By Evamarie Socha
The Daily Item
NORTHUMBERLAND — A West Milton pastor and a Bloomsburg University professor were among 101 people honored as “citizen journalists” by the American Civil Liberties Union’s Central Susquehanna chapter Sunday night.
More than 100 people gathered at the Front Street Station for dinner and to recognize the recipients of the ACLU’s Thomas Paine Awards. These people had letters to the editor and op-ed pieces published in The Daily Item, among other local and regional publications.
The Rev. Leah Schade, pastor of United in Christ Lutheran Church, West Milton, won the Mark McCollough Religious Leadership Award, recognizing her for her “religious leadership and exemplary and tireless efforts” to bring attention to environmental issues, particularly hydrofracking.
Wendy Lee, a professor of philosophy at Bloomsburg University, won the Clyde Peeling Critical Thinker Award, also for her work and teachings on environmental issues such as fracking.
The Thomas Paine winners who attended represented a broad range of writers and topics, everything from Pennsylvania’s voter ID law to bullying to fracking to gun control and ownership.
They were invited one by one to accept their awards and say a few words. Some simply said thank you, and others championed their causes, such as Lana Golden, recognized for an October letter to the editor in The Daily Item about pro-life issues.
“So much is going wrong today,” she told the crowd, “but write about it and see the reaction you’ll get.”
Dr. Robert Lamparter, honored for his writings about health care, advocated for more disclosure to patients about the cost of doctors’ services. Sue Laidacker, recognized for her editorial efforts about fracking, said she “wants it banned, not regulated.”
Five Selinsgrove Area High School students were among those honored. Their letters to the editor in The Daily Item were an assignment from teacher Harvey Edwards as part of their studies of “The Crisis” by Thomas Paine.
Executive Director Reggie Shuford, of the ACLU’s Pennsylvania chapter in Philadelphia, encouraged everyone to keep writing to newspapers and other media, saying such efforts have helped the ACLU in its fight against the voter ID law and with its current priority, criminal justice reform.