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PIONEER VIEWPOINTS: Have an opinion? Write us a letter

Have an opinion to share with the community? We don't care if you are right, left, or right down the middle politically. We welcome all letters, and we print virtually all the local letters to the editor we receive, as long as they meet long-established criteria. Letters must be signed by an actual person and include a home address and a telephone number. The address and telephone number are for verification purposes only and will not be printed. Letters can't attack private individuals or be libelous. And we will only consider letters that are 400 words or fewer.

Other than that, the political viewpoints expressed have no bearing on whether a letter will be published or not. Everyone is entitled to an opinion and good newspapers do not get in the way of that. Letters can be from the far left, the far right and everywhere in between.

Just because we print a letter doesn't mean the newspaper agrees with it or any of the points that are raised. In fact, we routinely print letters that we vehemently disagree with, but that should never be a consideration in deciding whether to print a letter.

The beautiful part of the Opinion page is that it reflects the views of everyone — all political persuasions or no political affiliations, all religions or no religions, rich or poor, white, black or any other color. It doesn't matter whether a letter writer has a master's degree or didn't finish high school. There is no litmus test to decide if a letter is worthy of print.

And that's all because every person has their own personal viewpoint about an issue and the right to express themselves.

The clash of ideas on the Opinion page is one of the hallmarks of a free press. It serves as a public forum for people to gain insights into issues and viewpoints that they may have never considered before.

While discussing hot-button issues such as immigration, we should all be grateful that we live in a country that protects the precious right of free expression. No matter how divided people are on an issue, that right should bring common ground.

Yes, the exchange of ideas can get messy at times when angry words and name-calling muddy up the debate. That's why we urge letter writers and Facebook posters to be respectful of other people's views and remember the often-quoted words of English writer and historian Evelyn Beatrice Hall: "I do not agree with what you have to say but I will defend to the death your right to say it."

(This editorial was adapted from a version originally published by the Alexandria Echo Press)