacted]
Subject: Life Choices

Editor, Florida Today

James Dean's article regarding the promotion of Life Choices Ministries' program in our public schools failed to make one very important point. This program is not like any other community program. It was only advertised through the schools. Each night the program was presented for and audience culled from certain local schools. For this reason, school and government representatives are being deceptive when they claim they treated this program just like any other.

Jackie Colon claimed that anyone who didn't want to attend could stay home. But she failed to inform us that none of the information given to parents and students alerted them to the blatantly religious nature of the program. This is nothing more than stealth proselytizing through our public schools. They bribe the kids with a free ticket to Andretti Thrill Park and then preach at them. No concrete life skills were offered to the students to help them deal with the behaviors discussed or their causes. It was implied, however, that turning one's life over to Jesus Christ would do the trick. Brevard County officials should be ashamed; but they're not. They don't care one whit about the religious freedom of our students.
 

Then she replied:
-----Original Message-----
From: Helen Voltz [redacted]
Sent: Thursday, November 10, 2005 1:52 PM
To: [redacted]
Subject: RE: Life Choices

And your point is? It sounds like you are the one who does not care one whit about religious freedom.

Helen Voltz
Brevard County Commissioner, District 3 [not anymore]
[phone # redacted] (Office)
[phone # redacted] (Cell)
[website redacted, no longer relevant]
helen.voltz@[notanymore]
Please note: Florida has a very broad public records law. Most written communications to or from the offices of elected officials are public records available to the public and media upon request. Your email communications may therefore be subject to public disclosure.


[Note this conversation is taking place from her official email account on taxpayer time.]

To which I politely responded:
-----Original Message-----
From: Dianna Narciso
Sent: Thursday, November 10, 2005 2:10 PM
To: Helen Voltz@[redacted]
Subject: RE: Life Choices

Ms. Voltz,
I believe that people are free to attend churches, worship their deities, encourage others to do so, and speak at length about their beliefs, as individuals.
I do not believe that government officials, in their capacity as representatives of the people, have the right to encourage religious practice among other people's children.
In what way am I inhibiting religious freedom by asking that you do not trick my children into attending a church service? That's what Life Choices is--a church service.
I am a strong proponent of religious freedom. But I am heartily against government intrusion into that most private affair.

Sincerely,
Dianna Narciso

Atheist View
www.atheistview.com
Like Rolling Uphill: Realizing the Honesty of Atheism [That's right, plug the book!]

 

And she came back with:
-----Original Message-----
From: Helen Voltz
Sent: Thursday, November 10, 2005 3:10 PM
To:
Subject: RE: Life Choices

I, for one, do not think religion should be a 'private affair.' As a Christian, I am not about to keep my mouth shut about what I believe. You speak up about what is important to you, and I do the same; that will not change. I am just tired of people always thinking something is being shoved down someone's throat. Asking someone to take information and decide for themselves is not a crime. If I can talk someone into believing in Christ, someone will be able to talk them out of believing. It is a heart decision to follow Christ. I wish I had the opportunity to accept Christ as a teenager; it sure would have saved me a lot of heartache. Tell me, why should you have anything to do with someone's choices?

Helen Voltz
[blah, blah, all that stuff redacted again]
Please note: Florida has a very broad public records law. Most written communications to or from the offices of elected officials are public records available to the public and media upon request. Your email communications may therefore be subject to public disclosure.


To which I patiently responded:
-----Original Message-----
From: Dianna Narciso
Sent: Thursday, November 10, 2005 4:58 PM
To: Helen Voltz
Subject: RE: Life Choices

Mrs. Voltz,

I would never ask you to "keep your mouth shut" about your religion as an individual. However, if you were a teacher, I would tell you that you have no right to encourage my child to accept your beliefs as true. If you were the principal of a school, I would say you have no right to encourage my child to attend church. And as a commissioner, I would say you have no right to encourage citizens of Brevard County to be Christians.

You may do all these things as a citizen...just not while acting in your capacity as a public official.

If we can not agree on that very important point, then I fear for my freedom.

For me, it isn't a question of religion being "shoved down" other people's throats. It's a matter of all of us being free to practice our own religions and teach those religions to our children. It's also about being free to have no religion and to be secure in the knowledge that the state, and representatives of the state acting in those capacities, will not encourage me or my children toward a belief I find invalid.

You are always free to ask someone to take information. But don't you see how dangerous it is for school and government officials to offer religiously biased information to other people's children? Will the schools now be allowed to encourage children to Wiccan church presentations? How about Muslim or Hindu?

I'm sorry you had a rough time in your teen years. I did too. It's fine for you to feel that Christianity would have benefited you, but it is not your place to offer Christianity to other people's children through the school system. And it's not your place as commissioner to encourage citizens to be Christians--that is something you need to do as an individual.

I do not understand your last question at all. You ask, "Why should you have anything to do with someone's choices?"
That's the whole point of our discussion. Why do YOU think YOU, as a government official, ought to have anything to do with the choices of other people? It was the county commissioners, the school board, the principals and school staff, and the police department who encouraged our public school children to attend a Christian service.

I don't want to have anything to do with other people's religious choices. It's none of my business what religion someone is. Why do you, as a government official, think it's okay to encourage my child to believe what you do?

I am not trying to stop Life Choices from putting on their show. I'm not trying to stop people from going to see it. I'm trying to make you understand that it is not moral for the county to support or encourage it. And it is immoral for the schools to promote it to our children. Life Choices can advertise its show through the churches, newspapers, posters around town, and through other media. That's okay. But to use our public schools to recruit an audience for a distinctly religious message is just not moral.

And now that you have done so, will you also show as much encouragement and support for a Wiccan presentation on dealing with the troubling teen years? Or a Muslim presentation? How about an atheist presentation on how to deal with the teen years without religion?

You wouldn't support that, would you? But you expect us to sit back and let you support the Christian program. Is that religious freedom to you?


Thank you for your time,
Dianna Narciso

Atheist View
www.atheistview.com
Like Rolling Uphill: Realizing the Honesty of Atheism
 

So she came at me with this:
-----Original Message-----
From: Helen Voltz
Sent: Thursday, November 10, 2005 5:05 PM
To:
Subject: RE: Life Choices

Unfortunately, I think you have it all wrong. If I care enough about someone's eternal life, I will offer salvation to anyone who chooses to listen. That is the key; someone has to choose to listen. Do you actually think that someone would come to a church if they did not want to? My question is "why do you think things ought to be done YOUR way?" I really feel sorry for your children as well as yourself, but I guess we will all find out in the end. I have nothing to lose, but you have everything to lose. I will certainly be praying for you & your organization. Only you can change your heart.

Helen Voltz
redacted stuff
Please note: Florida has a very broad public records law. Most written communications to or from the offices of elected officials are public records available to the public and media upon request. Your email communications may therefore be subject to public disclosure.
 

So I did my best to get through her thick head with this response (though by now, I've been insulted):
Ms. Voltz,
You are not hearing me. We are talking about the government encouraging other people's children to enter a church under the pretense of hearing about life choices, and with a bribe of free time at a theme park, only to be presented with an overtly religious presentation. This has nothing at all to do with your right to discuss your religion with someone who chooses to listen.

My freedom of conscience and that of my children is at stake. The government has no right to present my children with a religious service. It has no right to encourage them to attend one. It has no right to be involved in someone else trying to get them to one. But to bribe them to attend a presentation without even telling them it's religious is even worse.

Do you understand the difference between your individual rights and those of the government?

My way respects all people's religious choices and all people's freedom of conscience. Your way allows the government to endorse and support YOUR faith over someone else's, or over no faith. Your way is immoral.

Your insult regarding my children and your threat of eternal damnation is unbecoming a public official. I stand by my original assertion: you do not care about other people's religious freedom.


And there you have it--the great Helen Voltz responding to her constituency. Now I understand she's "fed up with people like me."
[she told a friend in an email: "I am just plain fed up with people like you."] Whatever the hell that means.