Sunday, April 20, 2008

Friends indeed...and conscientious citizens!

The Sunday News April 20 editorial "A friend not in deed" is a lesson on how fragile are the rights of the accused to defend themselves, won with so much sacrifice of lives and fortunes over twenty-five hundred years; and how careless of those rights a provincial newspaper can be.

The editorial states: "...if the friend had been arrested for possessing stomach-turning child pornography, and you work for a center that helps victims of sexual assault, standing by your friend has to have a limit. Your first concern-indeed the first concern of society at large – has to be for the victims. It's why we think the YWCA of Lancaster’s has done the right thing in distancing itself from two former employees who testified at a sentencing hearing earlier this month for Stephen Spiese, the local actor from Columbia who was convicted in Lebanon County Court on child pornography charges.”

Is Sunday News editor Marv Adams familiar with the Stalinist trials of the 1930s when innocent people were purged and either shot or sent to work camp and a slower death in Siberia? No one dared testify concerning the character of the accused or they too would have met the same fate.

Is Adams aware of the trials and persecutions by the Nazis, not just against Jews but also others whom they considered enemies of the state? No one dared testify for the accused there either.

One of the cornerstones of democracy is the right – indeed the obligation – of citizens to testify without fear of retribution either from the state or others.

No employee should be subject to censure or penalty for performing the patriotic duty of honestly testifying in court!

These witnesses provided vital information for consideration by the Judge in evaluating the history of Spiese. Their testimony had nothing whatsoever to do with whether Spiese watched child pornography or the propriety of such actions. If the YWCA doesn't like the sentence, let them criticize the judge, not pander to the public by "distancing itself from two former employees."

If it were up to this writer (and I say this in jest), Adams would be sentenced to return to college and take several courses in history and civics. He is a good man and otherwise has my respect, but his ignorance of the lessons of history and essence of democracy are shockingly apparent.

Robert Edwin Field, Publisher