A letter from a reader and Facebook Friend has us asking if the word "hate" has a place on our editorial pages.
Rene’ Paul de la Varre of Chapel Hill sent us a letter that will be in Sunday's Chapel Hill News on the bus ad controversy. (See our original story here.) For those new to the story, the Church of Reconciliation placed paid ads calling for an end to military aid to Israel in Chapel Hill Transit buses. The town briefly pulled the ads because they did not contain the church's contact information, per town policy, but the ads were revised and are back up. The Town Council will likely discuss its bus ad policy tomorrow night or later this fall.
"I am glad the Coalition for Peace and the Church of Reconciliation had the chance to post their erroneous political ad on the Chapel Hill bus," de la Varre writes, "for it only served to expose their naivety on foreign affairs, and their blatant hatred of Israel." (emphasis mine)
He goes on to defend military aid to Israel, writing that the spending there is a fraction of our overall foreign aid and noting Israel's importance to us strategically.
The question we have is should the newspaper allow letter writers to say one party "hates" another? The editorial pages are a place for fair comment and criticism, and we are lucky (and don't take for granted) that we have a vigorous opinion section. But newspapers also try to distinguish between public and private figures. That's why you can say almost whatever you want about Obama and Romney but not about your neighbor.
The church, in effect, is our neighbor. Or is it? Private figures sometimes rise to the level of public figures by placing themselves in the spotlight of public controversy, in this case buying ads on a taxpayer-funded transportation.
Still, associate editor Dave Hart and I are uncomfortable letting people ascribe motives or emotions to those they disagree with. The church, which also has a letter coming in Sunday's edition, would almost certainly say it does not hate Israel, though it clearly disagrees and may even hate the Israeli government's actions in the West Bank.
So what do you think? Where would you draw the line?