* Re "O.C. College Course Claims JFK Conspiracy," Aug. 21:
The proposed course to be offered under the aegis of the South Orange County Community College District raises some disturbing issues.
That such a course should be offered in the first place brings into question the academic integrity of the college district and its trustees.
As noted in your article, even those who themselves hold theories about a possible conspiracy in the Kennedy assassination describe the views of the participants in this course as "the outer limits" of conspiracy theorists. This is not exactly an endorsement for the "high quality community education" advertised in district literature.
But perhaps even more disturbing for me is the reaction of Robert Lombardi, the district's chancellor, to the community response to the course.
Noting that the district should respond to students with special interests, he averred that "we also offer a course on California wines." Does Chancellor Lombardi equate anti-Semitic and anti-Israel slander with wine tasting?
Perhaps, in the interest of economy, the two courses might be taught together. "Mendacity and Merlot" or "Racism and Riesling" come to mind as titles to attract the kinds of students to whom the district feels compelled to cater.
It is ultimately Lombardi who, I feel, must take responsibility for the course being approved in the first place and for his egregious comments thereafter.
RABBI SHELTON J. DONNELL
Temple Beth Sholom, Santa Ana
* The Times recently reported that the organizer of a planned forum on the assassination of John F. Kennedy at Saddleback College, Steven Frogue, made the irresponsible decision to invite a speaker connected to Spotlight magazine, which supports the work of Holocaust revisionists and anti-Semitic propagandists.
I am glad the planned event has been canceled, but I urge college officials to consider presentation of a legitimate forum on this topic. The students and faculty at Saddleback lost an opportunity to hear from credible speakers and to evaluate and discuss legitimate questions and empirical evidence on the assassination.
As a longtime researcher in the Kennedy assassination and executive secretary of the national Coalition on Political Assassinations, I was tentatively invited to speak at this "class" without ever being informed about who else was scheduled to be present. Before confirming my participation, I was shocked to see my name linked to a public forum that would present such unsubstantiated and biased views.
The controversial speaker Michael Piper, whose recent book points a finger at the Israeli Mossad as responsible for organizing Kennedy's murder, submitted an abstract in 1996 to our annual national conference which was rejected by our peer review process.
Spotlight magazine ran an article condemning us for "censoring" his views, and Piper wrote to warn us that our event might be picketed by his supporters. I have consistently refused to appear on forums of any kind, or to debate speakers linked to such racist and insupportable views, and I called the college to disassociate my name from the event. Unfortunately, The Times did not bother to call me for clarification.
Also, my own work was described in the article, by both Chip Berlet and Gerald Posner, as beyond the pale of "mainstream conspiracy theorists," which seems to me an oxymoron. The article incorrectly claims that I am an "adherent" of the theories of Dist. Atty. Jim Garrison of New Orleans, which Posner claims are "demonstrably false."
While I do not support some of Garrison's claims, documents newly released by the Assassination Records Review Board have shown that key elements of Garrison's contested claims were true.
We do agree that no lone gunman in Dealey Plaza killed President Kennedy, and that serious questions remain in the deaths of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy. This view does not put us outside the "mainstream" of American thought in any sense. It is Posner's "coincidence theory" which resides in that position.
Legitimate scrutiny, weighing of ballistic evidence, reevaluation of historical source documents and presentation of critical methods could benefit students in an academic setting.
Our organization could provide speakers to local colleges with the credentials and quality needed to rise above the rank speculation and to begin a serious search for the truth that has eluded our nation since that untimely death.
Coalition on Political
* The California Education Code, Section 72103, clearly prohibits board members who are professional teachers from being employed by the districts they govern.
The code doesn't make exceptions for unpaid employment or for noncredit classes; it just says trustees can't make policy and set budgets that will affect them personally.