Editor's note: Since so many readers felt compelled to vent about George Cothran's April 7 column, "Sisters of Perpetual Conspiracy," we decided to uncork the vox populi and let it flow.

Free Speech, The Inquisition, Papal Supremacy, Bonnets, Lenny Bruce, Withcraft, Birth Control, Civility, and Other Reflections on the Meaning of Easter

Thanks to George Cothran for staking out a rational position in the recent row between local Catholics and the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence. Such thoughtful analysis regarding this kind of issue is hard to come by in a city where pseudo-progressive political posing is the foundation of political life, and the very raison d'etre of the Board of Supervisors.

William Samuel Tobben
Bernal Heights

Wow, did George Cothran have a bee in his Easter bonnet, or what? To say I was astonished at his rantings and ravings about the now-infamous Easter Day street party in the Castro is an understatement. I didn't realize that under the skin of this journalist beat the heart of a Pat Robertson, or the Pope.

Talk about needing to "let it go." Get over it George, the party went on, the archdiocese had its say, and everyone is ready to move on. I have no intention of responding to any of his theories about the Sisters or Tom Ammiano. The Sisters are guaranteed the right of free speech as much as the archdiocese is guaranteed the right of freedom of religion. Sometimes these two principles clash -- but that's what our country is supposed to be about.

It would have been reprehensible to me if the Board of Supervisors had disallowed the party to go forward. No person, religion, or organization has the right to dictate what is acceptable. We live in a democracy, not a theocracy -- and thank God for that.

As a gay, HIV man, I respect anyone's right to their opinion. I respect George's right to express his views. But I wonder how he'd feel if some religious organization went to his editor and said, "We hate that story, it's offensive, and we want it stopped." I'm sure George would have more than the fit he had about the Sisters.

What I really got from George's column was that it appears that people are beginning to feel threatened by the gay/lesbian community and its political power. In reading between the lines, I got the impression that George is telling us queers that we've gone too far and offended straight society. Well, George, get over it! This community is not going away.

One last thing, I was very amused by George's listing of all the wonderful things and people that are, in his mind, the Catholic Church. In particular, his reminding us that Catholic Charities was one of the largest AIDS service providers in the city. That is correct, but most of their money comes from local, state, and federal funds. There's that evil government again. I'm grateful for the services Catholic Charities provides, but that doesn't give the archdiocese the right to dictate morality to the community.

While George was making his list, he failed to mention that the Catholic Church is responsible for the Inquisition, the brutal torture and murder of thousands of women accused of witchcraft, complicity with the Nazis by allowing countless Italian Jews to be sent to death camps, leading the fight against a woman's right to choose, and condemning gay and lesbian people as less than human because of our "sins."

I welcome the archbishop's overtures of reconciliation. However, I fear that won't help. As long as he continues to call for the passage of anti-gay legislation and demands that our community bend to his will, there can be no room for reconciliation.

Jerry T. Windley
The Castro

I really appreciated reading George Cothran's opinion piece about the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence. I am a good liberal and supportive of gay rights. However, I agree with Cothran that the supervisors, but more importantly the Sisters, should have been more sympathetic to Catholic concerns. His thought exercise illustrating Catholics making fun of gays on the anniversary of Harvey Milk's assassination illustrated his point clearly and pointedly.

While the sisters may choose to mock religion, they could learn from some of its tenets: "Do unto others ..." is one that jumps to mind. Perhaps learning the Hail Mary prayer would be appropriate as well.

Brett Evans
Via Internet

George Cothran just doesn't get it. The Catholic Church has no right to be respected on Easter Sunday, or any other day. Thanks to the First Amendment, Catholics, whether archbishops or parishioners, do have the right to speak out and assemble to try to earn respect from the community.

The same First Amendment, coupled with the Fourteenth Amendment, fortunately prohibits the mayor and Board of Supervisors from denying a permit to assemble to any group, whether Catholics or the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, based on who they are or what their message is. Tom Ammiano, Mark Leno, and seven other supervisors were right to not revoke the Sisters' permit to assemble just because another group, the Catholics, objected to the Sisters' message on Easter or any other day.

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