40 Days of Action more effective than prayer
To the Daily:

As the University of Michigan Secular Student Alliance, we are writing in response to the article describing the kick-off of 40 Days of Prayer (Student groups kick off 40 days of prayer, 01/14/2008), an event organized by ten on-campus Christian organizations. We challenge the premise that prayer is an effective way to solve problems and further believe that the focus should not be on our own campus but rather on some of the more destitute regions of the world. The Secular Student Alliance is donating one dollar per day for the next 40 days to Oxfam International, a secular charity organization dedicated to alleviating poverty, combating disease and providing relief from war, natural disasters and other humanitarian crises. We’re calling this period 40 Days of Action.

A 2006 study in the American Heart Journal found that praying for hospital patients undergoing bypass surgery did not help their chances of successful recovery. Instead, the study found that patients certain they were being prayed for were as much as 8 percent more likely to suffer complications than those who were not. Many other studies claiming to observe medical or other benefits as a result of intercessory prayer have clearly identifiable methodological flaws and are rejected by the mainstream scientific community. While we acknowledge that meditation can be beneficial to one’s mental health, there is no reason to believe that prayer makes any difference in other the lives of other people.

The Secular Student Alliance is a Michigan Student Assembly-registered student organization, affiliated with the LSA Philosophy Department. We are dedicated to the anti-defamation of atheists and the promotion of a society in which the ideals of critical and scientific inquiry, secularism, reason and humanistic ethics flourish. We reject the notion that prayer does anything for the “moral backbone” of this campus as asserted by one of the 40 Days of Prayer organizers, and posit that our small donations will prove far more effective in helping the welfare of the world.

The Secular Student Alliance holds weekly meetings Mondays at 7 p.m. in 2271 Angell Hall and can be contacted at juliusp@umich.edu or visited online at sitemaker.umich.edu/secularstudents.

Matthew Taylor
LSA sophomore
The letter writer is an a member of the Secular Student Alliance.

Flag’s racist past outweighs states’ rights
To the Daily:

In response to the column yesterday defending states’ right to display the Confederate flag (Bearing the Southern Cross, 01/23/2008), it was extremely shortsighted of the author, Emmarie Huetteman, to consider the heritage and states’ rights arguments strong enough to override the overwhelming association of that symbol with the fight for the “right” to own people – my people – as slaves. Mentioning a personal observation that a black man wore some Confederate flag socks, as Huetteman did, does not justify the argument. It is extremely frustrating that Huetteman used this man as a way of discrediting the inherent racist past of everything that symbol stands for.

Germany doesn’t display Swastikas for history or heritage’s sake. Why do we waste time trying to give credit to the idea of displaying a Confederate flag?

Gregory Whiting
LSA senior

Tradition does not lie in Big House graduation
To the Daily:

I recently read a letter to the editor by a University student, Amanda Jordan, that was published Jan. 23 in the student newspaper at Eastern Michigan University, The Eastern Echo. Jordan stated that, “It’s just the simple fact that your stadium is not on Michigan’s campus; the fact that, after 118 years, tradition will be broken.”

I hate to break the news, but my husband graduated from the University in 1975 and I graduated in 1976, and our ceremonies were in Crisler Arena. The decision to use Crisler had nothing to do with weather or construction. That was just the way it was.

Pamela Setla

Michigan primary will prove irrelevant to race
To the Daily:

In response to the column “Where our interests lie” (01/17/2008), which argued that students pay more attention to trivial issues and not to important responsibilities like voting, I raise one question: What effect did Michigan’s primary have on the final presidential nomination, particularly in regards to the Democratic Party?

Michigan voters have been disenfranchised since the Democratic National Committee stripped the state of all of its delegates to the Democratic National Convention and the Republican National Committee stripped half of Michigan’s delegates to the Republican National Convention. Every major Democratic candidate stayed off the ballot, except Hillary Clinton, and write-ins weren’t even counted.

I have my priorities, and I won’t vote in sham, irrelevant primaries. I’ll be voting in November, when it actually counts.

Albert Yao
LSA senior

Celebrity endorsement not a sign of triviality
To the Daily:

Kate Peabody’s viewpoint Tuesday about celebrity political endorsements made some good points (Media-tested. Celebrity-approved., 01/22/2008). It is true that public image is supremely important in any national political race, and Oprah Winfrey’s support of Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama undoubtedly focused media attention on him. However, it is important to remember that even as the media picks up on flashy stories, Obama has been running a grassroots-driven, substantive campaign that has discussed the relevant issues with great candor and eloquence.

I take issue with Peabody’s characterization of the presidential election as a return to campaigning for high-school prom. Obama has explicitly stated policies on many issues, including universal health care, reforming our public school system and improving the treatment of America’s veterans. Just as importantly, he has shown a consistent and clear ability to unite Americans of multiple political affiliations around the common cause of changing our nation for the better.

Oprah’s few campaign stops for Obama might have served the purpose of introducing more people to Obama’s rising campaign. But ultimately voters will decide this election based on who they believe is best equipped to lead America, not on the endorsement of any celebrity. Obama demonstrated this capacity far before Oprah’s public support, and no celebrity endorsement will overshadow the accomplishments of his historic candidacy.

Auren Kaplan
LSA junior
The letter writer is a member of the University’s chapter of Students for Obama.

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