You lost at me "goon": Thank you for writing such a well-thought-out article. This was the first time I had heard of this situation (I live in Kansas). Like you, I'm very disturbed that a judge would take it upon himself to establish a religion for these children.
I completely agree that having exposure to the various religions allows us to truly make our own decisions about how we believe. I also agree that it would be a good starting point to learn tolerance.
I must admit I almost stopped reading your article after the first few paragraphs. Your article was very well written and shows journalistic skill. However, when you interjected the comment, "I think Joseph Smith was a total goon," you completely lost me.
The only reasoning I can imagine for doing this is that you were trying to establish yourself as not sympathetic to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. If that is what you were doing, I think you should have stopped short on that sentence.
David J. Lesher, Kansas City, Kansas
Judge dropped the ball in this divorce case: The judge in this case is an embarrassment to the legal profession. The audacity of a court trying to decide the religion of a man's children: When he has custody of the kids, they should go to his church. When she has custody, they should go to hers.
When they're old enough, they can decide which they like. Or they can decide that they don't like either. I'm outraged by Judge Robert Budoff!
Tom Cassidy, Phoenix
Mr. Smith was a criminal: All people should be protected from the sexist, judgmental, and hypersexual cult they call the Mormon religion. Joseph Smith was a criminal. Look it up, peeps!
Lisa Deasver, Phoenix
Mother's side of the story went unreported: It seems that only the father's side of the story is told in your article. What would the mother have said to Richard Franco's statements? To me it seems biased to the father's side. I suggest Sarah Fenske find out the mother's story before saying, "Poor Richard."
In the article, Sarah Fenske states: "Reading the court file, it's clear that Judge Budoff found Franco abrasive, arrogant, and annoying, which certainly seems possible. (In our conversations, he's always been perfectly pleasant, but he swears like a sailor — and I couldn't help but notice that his e-mail address begins with 'macho')."
If Richard is going to talk to a person interviewing him [with the intention of looking] like "father of the year" and a "good practicing Mormon," why would he "swear like a sailor?" If he did this in the interview, what did his say to his wife and children while married? Did he berate and belittle them? What about after the divorce and through all the appeals?
I don't think Budoff would just say, "Nope, they will be raised Catholic, and you can never teach them about the Mormon faith" unless he had just reason to rule this way. And if his judgment were unreasonable, then it would have been overturned in the appellate courts. And if the appellate court's ruling were unreasonable, then the Arizona Supreme Court would have overturned the ruling.
You also point out that the father had to pay the ex-wife her attorney fees of $14,000. I don't see this as a problem since if I were to sue someone and lost, they would request that their attorney fees be paid by me.
Maxwell Dietrich, Salt Lake City
Thou shall not legislate religion: I think this was a well-written article. I think the author is right on point — courts should not legislate religious decisions in parenting, and I appreciate the author's respect for the Mormon religion despite her own beliefs.
Jasmine Jensen, Ashburn, Virginia
Mother should have the right to decide: The person with the most custody of the children should have the right to dictate their religion. Richard Franco is not the primary custodian, so he shouldn't be confusing the children on this point. The Catholic and Mormon churches have little in common.
The mother has the right to decide. This is just common sense; however, the father and the author of your article are offended by the judge's ruling. If Richard Franco were a good parent, he would get out of the way on the issue of religion.
Rae Ann Daniels, Phoenix
Bias against religion is prevalent — even in court: I am in a unique position to comment on your article, as I have worked closely with Richard Franco in his office for almost four years. I have been privy to what has gone on with this divorce case — the e-mails, the litigation, the unproven accusations.
I was even present in the courtroom when many of these decisions were rendered, and I must confess to leaving the courtroom astounded, saddened, and, yes, even fearful. Why? Because I am Jewish. I know what bias against one's religion can mean.
Richard's theology and mine have little in common. However, we have discovered that our value systems are identical. I saw the court take Richard's children away from their natural father because of his religion and deny him the right to instruct them as he sees fit. The children are permitted to attend the LDS church with friends, just not with their father?
What kind of discrimination is this? And where in the Arizona Constitution is it written that Judge Budoff has the right to make such a decision?
Proof that light rail is a non-solution: Nice article. If the trains were dependent upon earned revenues from passengers, the system would have a better incentive to protect the quality of the product.
Messes and safety hazards wouldn't be so ineptly handled. But because fares cover only 10 percent of total costs, losing riders isn't a significant issue.
This is just more evidence in support of my contention that light rail will never be a significant factor in the transportation mix. In time, financially stressed cities may come to realize what an expensive non-solution they've burdened their citizens with.
They, of course, will blame voters for buying their sales pitch rather than themselves for making it.
John Semmens, Chandler
Fix problems before extending rail: Your article on what's going on with the new kabillion-dollar rail system was enlightening. Before ground is broken for a new line (to go along with the one we have), the powers that be need to fix these huge problems. We don't want our system to turn into the cesspool that rail systems are in other more prominent cities.
Paul Gilmore, Phoenix
Light-rail food for thought: I really appreciate the article on the light-rail operators and what they are going through. I ride the light rail and buses almost every day. I never imagined that it was that bad for the light-rail operators.
If the little window is open where they sit to drive the light rail, I will usually stop and say hi and thanks for the ride. I think they appreciate that. I don't think a lot of people think to do that, because they have to make bus transfers.
I used to get frustrated when I missed the light trail near my work, but I remember that the trains run every 10 minutes, sometimes less. After reading the article and realizing that they're supposed to wait only a short amount of time at a station and get to the end of the line quickly, I don't let it bother me anymore.
Your story really made me think.
Driving the trains is a great job: I just read your story about light rail, and I am one of the light-rail operators who love the job.
I also love my new bosses and my new company. I feel that some of these things that were brought out in your story are true to a point. However, I also feel that some things are greatly exaggerated.
We all don't feel like the operators you mentioned. Most of us are very happy here, relieved to be out of the buses. It's true we don't yet have a contract, but hopefully we will soon. It's true we have been asked to work a lot of overtime, but many of us want the overtime. We are able to say no, and none of us has actually been asked to sleep in our cars.
The union must also take some responsibility for why there is no contract. Are you aware that some of the operators were trying to bring in another union? We were trying to get the Teamsters, and not because we hate the Amalgamated Transit Union, but because of the so-called leadership of this local.
The leadership has no right to call anyone at Alternate Concepts Inc. compulsive liars (perhaps they should talk to us over here and find out what some of us want before they speak for us). Maybe some operators feel they have been betrayed by ACI, but some of us feel we have been betrayed by our own union.
Many of us feel that since we are no longer bus operators, we need different handling from what we previously had at the bus company. We are much smaller, and things are a bit more personal here. Our operators are not just another number to this company.
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I imagine that wherever you work there are always going to be people who want to fight everything, and people who will just take what they get. I will say that there is a lack of communication between the company and the union. I personally have had no problems with my new company. It has always been kind and fair to me. We are able to walk right into our boss' offices and talk about anything we need to. That is something we did not have at the bus company.
Yes, there is a problem of timely cleanup on trains. I believe it is because we still need more help. Yes, there have been times when we are short-handed. Yes, it is stressful, but we knew it would be when we made the decision to do this. We are challenged daily, but we are professionals and we have accepted the challenges.
I feel that when the rules are in place and we do finally get a contract, we need to work as a team. There is no reason to be against each other; we had enough of that when we worked at the bus company.
ACI should not be made the bad guy here.