ENDA and Bully Politics

GAY RIGHTS march

The United States Senate is quietly passing a law, known by the acronym ENDA, (Employment Non-Discrimination Act) that will place homosexuals in the same protected class as African Americans.

Personally, I am in favor of civil rights for gay people. They have the right to live their lives as they chose and to love whomever they want. They definitely should not be subjected to unjust discrimination. Homosexuals are human beings and American citizens.

However, I want the laws we pass to be just for everyone. Laws that seek to create a super category of citizen whose rights trump those of other citizens are, on their face, unjust laws. I am particularly concerned about issues of religious freedom.

I am also concerned about the way that Congress approaches legislation these days. I would wager that there are two incentives behind this particular bill. One is to pass a “hero deal” for the gay rights community. The motive for his is to pull gay activists and their dollars even closer to the Democratic Party. The other is to force the Republican House to either pass the bill and thus enrage a large part of their own base, or to kill and it and thus motivate the Democratic base.

One thing I’m reasonably sure is not under serious consideration is the impact ENDA would have on the lives and freedoms of ordinary Americans. I doubt if the question as to whether or not this is a good piece of legislation has been seriously discussed in the halls of Congress by either side of the debate.

According to a letter that the United States Conference of Bishops sent to members of the United States Senate, this proposed law would threaten religious liberty, support the redefinition of marriage, and reject the biological definition of gender. Those are serious charges, which should open the legislation for debate and amendment.

In the current climate, it is a stand-up action for the bishops to speak against this legislation. They, the Church, and faithful Catholics along with them, will be excoriated and called bigots and worse for having the temerity to suggest that the language of this legislation is flawed and too one-sided.

All this raises a couple of questions. First, is every piece of legislation that the gay rights community supports, by definition, good legislation that should not be debated, amended or critiqued for its content? Second, is expressing concern about bad language and specific components of a piece of legislation that is supported by gay rights advocates automatically, and by definition, an act of bigotry?

Have we reached the point where people of good will are unable to discuss legislation on its merits because of the mindless rhetoric and name-calling that is used to promote it?

I have the impression that Congress has moved past being a deliberative body and entered the arena of bully politics and don’t-read-the-bill-it-will-only-make-it-harder-to-vote-for-it.

I’ve done some of this myself, so I know a little bit about the emotions that push it. When a powerful special interest group wants something, every law-maker knows that the political price of opposing it will be terrible. If the special interest — in this case, gay rights advocates — wants something, and they are known for being a group that can turn on a dime and attack with intent to destroy in a personal way anyone who opposes them, the stakes grow higher.

If the special interest in question is also one that a law-maker has supported and been supported by in the past, the hill to climb to vote against or even amend a piece of legislation the special interest wants becomes a job-losing mountain.

Hence, the motivation to not read the bill. It’s easier to vote for a bad bill if you don’t read it or think about it or let yourself listen to requests to revise it.

I imagine the bishops would be happy to support a piece of legislation that addressed genuine discrimination against any group of people, and certainly something that addressed genuine discrimination against homosexuals.

It is truly a shame that Congress no longer deliberates about the legislation it passes, but just lines up the votes according to political consideration and then rams things through to see if they will hurt the opposing party in the next election.

I miss Congress. Congress matters.

Here is a copy of the letter issued by the USCCB concerning this law.

 

Bishop s end letter

Bishop s letter 2

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Even if I Die, I Should be the First One

Even if I die, I should be the first one.

That was how Father Benny Putharayli evaluated the situation when the gunman who had invaded his church during mass gestured for him to step forward.

Father Putharayli’s parishioners were already on the floor, taking cover. A gunman had walked into the Church of St Michael in Ray, ND during mass and yelled, “Stop Father!”

“It was a shocking moment because I was preaching,” the priest recounted. The parishioners hit the floor and that left Father Putharayli the only one standing.

When the gunman gestured for the priest to come forward, Father Putharayli thought, “Even if I die, I should be the first one.”

I would guess that Father’s thoughts were almost instantaneous. This doesn’t sound like the kind of situation where someone has time to weigh their ideas and contemplate consequences. Moments like this strip away the intellectual boundaries we place between who we are and who we would like to be.

It sounds as if that split second thought was Father Putharayli, offering his life for that of his parishioners.

The gunman was a killer. He had murdered two people, including his 82-year-old mother, before coming to the church. Fortunately, he only wanted money from the parishioners. But Father Putharayli didn’t know this when he was looking down the barrel of that shotgun, and given that he was dealing with someone so depraved that he had killed his own mother, things could easily have turned bloody in that church that evening.

The world gets crazier and violent acts multiply. But, even in the midst of this violence, individual acts of heroism and self-sacrifice witness to the best that’s in us. That is one of the messages we need to take away from the many terrible events in our society. Good happens, and it happens in the worst of times.

I’m tired of asking the question “Why?” about the senseless violence in our society? The operative word about these terrible crimes is that they are senseless by ordinary thinking. There will never be a comprehensible answer to the question Why? or at least not one we want to hear.

The truth is, our society has become a psycho-breeder. We don’t want to face that and the implications it has for some of our cherished misbehaviors. But without a willingness to forego easy answers and quickie fixes that will not work, the eternal whys of the victims have no answers.

As I said a few months ago, we are going to have to learn to live with this. This is our new normal.

I understand the shattered victims who ask Why? That is the first and deepest response of the grievously wounded. Coming from those whose lives have been shattered, Why? isn’t a question so much as it is a statement. I am worth something it says. My loved one who is dead or injured is a beautiful gift from God and their worth is beyond counting. Don’t you see that?

That is what Why? means when it comes from a shattered victim.

But as a rhetorical question from a stunned public, it has ceased to resonate, at least for me. I am tired of asking Why?

I refuse to go where these rhetorical Whys? lead to, which is a fixation on the monsters who do these things. I don’t want to talk about them. I would rather we never spoke their names and, when the times comes, that we salt their graves so nothing can ever grow there again.

So, if you want to gabble about the various shootings and tragedies of this week or the weeks before, go elsewhere. The silence on this blog is my salt on the monster’s graves. They are anathema to me. When I speak, it will be about the beautiful acts of heroism and love that ordinary people rise to as a result of these pitiless assaults.

We need to focus on the brave and selfless people who look down the barrel of a shotgun and think Even if I die, I should be the first one. 

Because, even in the worst of times, good happens.

From Chicago Sun-Times.com:

The Rev. Benny D. Putharayil was conducting Saturday night mass at the Church of St. Michael in Ray, N.D. when a man armed with a shotgun barged in.

“It was a shocking moment because I was preaching,” Putharayil recalled Monday night, only after learning the man had been wanted for murder. “He stepped in with a gun and shouted, ‘Stop, Father.’”

Heads in the pews turned to catch sight of 54-year-old Billy Varner, who has since been charged with the murder of two women in north suburban Antioch, according to the priest and authorities.

Nearly three-dozen parishioners hit the floor, taking cover in the pews, leaving Putharayil the only one standing, the Catholic priest said in a phone interview.

Then the man gestured with his gun for Putharayil to come forward.

“My thought was, ‘Even if I die, I should be the first one,’” Putharayil said. “By God’s grace I was a spared.”

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Guess What? Heaven and Hell are BOTH in Oklahoma!

It seems that a number of the Catholic Patheosi are blogging about hell.

Since all I know of hell is what I’ve learned during the last week of session in the Oklahoma Legislature, I’ve decided to talk about that other place.

Enjoy.

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Supremes Dump Oklahoma Court Case and I Am Bummed About It

 

There are times when I get up and walk off the House floor.

I go to my office and tell my secretary not to let anyone in. Or, I will go wandering around the rotunda.

But I get away from the mike on my desk and its ever-beckoning invitation to let fly and say whatever I want.

Because what I would want to say in that heated moment is not what I would want to say later, after the dust has settled and I’ve found my inner sane.

I am in a similar situation now, which is why I am not going to weigh in on the only bit of news today that has anything directly to do with me. Because I know that what I would say now is not what I would want to have said later.

Sometimes, it’s better to just keep your mouth shut.

The Supreme Court of the United States has decided not to hear a case based on an Oklahoma law concerning the prescribing of drugs used in chemical abortions. I co-authored an amicus curiae brief in favor of this law, along with my friend House Majority Leader Pam Peterson. That’s why I’ve been mum on this case up until now.

I will talk about it more. Later.

For now, here are a few facts (which I will have some thoughts about in the future) from the Washington Post:

The Supreme Court left in place Monday a decision by Oklahoma’s highest court that a major provision of that state’s new abortion law is unconstitutional because it effectively bans all medication abortions.

The high court last summer had tentively agreed to consider the issue but asked the Oklahoma Supreme Court for clarification on exactly what the law proscribes. The Oklahoma court issued an opinion last week that the law would effectively end the early-term practice of medication-induced abortions, and was thus unconstitutional.

Upon receiving the Oklahoma opinion, the Supreme Court then announced Monday that it will not schedule the case for briefing and consideration. As is customary, the justices gave no reason for deciding not to hear the case.

It is clear, however, that there are other ways for the issue to reach the Supreme Court. A number of states have passed similar restrictions on medication abortions, and the issue is working its way through the courts.

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Book Review: People Pleasing, Miss Perfection, and Following God

To join the discussion about A Confident Heart, or to order a copy, go here BC AConfidentHeart 1

There’s an old story about Abraham Lincoln and his horse. It seems that the president was trying to get on his horse, but the horse started hopping around and got his back hoof hung in the stirrup. Lincoln stopped, looked at the horse, and said, “If you want to get on, I’ll get off.”

I think that God sometimes says something similar to us. Women, in particular, are afflicted with the Miss Perfection syndrome. I think it comes from our strivings to be good girls. We share an all-too-human craving for approval and validation from the people around us. For women, this is intensified by our intuitive understanding of others.

Make no mistake about it, women are better at people skills than men. When it comes to human interaction, we have a whole other level of intelligence that is just not there in most men. This intelligence can cripple rather than empower if we turn it on ourselves in the guise of people-pleasing.

The truth is, if we are trying to please others 24/7, then we aren’t in sync with the God Who made us. We aren’t doing what He made us to do. Read the Scriptures through from “In the beginning” to “Come Lord Jesus.” You will not find admonitions to make people pleasing a life’s goal in there anywhere.

On the contrary. We are a exhorted to please God, even if it displeases other people.

That’s a tough order for most of us with double x chromosomes, wired as we are with antennae that respond to the slightest change in the emotional weather of those around us.

Renee Swope wrote a book from her heart to other women when she wrote A Confident Heart. The subtitle, How to Stop Doubting Yourself and Live in the Security of God’s Promises, says it all.

Mrs Swope talks directly to women with this book. She frames her message by sharing the life lessons she has learned, first from growing up in a broken home with a distant father, and then walking the high-wire act of care-giver, mom, writer, ministry leader.

The truth is, the average American woman’s life is an insanity-making brew of conflicting demands based on conflicting roles. Most women work almost non-stop at their various jobs, and most women feel that they are failing at least a little bit at each of those jobs. We live, as Henry David Thoreau said, “lives of quiet desperation.”

We drive ourselves to get it all right, at least on the outside, and often end up neglecting the inside of our lives and the lives of those around us. Miss Perfection doesn’t have time to follow God because she is too busy trying to prove something that can’t be proven to people who really don’t care all that much, anyway.

We are not the sum of our successes with our failures subtracted to give us a net worth. We are children of the Living God, and He loves us, just exactly as we are.

People pleasing is a poison that drives us to drink deep of the unhealthy brew of perfectionism and pretense. God pleasing is simply being who we are.

People pleasing perfectionism is all about lying on the outside, hiding the flaws that make us human and hoping that no one ever finds out. It is about self-isolating fear and fraudulent living under the whip of our own demands. God pleasing is a matter of letting go and simply knowing … accepting … that He is God. God pleasing is as simple as saying yes in a long sigh of relief.

We don’t have to do anything for God to love us. No matter what we accomplish, He will not love us any more. No matter how often we fail, He will not love us any less.

Unconditional love is the answer to people pleasing, and the only place we will ever find it is at the foot of the cross.

Mrs Swopes takes her women readers through a discussion of the gifts of the spirit and how they apply to their own lives. That is the one place where I part company with her in this book. Catholics and Protestants both encourage people to spend time looking for what God wants of us. Catholics call it discernment, Protestants call it seeking God’s will.

I think — and I realize that I am almost alone in this — that all we have to do is just follow. Follow Christ. Obey the Ten Commandments and the Beatitudes and trust Him. You don’t need to chase yourself around, looking for God’s plan for your life. It has been my experience that if God wants you to do something, you won’t be able to get out of it.

It is a mark of how much this book got to me that I say that. I got engaged with it, and found myself in quite a few of the things that Mrs Swopes wrote. I did this to the point that I found myself dialoging with the author — and now the people reading this blog — in my head.

A Confident Heart is designed to be used either in personal reading or in small group settings. It comes with a dvd to help the study group setting.

If you are a woman who is struggling to find spiritual balance in your life (which of us isn’t?) then A Confident Heart is a good place to find some answers.

I’m going to offer a free giveaway of this book to three of Public Catholic’s women readers. It will be very simple. The first three women commenters who ask for it, will receive a free copy.

 

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Telekinetic Girl (Not)

 

Belated Halloween prank video. I’m not much of a practical joke fan, but since every person in this video had to sign off on being part of it, I decided that it is ok to publish.

And of course, there’s the likelihood that every person in this video, including the customers, is an actor, and the prank is really on us. All I know is that the people in the coffee shops around here aren’t nearly this well-groomed, fit and attractive.

See if you can figure out how they did it.

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How Does Spying on Pope Francis Keep Americans Safe?

 

According to the Telegraph, the United States government spied on Pope Francis during the conclave preceding his election as pope.

I can think of only one reason to do something like this and that reason is schoolboy voyeurism. I’ve said it before, and I’m going to say it again right now: We have elected people who do not belong in office.

Things have gotten so bad that the United Nations put out a story saying that the United States has pledged not to spy on them and the NSA is now saying that President Obama didn’t know they were spying on German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Uh-huh. And Bill Clinton didn’t have sex with that woman, and Richard Nixon had no idea what was on that 18 minutes of blank tape.

Even some members of Congress are upset about all this spying on our allies.

Interestingly, even as the government skitters around, trying to cover its garbage, the spin machine is already beginning to churn out explanations as to why we are going to keep on doing it to “keep Americans safe.”

Boy in papal chair

Of course none of this explains why these dead-from-the-neck-ups need to spy on Pope Francis. Babies aren’t even afraid of Pope Francis. Little kids steal his chair and intellectually challenged people take over his popemobile.

Pope boy popemobile

There is no reason to be spying on Pope Francis, except, perhaps, his predilection for standing up for peace and the rights of poor people all over the world. That Jesus stuff can be, in fact always has been, revolutionary.

But, as the Communists learned when they bugged Cardinal Wojtyla in Poland, spying doesn’t intimidate the Holy Spirit.

I imagine these idiots have thoroughly embarrassed themselves by spying on the Pope. I also imagine that they will keep it up.

I don’t think they are going to stop until the people who pay the bills and write the laws stop them. That, in case you don’t know, would be Congress.

What’s missing in this whole thing is the representation that we the people deserve from those we have elected.  Nobody is speaking out for the American people. Why aren’t the people we sent to Washington to represent us in the United States Senate and the United States House of Representatives speaking up for our rights to privacy?

Why is it ok for our government to build a huge … spy thing … in Utah to house the information it has gleaned from listening in on our cell phones and reading our emails?

How long are we the people going to stand for this?

From The Telegraph:

The National Security Agency spied on the future Pope Francis before and during the Vatican conclave at which he was chosen to succeed Benedict XVI, it was claimed on Wednesday.

The American spy agency monitored telephone calls made to and from the residence in Rome where the then Archbishop Jorge Mario Bergoglio stayed during the conclave, the secret election at which cardinals chose him as pontiff on March 13.

The claims were made by Panorama, an Italian weekly news magazine, which said that the NSA monitored the telephone calls of many bishops and cardinals at the Vatican in the lead-up to the conclave, which was held amid tight security in the Sistine Chapel.

The information gleaned was then reportedly divided into four categories — “leadership intentions”, “threats to financial system”, “foreign policy objectives” and “human rights”.

 

At that time, Benedict XVI was Pope, suggesting that the Vatican may also have been monitored during the last few weeks of his papacy.

To read another perspective, check out Frank Beckwith and Kathy Schiffer.

Update: NSA denies spying on Pope Francis.

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Obamacare: The White House Viewpoint

 

Will Obamacare provide affordable health care or not?

If it does, who will get it?

I received a link to this video in a White House broadcast email today. I think you need to see it and add it to your list of considerations concerning this plan.

I have no idea how accurate it is, or what parameters are being used to come up with these figures. Feel free to add links to other legitimate information in the com boxes.

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Elderly Woman to Mugger: If You Kill Me, I’ll Go to Heaven and You’ll Go to Hell

 

Ninety-two year-old-woman witnesses to a mugger and sends him home to pray.

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Mikey Weinstein Makes a Call. Air Force Academy Makes “So Help Me God” Optional.

Deacon Greg has the story.

 

Mikey Weinstein, former legal counsel to the administration of President Reagan, has scored what I would imagine is to him another big victory. Thanks to a phone call from Mr Weinstein, the Air Force Academy has made the phrase in its oath “so help me God” optional.

Just in case someone might be tempted to mistake Mr Weinstein for a civil libertarian, let’s consider an article I discussed earlier that he wrote for the Huffington Post:

Ladies and Gentlemen, let me tell you of monsters and monstrous wrongs. And let me tell you what these bloody monsters thrive on.

I founded the civil rights fighting organization the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF) to do one thing: fight those monsters who would tear down the Constitutionally-mandated wall separating church and state in the technologically most lethal entity ever created by humankind, the U.S. military.

Today, we face incredibly well-funded gangs of fundamentalist Christian monsters who terrorize their fellow Americans by forcing their weaponized and twisted version of Christianity upon their helpless subordinates in our nation’s armed forces. Oh my, my, my, how “Papa’s got a brand new bag.”

What’s Papa’s new tactic? You’re gonna just love this! These days, when ANYone attempts to bravely stand up against virulent religious oppression, these monstrosities cry out alligator tears in overflowing torrents and scream that it is, in fact, THEY who are the dispossessed, bereft and oppressed. C’mon, really, you pitiable unconstitutional carpetbaggers? It would be like the utter folly of 1960′s-era southern bigots howling like stuck pigs in protest that Rosa Parks’ civil rights activism is “abusing” them by destroying and disenfranchising their rights to sit in the front seat of buses in Montgomery, Alabama. Please, I beseech you! Let us call these ignoble actions what they are: the senseless and cowardly squallings of human monsters.

Queasy with the bright and promising lights of the cultural realities of the present day, those evil, fundamentalist Christian creatures and their spiritual heirs have taken refuge behind flimsy, well-worn, gauze-like euphemistic facades such as “family values” and “religious liberty.” These bandits coagulate their stenchful substances in organizations such as the American Family Association  (AFA), the ultra-fundamentalist Family Research Council (FRC), and the Chaplains Alliance for Religious Liberty(CARL). The basis of their ruinous unity is the bane of human existence and progress: horrific hatred and blinding bigotry. However, when the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) and others correctly characterize them as “hate groups,” they all too predictably raise a deafening hue and disingenuously bellow mournfully like the world class cowards they are. (Read the rest here.)

That, my friends, is hate speech directed at Christians. It is the same kind of hate speech that has preceded overt discrimination and violent persecution of groups of people all over the world. It says all anyone needs to know about Mr Weinstein, his organization and their goals.

Predictably, Mr Weinstein is not satisfied with making “so help me God” optional. He wants the phrase removed from the oath altogether. Also predictably, he claims that his motivations are based on his desire for “freedom.”

From the Associated Press:

DENVER (AP) — Air Force Academy cadets are no longer required to say “so help me God” at the end of the Honor Oath, school officials said Friday.

The words were made optional after a complaint from the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, an advocacy group, that they violated the constitutional concept of religious freedom.

Academy Superintendent Lt. Gen. Michelle Johnson said the change was made to respect cadets’ freedom of religion.

The oath states, “We will not lie, steal or cheat, nor tolerate among us anyone who does. Furthermore, I resolve to do my duty and to live honorably, so help me God.”

Cadets are required to take the oath once a year, academy spokesman Maj. Brus Vidal said.

Mikey Weinstein, founder and president of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, welcomed the change but questioned how it will be applied.

If the person leading the oath includes the words, cadets who choose not to say them might feel vulnerable to criticism, he said.

“What does it mean, `optional’?” Weinstein said. “The best thing is to eliminate it.”

Vidal said the oath is led by the Cadet Wing honor chair, a student, and that person will also have the option to use or not use the words.

Academy officials did not immediately return a follow-up call seeking comment on Weinstein’s question.

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