Representative Kern Gets Gay Marriage Bill Out of Committee

Representative Sally Kern. Photo Source: Oklahoma House of Representatives.

Representative Sally Kern. Photo Source: Oklahoma House of Representatives.

Representative Sally Kern’s HB 1599 passed out of the Oklahoma House of Representatives’ Judiciary Committee this week. The vote was 5 to 3 in favor of putting the bill on the House floor.

If it becomes law, HB 1599 would have four effects. I am going to put my comments in bold to help you follow the thinking on this.

1. HB 1599 would prohibit the expenditure of state monies for “any activity that includes the licensing or support of same-sex marriage.”

The Oklahoma legislature clearly has the power to determine how state monies will be apportioned. There is a real possibility that this part of the bill would survive court challenge. 

2. HB 1599 requires that any Oklahoma state, county or city employee who takes actions that would “officially recognize, grant or enforce a same-sex marriage license” would lose “their salary, pension, or any other benefit” that is funded by Oklahoma tax monies.

This is broader than just state-appropriated monies. It takes in any funding for salaries, pensions or other benefits that come from local taxes, as well. The legislature has the power to determine how Oklahoma tax monies may be spent. Whether or not it has such sweeping powers to determine how local tax monies may be spent is questionable.

The legislature also has the power to allocate salaries, pensions and benefits to state employees. The question that will almost certainly arise if this bill becomes law is whether or not this particular use of that power is discriminatory. 

3. HB 1599 requires that state courts dismiss challenges to the “any portion of the Preservation of Sovereignty and Marriage Act (HB 1599) with an award of costs and attorney fees to defendants.”

In my opinion, this is a violation of the separation of powers on which our government is built. I also think it is a violation of the First Amendment right to petition the government. 

4. HB 1599 mandates that judges who violate “this act” will be removed from office.

5. This is not an effect of HB 1599, but it is important to note that it has what is called a “severability clause.” A severability clause means that if the courts strike down one portion of the bill, the rest of the statute will still stand.

Now that HB 1599 is out of committee, it is, in legislative parlance, “on the floor,” referring to the “floor” of the full House of Representatives. The next step in its passage will be to get it on the House agenda where it can be brought to a vote of the full House.

Whether or not Representative Kern will succeed in getting this bill onto the floor agenda and then getting it called up for a vote is a matter of internal House politics. This has a great deal to do with the push and pull of what is happening with other legislation and how the various members align themselves on this issue. It is an internal, out-of-sight bit of legislating.

If HB 1599 comes to a vote of the full House, and if it passes the full House, it will then go to the Senate, where the Senate author will have to put it through the same process, all over again. If it passes the full Senate without amendments (unlikely) it will go to the governor, who has the power to veto it.

If it is amended in the Senate, it must come back to the House and, unless Representative Kern accepts the Senate amendments, would go through a conference process. If she accepts Senate amendments, HB 1599 would be voted on again by the full House. If the bill goes to conference, it has a lot of hurdles to get over before it can be voted on again. A lot of bills die in the conference process.

If it gets through the conference process, it must then be put back on the agendas of both houses, and be brought to a floor vote in both houses. If it survives all that, it still has to go to the governor, who can veto it.

Each of these steps is more complex than it sounds here. Each step has more variables than I can discuss in a blog post.

It is no small accomplishment that Representative Kern succeeded in getting this bill out of committee. She is a determined, hard-working legislator who does not attack or harm her colleagues.

If HB 1599 does not come to a vote of the full House before the end of the legislative day on March 12, it can not be voted on this year. That does not mean the bill is dead. It can be brought up for a vote next year.

It will be interesting to see how this plays out in the next few weeks.

Are Wealthy US Foundations Paying to Suppress Religious Freedom?

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by US Embassy The Hague https://www.flickr.com/photos/usembassythehague/

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons by US Embassy The Hague https://www.flickr.com/photos/usembassythehague/

Are wealthy US foundations paying to suppress religious freedom?

John Lomperis of the Institute for Religion and Democracy says that so far as the Ford Foundation and the Arcus Foundation are concerned, the answer may be yes.

From Catholic News Agency:

“The agenda of such groups in opposing basic conscience protections could hardly be more diametrically opposed to our nation’s great traditions of freedom of conscience and of religion,” Lomperis, who serves as United Methodist Director for the institute, told CNA Feb. 10.

He contended that the pattern of grants “serves a fundamentally totalitarian vision these foundations and their allied politicians have of ‘religious liberty.’” This vision is especially opposed to those who value traditional sexual morality and respect for unborn human life, he noted.

“Our society is now facing serious questions about to what extent Christians (as well as, to a lesser extent, followers of other faiths) will be allowed to have the same degree to live in accordance with our values without facing new and powerful coercions,” Lomperis said.

The Arcus Foundation’s website lists a 2014 grant of $100,000 to the American Civil Liberties Foundation supporting “communications strategies to convince conservative Americans that religious exemptions are ‘un-American.’” A two-year Arcus grant to the ACLU in 2013 gave $600,000 to support the ACLU’s Campaign to End the Use of Religion to Discriminate. Arcus Foundation tax forms describe this as a “multi-pronged” effort to combat “the growing trend of institutions and individuals claiming exemptions from anti-discrimination laws because of religious objections.”

 

Oklahoma Legislators Take Aim at Gay Marriage

 

Representative Sally Kern. Photo Source: Oklahoma House of Representatives.

Representative Sally Kern. Photo Source: Oklahoma House of Representatives. Official file photo.

Oklahoma legislators have introduced 4 bills concerning gay marriage and civil rights for homosexuals and transsexuals.

Representative Sally Kern has introduced 3 bills:

HB 1599, which is designated the Preservation of Sovereignty  and Marriage Act, is a broad piece of legislation that seeks to dictate future findings by the courts, activities by state employees and expenditures of state monies in regards to same-sex marriage.

HB 1597 is another far-reaching bill. It does not address same-sex marriage, but instead says that no business can be forced to offer service to “any lesbian, gay, bi-sexual or transgender person, group or association.”

HB 1598 allows mental health providers to engage in conversion therapy. As I understand it, conversion therapy seeks to change homosexual orientation to heterosexual by means of talk therapy.

I doubt that any of these bills will get a hearing in committee. If they should happen to make it out of committee, their chances of coming to a vote on the House Floor are even more dim. If, by a combination of legislative pressures, they do come to a vote of the full House, they are almost certainly DOA in the Senate. A lot of times, whether or not these things come to a vote depends on the determination and skill of the individual legislator and the amount of support he or she has in the body.

Having said that, I can tell you that the legislation as drafted oversteps all sorts of legal bounds. They would not stand, even if they managed to become law.

HB 1599 overreaches in a lot of ways, but the obvious ones are that it seeks to tell judges ahead of time what they may rule. This is outside the province of a legislative body. The legislature certainly does have the power to determine how state monies are spent, so the part of the bill that would limit state appropriations for activities concerning same-sex marriage would have a good chance of withstanding a court challenge, at least in principle.

The fact that it is not an appropriations bill and does not address appropriations per se might lead to its being overturned because of vagueness. However, by putting these two unrelated matters together in one bill, Representative Kern has created a piece of legislation with two topics in two areas of law. This is called log-rolling, and is in violation of the Oklahoma Constitution.

HB 1597 is clearly a violation of the civil rights of homosexuals and transsexuals. The law seeks to set up a system of discrimination in service regarding a specific class or group of people. It does not address legitimate First Amendment concerns regarding religious beliefs. It allows service providers to refuse service to a group of people because they are members of that group and for no other reason.

HB 1598 is the only one of the three bills that has legal merit. The question of whether or not therapists may use a particular therapy has become loaded when it concerns “conversion therapy” as it is used with homosexuals. A few states have made “conversion therapy” illegal. However, the real question is whether or not legislative bodies should be passing laws dictating which therapeutic approach is the correct one for health care providers to use. Dictating medical procedures and therapies is outside the province of legislative bodies, or it should be.

The whole discussion revolves around political correctness, with both sides slinging statistics and accusations, but the real issue is legislative bodies overstepping their bounds.

Senator Corey Brooks. Photo Source: Oklahoma State Senate. Official file photo.

Senator Corey Brooks. Photo Source: Oklahoma State Senate. Official file photo.

Senator Corey Brooks has authored SB 478. This is a good bill, which I hope will pass. It protects people from prosecution and civil liability if their religious beliefs require them to abstain from participation in a same-sex marriage ceremony.

In truth, I do not expect Senator Brooks’ bill to get very far, either. The reason is simple:  I expect that the Oklahoma State Chamber of Commerce will oppose it, and the Oklahoma State Chamber of Commerce controls both the legislative and executive branches of Oklahoma’s government.

Their control is close to being dictatorial, and, as I said in another post, they are not all that nice about how they use it. Threats, which are not idle threats, are their standard way of dealing with legislators who do not do what they are told. Most Republican legislators are afraid of them, and with good reason.

Did the Supreme Court K-O the Seal of the Confessional?

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons. Photo by Josh. https://www.flickr.com/photos/ncindc/

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons. Photo by Josh. https://www.flickr.com/photos/ncindc/

Evidently, the Louisiana State Supreme Court woke up one morning and decided to K-O the legal protection for the seal of the confessional.

This legal privilege, which has long protected priests from prosecution for not revealing the things said to them in confession, has been under attack from zealous prosecutors. A few years ago, a prosecutor, who evidently never heard of building a case through the vast investigative powers of the government, decided to bug and record a confession between a prisoner in jail and his priest. When the prosecutor tried to enter this confession into evidence, the Catholic Church took him to court and won.

Now, the family of a young woman in the state of Louisiana has decided that they want a priest to testify as to what the young woman said to him in confession. The family has filed suit to force the priest to testify, so they can pursue a civil suit against the diocese. Since this confession was about the ugly topic of child abuse by an adult man, it raises all sorts of emotions and angers.

The Louisiana State Supreme Court basically ruled that if the person confessing reveals the confession, then the seal is broken and the priest can be forced to testify about the contents of the confession. There is precedent for this viewpoint in the attorney-client privilege. I have seen judges rule that the attorney-client privilege was broken because someone other than the attorney and client were in the room during the discussion, and then force the client to testify in court as to the contents of their conversation with their attorney.

However, the seal of the confessional is different from attorney-client privilege or doctor-patient privilege, or counselor-client privilege because it is a First Amendment right. The First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States guarantees the right to the free exercise of religion without government interference. This guarantee has kept America out of the religious conflicts which have marred other societies for over 200 years.

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons. By Ed Uthman. https://www.flickr.com/photos/euthman/

Photo Source: Flickr Creative Commons. By Ed Uthman. https://www.flickr.com/photos/euthman/

The Louisiana State Supreme Court, by attempting to treat the seal of the confessional as any other privileged conversation, put its foot right through the First Amendment. Subsequent to this, the Roman Catholic Diocese of Baton Rouge petitioned the United States Supreme Court to overturn this Louisiana decision.

Now comes the murky part.

The United States Supreme Court sent this whole mess back to the level of the Fifth District Court in order for that court to hear arguments.

Ever since the Supreme Court did this, I’ve been reading that they allowed the Louisiana Court’s decision to “stand.” I’ve read whole news reports saying this as a fact. I honestly thought that was what had happened.

But this is not accurate. The Supreme Court did not say, go home, Louisiana’s Supreme Court was right. They basically said, get back in line.

They sent the case, which is still alive and kicking, back to a lower court to allow both sides to have their say and present their positions. That action does not let the Louisiana State Supreme Court’s decision “stand.” It just lets everybody, on both sides, have their day in court.

I expect this decision of the Louisiana State Supreme Court to be overturned.

However, if it is not, then we are going to have to come back against this violation of our religious liberties, and we’re going to have to come back hard. This is not a parlor game. It is a matter of sending our priests to jail because they will not violate the seal of the confessional. It is a question of whether or not Catholics will be free to access the sacraments of our faith without government intrusion.

Priests will have no choice in this matter. They will have to go to jail rather than break the seal of the confessional. If they don’t, the entire edifice on which the Church is built — the sacraments — will crumble. American Catholics have an absolute right to receive the sacraments without government intrusion. That right is guaranteed in the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America.

It is one of the essential building blocks of all our liberties as a free people.

Most of these attacks on the seal of the confessional come from over-zealous prosecutors. This particular claim comes from a family that probably feels guilty because their child was sexually abused and they did not know about it. I understand that and sympathize with it.

What I don’t understand and sympathize with is their attempt to make money off the deal with this civil suit. I also don’t understand why they are so eager to cash in that they are willing to attack one of the bedrock freedoms Americans enjoy and the sanctity of penitents’ encounters with Christ in the confessional.

They appear to be wiling to damage their country and their Church with this lawsuit. That will not heal their grief at having failed to protect their child.

The Fifth Circuit has the case now. We’ll have to wait and see what they do.

The Difference Between Writing and Legislating Is …

2014 05 23 18 15 05

Copyright: Rebecca Hamilton. All rights reserved.

The difference between writing and legislating is, to put it in Okie parlance, writing don’t matter.

I’ve heard the old canard “The pen is mightier than the sword” all my life. Sounds great, doesn’t it? After all, Marx and Hitler both wrote books that laid waste much of the 20th century and whose insidious damage not only lingers, but is still active, like occult cancer cells in the social bloodstream that just won’t die.

It appears that some people are willing to kill just about anybody and everybody based on what they think is written in the Koran. And other people are willing to die for what is written in the Bible, and still other people (get ready for this) are ready to tear down the structure of society based on what is written by Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, et al.

The pen, is, or a least it can be, mighty. But I can tell you as a former sword holder that there’s nothing like brandishing the bludgeon of law around to scare the you-know-what out of people, including yourself.

The difference between writing as I do it and legislating as I did it is that writing don’t matter.

I can write a different blog post after I finish this one commanding everyone who reads it to go find a bridge and jump off of it. But, it won’t matter if I do.

In the first place, nobody has to read what I write. There’s zero penalty for just taking a pass on reading my words. In the second place, such a command, coming in a blog post, is far more likely to inspire laughter than obedience, because nobody — and I mean nobody — has to do what it says. In the third place, anything I write, whether its drivel or genius, will be forgotten in about 36 hours, max.

Writers are a lot more sensitive and emotional than legislators, and I include myself in that category. I’ve done a couple of things as a writer that I would not have dreamed of doing as a legislator. The reason?

It don’t matter.

The anger of a writer is more like a child, throwing their toys around in a pique. When a lawmaker gets angry, people get scared. Because the anger of a lawmaker can have huge consequences. By the same token, and appearances aside, lawmakers don’t take off after each other in public all the time, again for one simple reason. Such behavior can have consequences.

I know that sounds untrue, given the verbal fisticuffs that lawmakers engage in 24/7, but believe me, there are rules; things you don’t say, things you don’t do and confidences you don’t violate. The consequences are too high.

I went through a long period where I was hated and despised by my colleagues because of the fact that I would run right over them if I had to in order to pass pro life laws. The weakness in all their nasty that they heaped on my head was that I might have been hated and despised, but I was also Representative Hated and Despised. They could — and did — break my heart. But they had to be careful about taking it past the capitol doors, because there could be — would be — consequences.

There’s a saying in politics: Forgive and remember.

Nobody wants to get on the business end of that saying. It’s just stupid to put yourself there.

And it is also what I love most about not being a legislator. I can write whatever I want as a blogger and not get all in a snit about it because It. Don’t. Matter.

Lawmakers can kill people by putting a comma in the wrong place. Not only that, but bad laws don’t go away. They have a shelf life that runs into generations. Make a mistake with a law, and you can ruin people’s lives, even end people’s lives, for decades into the future.

Not only that, but lawmaking is always an exercise in who to hurt. Just about every vote I cast in my 18 years in office was at some level a decision as to who to hurt.

The pressures, the responsibility and the inevitability of making mistakes that will do harm were like living in a pressure cooker with the heat cranked up. Add to that the responsibility for thousands of constituents, and you’ve got a whole mountain on top you.

Nobody calls a blogger at three in the morning because their son was just murdered in the jail. When it rains, I don’t worry if Brock Creek will flood and drown people. The other day when I was taking Mama to the doc, I saw a cloud of smoke in the general area of my district. I looked at it, said a prayer for those involved, and felt grateful with the gratitude of someone who does not have to deal with it and try to make it right.

If a tornado wipes out your neighborhood, you’ve got to rebuild, but you don’t have to put on your boots and hard hat and go out, walking from one smashed home to another, making a list of things that people are needing that you have to figure out how to get for them. Of course, helping them is the good part. Having them cling to you like wounded children is what humbles and drains you to the depths.

I no longer have to convince gangs to stop killing people and work to keep the police and the people on the same congenial page. I look at things like Ferguson and I know that somewhere in all this there were lawmakers who weren’t doing their jobs, who didn’t get these things worked out and taken care of before they got to this pass.

Because legislating isn’t all or even mostly lawmaking. It’s taking care of thousands upon thousands of people. It’s protecting and building community. It’s loving and caring and using yourself up in the service of others.

Writing a blog, on the other hand, is mostly a kind of thinking out loud. A blog has a wide, wide sweep. It gets into the thinking of almost limitless numbers of people all over the globe. It can engage them and give them an opportunity to express their own thoughts and feelings. It can, at its best, help them to develop those thoughts and think things through.

Blogging is a form of teaching and a kind of entertainment.

But it does not — ever — reach the point where it really matters all that much.

Because if I made a law telling people to jump off a bridge, they would have to do it or pay fines, go to prison or find the scratch and spit to take on the government in court. But if I write a blog post telling people to jump off a bridge, they can — and will — laugh at me and turn the page.

On the other hand, if I write a blog post that gets people all worked up and wanting to lynch me, I can shut down the computer and go to a movie. They can’t do anything more than hiss and spit and disagree.

Blogging is fun precisely because It. Don’t. Matter.

It’s taken me a while to “get” that. In fact, I’m working on it still. I have to learn and know and believe what I’m saying to you here does not have the gravitas and will never be as deadly as law. The only consequence it has is what you, of your own free will, chose to give it.

I can help you think. I can provoke you to take ideas and noodle with them, disagree with them, support them, or dissect them. But I can do this only if you chose to do it. The contract between you and me, writer to reader, is our mutual freedom.

That’s the essence of what I’m trying to learn about my new life. I am slowly coming to grips with the sudden and as yet incomprehensible degree of freedom that is mine. I’ve traded a straightjacket for wings. I’ve cashed in my blazer with the target on it for a computer that turns off and an office door that shuts.

Because, in the final analysis and at the end of the day when the rubber meets the road and we get to the bottom line all in a collision of cliches and final thoughts, It. Don’t. Matter.

Ladies and gentlemen, put on your reading glasses, fasten your seatbelts and get ready to roll.

I am free.

Notre Dame and The Little Sisters of the Poor


I thank you Father … that you have hidden these things from the wise 
and the learned, and revealed them to the little ones.

 Jesus Christ

“CCChristian people, I am come hither to die for the faith of Christ’s holy catholic church; and, I thank God, hitherto my stomach hath served me very well thereunto, so that yet I have not feared death; wherefore I desire you all to help and assist with your prayers, that, at the very point and instant of death’s stroke, I may in that very moment stand steadfast without fainting in any one point of the catholic faith, free from any fear. And I beseech Almighty God of his infinite goodness to save the king and this realm, and that it may please him to hold his holy hand over it, and send the king a good council.”

St John Fisher, at his execution

God’s warriors have always been the most unlikely people.

He sent Moses who stuttered to speak to Pharaoh and Gideon who was a coward to fight a war. He chose Deborah — a woman in an ancient middle-eastern country — as commander in chief during another war, and He was Himself born in a manger and raised by a carpenter.

God likes the little people, the unlikely people. Jesus’ disciples, who would ultimately change the world, were fishermen and disreputable tax collectors and such.

Jesus Himself once thanked His Father for revealing the truth of the Kingdom to the “little ones.”

We see this lived out in our world every single day. How often do we see the powerful and puffed up professional followers of Christ who have done quite well for themselves, thank you very much, cut and run when trouble comes? How often do we see those who claim that they speak for God and we must honor and respect them for that reason, collude with the world and do its bidding rather than Our Lord’s?

The leadership in a good many of our Catholic universities is a case in point. Many of these universities are institutions that were built by priests, jesuits in particular, and which are still headed by priests.

Education has become a primary means of brainwashing young people into turning their back on Christ. This is a magnificent opportunity for those who run our Catholic universities to make a positive difference for the Kingdom. They could, if they were committed to  Christ themselves, make their institutions a primary means of converting the culture.

Instead, many of them have chosen to convert their schools to fit the culture. When push comes to shove, as it has with the HHS Mandate, they bend the knee and kiss Ceasar’s ring without embarrassment. And they continue to wear the Roman collar while they are doing it.

As I said, in another post, enter the Little Sisters of the Poor, stage left. The sisters are, as Jesus said, “little ones.” The word “little” is even in their name. They were, before they decided to make a courtroom stand for Christ, almost anonymous. Their work isn’t the kind of thing that allows them to hobnob with presidents and kings. They spend their days caring for the least of these, for the very people that a good many in our society are pushing to euthanize for their costliness and the massive inconvenience they create. The Little Sister of the Poor care for the frail elderly,

The Little Sisters fit Jesus’ description of “the little ones” pretty well. They serve a Church which is administered by men who do sit down to sup with presidents and kings and many of whom have clearly forgotten that they are servants, not masters.

One of Public Catholic’s readers inspired this post with the comment that they wished the Little Sisters of the Poor would be more like the priests of Notre Dame and just do what the government tells them to do: Accept the HHS Mandate and follow the government instead of Christ.

The reader didn’t put that last bit about following the government instead of Christ in there. That was all me. But I honestly think it reflects the choice that the leadership at many of our Catholic universities have made, and not just in the HHS Mandate.

What the reader was saying, of course, is that they preferred Christians who follow the world rather than Christ; they like cowardly Christian leadership that will lead their people into betraying Our Lord so that the Church becomes a meaningless cypher in today’s world. This reader — and I imagine a good many other people — prefers the priests of Notre Dame to the Little Sisters of the Poor precisely because the priests are so willing to sell out Jesus and the Little Sisters are, however reluctantly, willing to fight for Him.

I wonder if this embarrasses these priests at all. I would take a look at myself if those who have as their outspoken goal the destruction of religion in general and Christianity in particular praised me for not following the Church. Do they consider, even for a moment, the implications in this?

These are difficult times, and difficult times are when the sunshine soldiers who joined to participate in the parades and fanfare lay down their arms and cross over to what looks like the winning side. How many of the English bishops acceded to Henry VIII? I know of one. Cardinal John Fisher was martyred for his faith and is now Saint John Fisher.

I’ve read letters from the bishops, encouraging the laity to consider St Thomas More when thinking about the HHS Mandate. St Thomas More is special to me. When I was in the process of converting, I thought about him a lot. I’ve always thought that he was there with me, aiding me in that time. St Thomas More is my namesake. During my years in office I wore his medal, all day, every day.

St Thomas More refused to repudiate the Church at the King’s command. St Thomas is precious to me because he had many failings and he did not want to die. He was not aiming for sainthood. He tried his best to live, to avoid his martyrdom. But in the end, when the choice of Christ or King was put before him, he chose Christ.

St Thomas More is a marvelous example, especially for politicians, writers and attorneys. St John Fisher is an equally important example for priests and bishops. I wish there was a St John Fisher Society to promote sacrificial followership among priests and bishops. I wish they could find fellowship and strength in one another. It is not easy to lead people in these times. It takes consistency and courage.

Leadership in the name of Christ is always servant leadership. It is a giving of oneself, rather than a getting for oneself. The people of God are hungry for leadership. Even most of those who criticize and try to bully the Church into acceding to the world would respond to leadership if they saw it. In fact, a good many of these people behave this way because they don’t have leadership. They are, as Jesus put it, like sheep without a shepherd.

The single best way to lead is by example, by inspiration. Do you want people to stand for Christ? Then stand for Christ yourself. Do you want people to sacrifice for Jesus because He is worth any sacrifice? Then, sacrifice yourself. The Church is built on the blood of the martyrs, not the crisp linens and fine serving ware of dining with presidents and kings.

The prominent priests of Notre Dame are a fine example of how not to do priestly leadership. Being the big dog and aping the world are not examples of servant leadership or even Christly leadership. They are examples of betrayal.

I thank You Father … that you have … revealed these things to the little ones. 

Enter the Little Sisters of the Poor, stage left.

President Obama is an Idiot 2

 

I don’t know that I’ve ever used a title that provoked such comment as when I put “President Obama is an Idiot” at the top of a post about his idiotic lawsuit against the Little Sisters of the Poor.

I’ve been huzzahed and tsk, tsked, accused of being a racist and told that I really need to learn how to address my betters. I’ve gotten the full blast of self-righteous, sanctimonious how could you say that??? from people who engage in vendettas, personal attacks, character assassination and name calling as their ordinary means of discussion.

It was one of the most obvious cases of pot and kettle disowning projection I’ve witnessed in my young life. And I spent 18 years in the Oklahoma House of Representatives.

To be honest, it reminded me of Aunt Pitty Pat, reaching for her smelling salts.

All this approbation and excoriation seems to fall (surprise!) along party and ideological lines. If, say, I had written a post called W an idiot, I rather imagine the applauders and the outraged would have switched sides.

The one point of attack that had validity was the simple one based on the fact that I so often call other people down for name calling. I’ve made a big point of not allowing name-calling on this blog, and then here I go, calling someone an “Idiot” in a title. What gives?

I made an exception to my own rule in the case of our president going to court with the Little Sisters of the Poor because any politician, much less the president of the United States, who would do such a totally idiotic thing, is, well, behaving like a political idiot.

From the viewpoint of governance, politics, justice, proportion and common sense going forward with this lawsuit is idiotic.

We are talking about the president of the United States. This is the man who has told us that he’s “got a phone and pen” and he can pretty much govern as a reigning elected monarch from the Oval Office. Congress, (speaking of idiots) to this man is a cypher. He’s the Prez; he’s cool and he rules.

We are discussing the man who has his finger on the nuclear button. He can, with a whim, kill every single thing on this planet. He can melt the mountains down to glass, burn the forests to ash, boil the oceans dry and leave this sweet blue globe a smoking cinder.

He can order troops into any corner of the planet, send the bombers and reduce any city, any nation, any spot to rubble in a matter of hours.

And he’s decided to go mano y mano with the Little Sisters of the Poor.

I said he was an idiot for doing this. I kind of regret that. I think it was too mild.

How stupid does a politician have to be to get into a fight with a bunch of elderly nuns who don’t want to be involved in supplying contraceptives and abortifacients? He’s the most powerful man in the world and he’s maneuvered himself into a lose/lose fight with, of all people, The Little Sisters of the Poor? 

Idiot? Oh yeah.

Because, you see, all this power that President Obama wields, every single smidge of it, comes from we the people. We put him in power.

When the day comes that an American cannot call a president — any president — an idiot, then we’re in big trouble. That’s what we do in this country, and it’s a fine thing. President Obama may be able to melt the mountains down to glass and legislate with his mighty pen. But he’s still a sitting duck for we the people and our right to whittle him down to normal-sized anytime we chose.

So far as I can remember, every president I’ve ever lived under has been called an idiot by somebody. Also, every president I can remember has been called a Communist. And most of them were likened to the Anti-Christ. Is President Obama more disrespected than other presidents? I don’t think so.

I’m old enough to remember thousands of people marching in the streets chanting Hey, Hey LBJ, How Many Kids Did You Kill Today?

I remember Richard Nixon, otherwise known as Tricky Dicky.

And President Clinton, who was Slick Willy.

I’m not old enough to remember Franklin Roosevelt, who was a “traitor to his class,” Thomas Jefferson who was a “destroyer of civil liberties,” or Andrew Jackson who was a “whoremonger.”

I don’t like name-calling, and I do not usually allow it on this blog. But, I would defend without reservation the right of any American to call their president one of these names and a whole lot worse.

President Obama is the Prez. Being called an idiot isn’t specifically named in the Constitution as part of his job description, but the set-up for it is right there at the top of the list in the Bill of Rights. First rattle out of the box, we were given the right to have our say, petition our government, engage in free assembly and (enter the Little Sisters of the Poor, stage left) freely exercise our religious beliefs without government interference.

That’s what has made us who we are. It is who we are.

I was in Taiwan a few years ago with a group of Americans and a high-ranking Taiwanese guide. The Taiwanese man shepherded groups of people from many nations through Taiwan on official visits. Our little group was hard to keep corralled. We kept going off on our own in different directions. At one point, when our guide was particularly exasperated because of this, I said, “I suppose this happens with every group.”

“No,” he answered, “just Americans.”

That’s us. That’s us right down to the ground. We’re so accustomed to doing whatever we want, going wherever we please, saying whatever we think that we stand out among groups from many nations in this regard.

I hope and pray that never changes.

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Following Jesus Means Supporting Human Rights for Homosexuals.

Ugandan men hold a rainbo 011

If you’ve got gay fatigue, you’re not alone.

I’ve been hearing muttering from some surprising places, including people who are strongly in support of gay rights, that they’re “tired” of the obsessive focus our society has on homosexuality.

The endless circular debates about forcing people to bake a wedding cake or if ordained ministers should be allowed to not perform gay weddings is beginning to try the patience of people from all points on the ideological compass.

However, there is another side to this, and it’s not about petulant demands that everyone collude in the fantasy that two men or two women are the same as a man and a woman. It has to do with the most basic of human rights: The right to life. It also has to do with another basic human right: The right not to be incarcerated unjustly.

I’m talking about countries that have draconian laws giving the death penalty, lashing or long prison sentences for homosexuality. Sadly, most of these laws are being justified because of bogus claims to religion, including, in a couple of places, Christianity. To the extent that this is true, it calls for Christians to speak out against these laws and take a stand against them. Laws such as these are an affront to the basic human dignity of men and women who are made in the likeness and image of God. They are a smear on the name of Christ.

One of the best parts about this story is that, at least in one circumstance, the passage of such laws has been turned back. Uganda’s law which would have provided for a death penalty for homosexuals, was scrapped. This was due to the work of brave homosexual people and their supporters all over the globe.

However, Uganda did end up passing a law that criminalizes “homosexual activities”  and metes out harsh punishments. This law clearly violates the civil liberties and human rights of homosexuals.

I think it’s important for us as Christians to join the fight against laws such as these, and for us to do it in the name of Christ. This does not mean that we should stop our defense of traditional marriage. It is a requirement on us as Christians that we walk this line of supporting the human rights of all persons, including homosexuals, and that we also refuse to back down in our defense of the family.

Each in its own way is a human right, which must be defended.

The commitment to Christ Jesus is always a counter-cultural commitment. It does not matter the culture. Following Christ, if you are true to the call, will pit you against the cruelties and lies of your society. That is why so many people who claim to be Christian do not, in fact, live Christian.

Living Christian is not easy. It requires being attacked for one position, and then crossing the street to stand with your attackers on another issue. There is no country for the authentic follower of Jesus except heaven itself.

I’m going to make an effort to follow these attacks against the basic human rights of gay people and to let you know ways in which you can join in the fight against them. At the same time, I am going to continue to urge you to stand strong in the work ahead to rebuild and reclaim traditional marriage, and to work against the onslaught of attacks on First Amendment freedoms in the name of bogus claims of “human rights” violations against gay people in this country.

If that seems like a contradiction, so be it. It is my idea of following Jesus the best that I can.

From the Washington Post:

Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni today signed a law that imposes a 14-year prison sentence for homosexual acts — and life sentences for those found guilty of “aggravated homosexuality.”

A measure imposing the death penalty was removed from an earlier version of the bill.Homosexuality was already illegal in Uganda, as it is in 37 other African countries.

Though the death penalty was removed from Uganda’s law, it’s a potential punishment elsewhere, including parts of Nigeria, Mauritania and Sudan.(Last month, Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan signed a measure similar to Uganda’s into law; a few weeks later, a mob pulled 14 young men from their beds and assaulted them, screaming about cleansing their neighborhood of gay people. )

Haters Gonna Hate: Christian Ministers Forced to Perform Gay Marriage or Face Jail Time

 

Photo Source: Catholic News Agency

Remember the lies?

Gay marriage would not lead to polygamy, they said. But before gay marriage is even fully out of the gate, the court movement to legalize polygamy is afoot. 

Gay marriage will never lead to ministers being forced to perform gay marriage wedding services, they told us. Well, so much for that one, too.

David and Evelyn Knapp, ordained ministers of the International Church of the Foursquare Gospel, have been told by Coeur d’Alene’s city officials that, due to their refusal to perform a gay wedding, they may face up to 180 days in jail and $1,000 in fines for each day they do not perform gay wedding services.

A lawsuit filed on the minister’s behalf by the Alliance Defending Freedom, says in part:

If the Knapps refuse to perform one same-sex ceremony for one week, they risk going to jail for over three years and being fined $7,000. If the Knapps refuse to perform one same-sex ceremony for 30 days, they risk going to jail for over 14 years and being fined $30,000. If the Knapps refuse to perform one same-sex ceremony for a year, they risk going to jail for 180 years and being fined $365,000.

The city is taking the legal position that the couple’s wedding chapel, which is called the Hitching Post Lakeside Chapel, is a “place of accommodation” that would is subject to the city’s anti-discrimination ordinance.

That’s kind of rich since the International Church of the Foursquare Gospel is a denomination going with over 8,000,000 members worldwide. There are 1,875 Foursquare Gospel churches here in the United States alone.

The legal basis for this contention seems to hang on the thread that the Hitching Post Chapel is incorporated as a “religious corporation limited to performing one-man-one-woman marriages as defined by the Holy Bible.” According to Fox News Radio, the Hitching Post Chapel is a for-profit corporation.

I do not know if Idaho law has a discreet entity called a “religious corporation” in its statutes, or, if it does, what that means. I do know that the City of Coeur d’Alene called these two ministers. Again, according to Fox News Radio, the city attorney claims that even ordained ministers whose church teachings do not allow gay marriage will be required to perform gay marriages.

I think it’s telling that two days after the Ninth Circuit issued an order allowing same-sex marriages, in Idaho, Pastors David and Evelyn Knapp received a phone call from the city advising them they had to perform gay marriages.

David and Evelyn Knapp are ministers who were ordained by a legitimate denomination.

According to the Gay Christian Movement Watch, here is the International Church of the Four Square Gospel’s teaching on the matter:

The Biblical record shows that sexual union was established exclusively within the context of male-female relationship and formalized in the ordinance of marriage. In the New Testament, the oneness of male and female in marriage pictures the relationship between Christ and His Church. . . . The Scriptures identify the practice of homosexuality as a sin that, if persisted in, brings grave consequences in this life and excludes one from the Kingdom of God.

The facade of lies in support of gay marriage is falling down, and it’s doing it quickly.

From The Daily Signal:

For years, those in favor of same-sex marriage have argued that all Americans should be free to live as they choose. And yet in countless cases, the government has coerced those who simply wish to be free to live in accordance with their belief that marriage is the union of a man and a woman.

Ministers face a 180-day jail term and $1,000 fine for each day they decline to celebrate the same-sex wedding.

Just this weekend, a case has arisen in Idaho, where city officials have told ordained ministers they have to celebrate same-sex weddings or face fines and jail time.

The Idaho case involves Donald and Evelyn Knapp, both ordained ministers, who run Hitching Post Wedding Chapel. Officials from Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, told the couple that because the city has a non-discrimination statute that includes sexual orientation and gender identity, and because the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals struck down Idaho’s constitutional amendment defining marriage as the union of a man and a woman, the couple would have to officiate at same-sex weddings in their own chapel.

The non-discrimination statute applies to all “public accommodations,” and the city views the chapel as a public accommodation.

On Friday, a same-sex couple asked to be married by the Knapps, and the Knapps politely declined. The Knapps now face a 180-day jail term and $1,000 fine for each day they decline to celebrate the same-sex wedding.

A week of honoring their faith and declining to perform the ceremony could cost the couple three and a half years in jail and $7,000 in fines.

Government Coercion

The Knapps have been married to each other for 47 years and are both ordained ministers of the International Church of the Foursquare Gospel. They are “evangelical Christians who hold to historic Christian beliefs” that “God created two distinct genders in His image” and “that God ordained marriage to be between one man and one woman.”

But as a result of the courts redefining marriage and a city ordinance that creates special privileges based on sexual orientation and gender identity, the Knapps are facing government coercion.

If You’re a Christian and They Know it, Hire Your Lawyer

On the one hand, we have the Freedom From Religion boors, sending off lawyer letters like a Gatling gun with the purpose of intimidating Christians — their target always seems to be Christians — into silence about their faith in public places. And on the other hand, we have that same FFRF, suing the federal government to force the IRS to “monitor” pastors for possible violations of the law in their sermons.

Enter Mayor Anise Parker of Houston, stage left.

Mayor Parker is embroiled in a fight with Houston residents over an ordinance the city council passed last spring. The ordinance is reputed to provide rather extensive legal “protection” to homosexuals and transgendereds.

That’s all well and good. Mayor Parker is Houston’s first lesbian mayor. Houstonians evidently like the job she’s done up until now. She was re-elected to her third and final term a year ago. Maybe she wanted to do something splendiferous for her mayoral swan song, and this new ordinance is it.

Politicians on the way out can become extraordinarily touchy about their “legacy.” I would guess that the first lesbian mayor of a large city would find no better legacy for herself than passing a land-mark gay rights act.

The trouble is political life is never a gimme. It’s always rough and tumble and, if you’re in office, you have to accept that. From the moment you report to work, the fight is on. Nothing ever comes easy in governing a democracy. Which is part of why it’s the best form of government there is; because elected officials do not get their way by proclamation. They’ve got to earn their victories in the political trenches of getting the votes and then defending the decisions to the pubic.

It appears that Mayor Parker forgot all that when she passed her legacy ordinance. She evidently shut down her ordinary thinking capacities where this ordinance was concerned and went into full-blown this-is-my-precious-legacy mode. I say that because it appears that she thought she could pass what was bound to be a controversial ordinance and there would be no flashback. How a three-term mayor could be so silly, I do not know.

So far, all this falls into the category of a seasoned mayor tossing everything she should have learned about governance aside and deciding to go all simple-minded and addle-pated over her pet mayoral victory. It looks for all the world like Mayor Parker entered the political arena over this ordinance — which was unavoidably going to draw serious push back — like a private citizen holding a dinner party in her own home. If the guests displeased her, she reserved the right to ask them to leave.

Here’s how it played out.

Opponents of the ordinance responded to its passage with a referendum petition to put the ordinance on the ballot and allow the citizens of Houston to vote on it. The petition garnered 50,000 signatures, which is a lot more than the needed 17,269. However the city threw it out, based on claims that it was “invalid.”

The petition’s backers responded to this with plans to take the city to court. 

The city responded to that with subpoenas, demanding to see the all sermons and speeches given by pastors who had opposed the ordinance that mention Mayor anise Parker, homosexuality or gender identity.

Now, the pastors’ attorneys are seeking to quash the subpoenas on the grounds that, among other things, they request material relating to activities protected by the First Amendment.

“Political and social commentary is not a crime,” their attorney, Christina Holcomb said.

“We don’t comment on litigation,” the city’s spokesperson responded.

There is a problem here that goes a lot deeper than one mayor who’s let her office go to her head. Regardless of the overweening ego delusions elected officials held in the past, no elected official before, say, 2005, would have even considered stepping all over the First Amendment and America’s most cherished freedoms to criticize our government like this.

Now, it’s become a palm-slapping, fist-bumping coup in certain circles to use the law to harass and bully Christians. The underlying problem here is the permission that Christian bashers give themselves to use the law to harass, badger, bully and deliberately try to limit the freedoms of American citizens who happen to be Christian.

Mayor Parker is mis-using her powers big-time on this. She’s also directly violating the Constitutional right of all American citizens to criticize their elected officials and public policy in public forums.

Are these subpoenas an attempt to use governmental power to quash pubic debate about this ordinance?

Or course they are.

Has Mayor Parker abandoned her responsibilities as Houston’s chief governing officer to play gay rights advocate? Perhaps. She certainly appears to have lost every last bit of her political and governing smarts over this issue. She has embroiled the city in a needless lawsuit by refusing to allow citizens the use of their rightful tool, the referendum. She followed that with a ham-handed attempt to silence her critics through government intimidation in the form of outrageous subpoenas.

She has also created another avenue to use government power to attack Christians. Now that the subpoena box has been opened, you can bet that other goodies are going to come out of it.

“Political and social commentary is not a crime,” the pastors’ attorney tells us. I would go a step further and say that political and social commentary are one of America’s greatest gifts to the world. Our forefathers created a government that ran right in the face of those that had preceded it. They grew up in a world where people could be hanged for criticizing the king or his policies, and they turned that on its head.

Americans have the right to criticize their government, their elected officials and public policy pretty much however they wish. There are a few caveats concerning elected officials, but the limits to redress through the courts for slander are so extreme that it’s close to impossible to do it. So far as I know, it is truly impossible to slander a policy or an idea.

The mayor of Houston, whatever her overwrought feelings about a particular ordinance, does not have the right to use her office to intimidate and bully her critics into silence. She can not, as Queen Elizabeth I is reputed to have done, sit in a pew of the church of offending pastors and yell out “By God sir, I will not have this!”

Or rather, I suppose she could do that, but if she did, the pastor would be more likely to fall down laughing than to shake and shiver with fear.

We fought a whole war over this stuff.

And we won.

Now, American Christians are having to fight that war again, this time in the courts. To paraphrase the children’s song, If you’re Christian and they know it, hire your lawyer. You’re probably going to need one.

 


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