Supreme Court Oks Prayers Before Public Meetings

 

In a 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court of the United States ruled today that prayers said before the town council meetings in Greece, NY do not violate the Constitution.

Justice Kennedy wrote the majority decision which said in part that there is a historical precedent for opening legislative meetings with a prayer that the even though the prayers offered at the New York town’s council meetings were predominantly Christian in nature, they were not coercive but rather “evoked universal themes” such as “calling for a spirit of cooperation.”

From Today’s Catholic News:

Kennedy wrote that the “inclusion of a brief, ceremonial prayer as part of a larger exercise in civic recognition suggests that its purpose and effect are to acknowledge religious leaders and the institutions they represent, rather than to exclude or coerce nonbelievers.”

He said that unless the prayers “over time denigrate, proselytize or betray an impermissible government purpose” they will “not likely establish a constitutional violation.” He also wrote that because the town had followed a policy of nondiscrimination it was not required by the Constitution to search beyond its borders for those who could offer non-Christian prayers in an attempt to provide balance.

Writing Selfie: I’ve Been Tagged and Now I Must Tell All

My pal Kathy Schiffer tagged me in the writing relay, #mywritingprocess.

Kathy has already done her part, answering four questions about why/when/what she writes. Elizabeth Duffy (another Catholic Patheosi) tagged Kathy after doing the same.

Now I’m up, and this should be a piece of cake. After all, this relay asks me, a blogging politician, to talk about myself. How tough is that? Get your earplugs and eyeshades ready.

I’m off.

1. What are you working on?

We’re entering the home stretch with the legislative session — crazy time — so I’m not “working” on anything. I’m just running from one thing to the next. Kind of like playing a giant game of wackamole that isn’t a game. It’s my life.

In between that, and oftentimes while I’m actively doing something else, I hammer out blog posts. I try to proof read before I post, but no matter how many times I proof, I always see mistakes after I post and have to make corrections online. Then, I re-read and do it again. And again. And again.

If it wasn’t for kindly readers who give me a nudge once in a while, I would end up with some really stupid errors out there for the whole wide world to see. Some days, it happens anyway.

Does that answer “What are you working on?” Maybe not. Probably not. I am also writing a book, which is the first of three books I am going to write. But I put that on hold until June for the simple reason that it doesn’t lend itself to the stop and go craziness of end of session life.

Not that blogging does lend itself to it.

But blogging can be bent to work … most of the time.

I’ll probably have to take a blogging hiatus for a week or so toward the end of the month. I’m pretty elastic, but there are limits to how far I can stretch writing abilities.

2. What makes your work different from others’ work in the same genre?

The difference is the me that I put into it. Lots of people can write about faith. Even more people can write about politics/public life/challenges to faith. But I’m the only one who can write about it as me, with my unique viewpoint and ideas.

Egotistical as this sounds, I think that’s what makes my work special. I’m not talking only about blogging, but my work as a legislator and every other thing I’ve done in my life, including raising my kids.

I am my own unique self, as is everyone who reads this. What I have to offer to any endeavor I undertake is that essential and totally unique self, that me-ness. I honestly think that where so many people go wrong is that they try too hard to be like everyone else. If you focus on being like somebody else and doing what other people would do, you’ll end up living somebody else’s life.

I’m not the best writer at Patheos. Not even close. But I am the only writer here with my experiences, my ideas, my thought processes and unique values.

I don’t run away from myself.

That’s what makes my work stand out.

3. Why do you write what you write?

I have a sense of mission about what I’m doing at Patheos. I honestly believe that the reason I am here is what Protestants call “a God deal.” I guess you could say that I was tapped to write before Kathy tapped me for this writing relay.

I write what I write because I think it needs to be said.

4. How does your writing process work?

Maybe I should wait until I have a writing process to answer this one.

I write fast because I don’t have the option of writing slow. I can’t linger over word choices or meditate on possible reactions. I have to write it and then immediately go do something else. I basically use the same writing “formula” that I use for speechmaking.

When I first began making lots of speeches, I borrowed from something that President Franklin Roosevelt’s campaign manager once told Eleanor. Mrs Roosevelt was extremely shy and self-conscious. But because of her husband’s disability, she had to step up and make a lot of speeches on his behalf. His campaign manager gave her a bit of advice that, if you follow it, removes the terror from public speaking and writing:

“Have something to say. Say it. And sit down,” he told her.

That’s how I write. I don’t try for eloquence or even profundity. My goal is to have something to say, say it and then back off and let Public Catholic’s readers chew on it.

The identifiable process that I use revolves more around the technology I lean on to help me get things done. I have a Macbook Air 11” that literally fits in a big-ish purse and can be carried anywhere. When I’m out and about, I write with that. I use a blogging software called Mars Edit to draft my posts. I avoid writing online because I’ve lost too many things that way and because the internet can go to s-l-o-o-o-w-w-w-w with no warning.

By writing in Mars Edit, I can get it down. Then if the internet goes daft, I can wait it out by doing other things without fear of losing what I’ve written.

I have an old Mac Pro that I use when I’m at home. It is a fantastic computer with all the horses I need for the different things I do.

I use Macs because they don’t give me attitude, and they never wear out. I’ve never had a Mac go belly up on me. Not once in the all the years I’ve used them.

Passing the Torch

You’re gonna love the blogger I’ve tapped for the next installment of Writer Selfie. The Crescat, aka, Katrina Fernandez, who is my nominee for the most honest and uninhibited blogger on Patheos, is up next. I am so excited. I can’t wait to see what she does with this.

Moral Argument for Raising the Minimum Wage

 

Catholic News Service presents part of the moral argument for raising the minimum wage.

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Margaret Sanger Called for 10-Year Moratorium on Having Babies

 

I’m not sure what to make of this.

According to The Daily Caller this interview with Margaret Sanger and someone she calls John surfaced when British Pathe, a newsreel company uploaded 85,000 of its films to YouTube. The films were originally aired between 1896 and 1976.

This particular news reel is an interview with Margaret Sanger (who the interviewer calls Mrs Sleen, or something like that) about what was evidently her call for women to cease having babies for 10 years.

I have no idea how serious she was. Was this a publicity stunt? Or did she mean it?

Nothing in this video tells us the answer.

Whatever Mrs Sanger’s purpose was in issuing this call, it appears that, at least among women in the “enlightened” West, she has been heard. Birth rates among Western Europeans are below replacement rate. The birth rate among caucasian Americans has fallen so low that they are projected to fall into minority status in a few decades.

This is ironic, considering that Mrs Sanger sold her ideas by saying that we needed to eliminate what she termed “inferiors” through “regulated birth.”

Here, for your enjoyment, is a weird little interview with Margaret Sanger.

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Kenyan Catholic Church Takes Stand Against Female Genital Mutilation

 

FGM. Female Genital Mutilation.

This practice, which is widespread, involves holding down little girls while the women of a community hack away her external genitalia until they have cut all of it off. They then sew her vagina shut. They often also sew the labias shut, leaving only a small opening for urination.

Over time, the resulting scar tissue create in a permanent closure which must be forced open when the girl marries.

This terrible practice is almost universal in many parts of the Middle East, as well as Africa. it results in deaths from infection, blood loss and shock at the time of the mutilation, and deaths in childbirth later on. It also ensures horrifically painful sexual intercourse.

FGM is the ultimate chastity belt, designed to “prove” a girl’s “virtue” to her future husband. In areas where it is practiced, it is considered a necessary component of a girl’s marriageability.

Because people from the parts of the world where little girls are mutilated in this way are migrating in large numbers to the West, it is a growing problem here, as well. I passed a law banning Female Genital Mutilation in Oklahoma a few years back. The main obstacle to it was the ignorance of Okies about the practice and a disbelief that such a thing could happen here.

Added to that was the propensity to kill bills simply because they could by the paid staff which actually was making most of the decisions in both the Senate and the House. I almost lost the bill. The thing that allowed me to pass it was when the Oklahoma State Medical Association, with their massive lobbying clout, came on board and backed it.

Even though I was more than glad for the OSMA’s help, the fact that they could do this indicates the power of lobbies in our legislature, as well as the lack of concern for the content of the legislation itself. At that time, it was almost impossible to pass a bill without the imprimatur of a powerful lobbying organization.

I only mention that to make readers aware that we cannot sit back and feel superior about the barbarisms against women and girls in other parts of the world. Female Genital Mutilation is now happening in the West and we need to outlaw it and enforce those laws.

If it’s difficult to get through the blindness about FGM here in the West, it is even more difficult to step outside of cultural misogyny in the areas where FGM is considered a social requirement.

That’s why it’s gratifying to learn that the Catholic Church in Kenya has stepped out onto the cultural ice and taken a stand against FGM. No Christian, ever, should subject their daughter to this barbaric practice.

FGM is not required by any religion. Even though it is almost universally practiced in many Muslim countries, it is not a requirement of the Muslim faith.

In areas where it is the cultural and social norm, both Christians and Muslims “cut” their little girls and mutilate them this way.

This sort of mutilation of young girls is, of course, an extreme form of misogyny. It is also an expression of the grave moral injustice of the sexual double standard that has been used to terrorize and limit the lives of young girls in so many parts of the globe.

I am thrilled that the Catholic Church in Kenya has finally come out against FGM. I hope that all Christian leaders of every denomination in every part of the world will soon follow suit. Such actions are hundreds of years overdue. Silence about the barbarism of violence against women and girls is the single greatest blot on the history of Christianity.

Female Genital Mutilation is a deeply sinful cruelty against women and girls. No Christian should practice it, and no Christian should be silent about it.

From AllAfrica:

The development office of the Catholic diocese of Maralal in Samburu has an active desk that is mandated to ensure that issues on gender based violence are addressed. The Church is on the frontline to fight the scourge of Female Genital Mutilation which is a harmful rite of passage, still practiced despite its negative side effects. It is one among the most common forms of gender based violence in Samburu.

Some 3 million women and girls face Female Genital Mutilation every year, while some 100 to 140 million have already undergone the practice. From a medical point of view it is unhealthy and causes adverse gynecological conditions. Some of the negative effects of the same include injury to adjacent tissues of the vagina, profuse bleeding, shock, acute urine retention, HIV/Aids infections and recurrent urinary tract Infections.

The diocese has facilitated awareness creation in Samburu County on the adverse effects of harmful cultural practices such as Female Genital Mutilation, early and forced marriages and sexual violence against women. The Justice and peace Department of the diocese deals with 4-5 cases of gender based violence every week.

The Catholic Church has a girl child education and Rescue Centre in Suguta Mar Mar Parish premises, located 42 kilometres away from Samburu County headquarters. The Centre accommodates girls who have escaped from their homes to find shelter there. The girls are victims of FGM, forced/early marriages and other forms of gender based violence. The sister in charge of the rescue centre Sister Fransisca Nzilani says “it is difficult to support these girls without funding. The girls depend on the rescue centre for most of their basic needs which include sanitary towels, education, stationery, food, clothing and shelter on a monthly basis”

 

CDC Confirms First US Case of MERS Virus

The Centers for Disease Control has confirmed the first US case of the deadly Middle East Respiratory Virus (MERS)

MERS, which is similar to the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Virus (SARS) which killed 800 people in China in the 2002-03, is fatal in up to one third of the people who contract it.

Dr Anne Schuchat, director of the CDC’s National Center for Imminzation and Respiratory Diseases said that while the case represents “a very low risk to the broader general public,” it is still a concern because of the “virulence” of the virus and that fact that it can be transmitted from one person to the next.

The male patient had returned from a trip to Saudi Arabia on April 24, connecting from Riyadh to London to Chicago. He then took a bus to Indiana.

He experienced respiratory symptoms on April 27 and was diagnosed with MERS on April 28. The patient is said to be in stable condition and is being treated with appropriate protocols, including isolation.

Only 262 people have been diagnosed with MERS. Ninety-three of those have died of the illness. Little is known about MERS. It is believed that the virus is transmitted to humans through camels, but even that is somewhat speculative.

From Reuters:

(Reuters) – A healthcare worker who had traveled to Saudi Arabia was confirmed as the first U.S. case of Middle East Respiratory Virus (MERS), an often fatal illness, raising new concerns about the rapid spread of such diseases, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said on Friday.

The male patient traveled via a British Airways flight on April 24 from Riyadh to London, where he changed flights at Heathrow airport to fly to the United States. He landed in Chicago and took a bus to an undisclosed city in Indiana.

On April 27, he experienced respiratory symptoms, including fever, cough and shortness of breath. According to the Indiana State Department of Health, the man visited the emergency department at Community Hospital in Munster, Indiana, on April 28 and was admitted that same day.

Because of his travel history, Indiana health officials tested him for MERS, and sent the samples to the CDC, which confirmed the presence of the virus on Friday.The virus is similar to the one that caused Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) which emerged in China in 2002-2003 and killed some 800 people. It was first detected inSaudi Arabia.

Dr. Anne Schuchat, director of the CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, said on a conference call the first U.S. case of MERS was “of great concern because of its virulence,” proving fatal in about a third of infections.She said the case represents “a very low risk to the broader general public,” but MERS has been shown to spread to healthcare workers and there are no known treatments for the virus.

Satanists Reveal Uber Creepy Monument They Want to Place on Oklahoma’s Capitol Grounds

It’s a compliment in a way.

Satanists aren’t trying to put monuments to their master in front of the Capitol Building in Washington.

No need.

Evidently, the people they want to go head to head with live in little ole Oklahoma.

Who would ever have thought that Oklahoma would be deemed important enough in the culture wars for this honor? I guess somebody who walks on the dark side thinks we need our little light covered up a bit.

Whatever their reasoning, members of the Satanic Temple announced a fund-raising drive to place a statue of Satan on the Oklahoma State Capitol grounds a few months ago. Their stated goal was to raise $20,000, but the times being what they are, $30,000 came rolling in for this worthy project.

Now, the instigators of this brain whatever have released photos of the statue paying homage to Satan that they want to place on Oklahoma’s capitol grounds.

It is, as we say in these parts, a dandy.

I’m not up on my satanism, but what I see is an obelisk-looking plank with a pentagram atop standing next to a statue of His Lordship, the Prince of the Dark Realm — or is that Baphomet?? This dude comes complete with a ram’s head with what looks like two horns and a tree growing out of the top of it. The ram’s head sits on the shoulders of a buff human body. Two 1950s-style children are staring worshipfully up at this lovable fellow while he holds one hand aloft in what appears to be a two-fingered version of the Boy Scout salute.

This deal is one fine piece of satanic kitsch.

Of course, the ACLU has our capitol grounds all tied up in a court challenge to a law we passed a few years back, placing a plaque with the Ten Commandments on it out there on the lawn. After all, plaques with the Ten Commandments are scary, right? I mean, it endangers all our freedoms to put something like that right out in public.

This ACLU zealotry for protecting innocents from the Ten Commandments is bad luck for the satanists. It appears they’re going to have a long wait before their artwork — or any new artwork — is even eligible to be considered for placement on the Capitol grounds. Then, if they don’t get what they want — and I can see a valid case for denying them based entirely on the artistic merits of this thing — I imagine they’ll head off to court.

In the meantime, I would like to raise one small question. Why would anybody worship Satan? Atheism, I can see. I mean, I don’t agree with it, but I can see where its adherents are coming from. But to worship an entity who is well known for creating every kind of misery there is, and who enjoys our pain and suffering and feeds off it, well, if you’ll pardon me for saying so, that’s not too bright.

It’s right up there with drinking arsenic because you like the taste of sweet things.

Be that as it may, we do have ourselves a bit of really creepy Satanic art to peruse while we’re waiting for the next call in this little doh-si-doh.

If the ACLU wins, and the Ten Commandments are banned from the Capitol lawn, then I suppose that leaves the Satanists with an expensive piece of ugly statuary to dispose of. If, on the other hand, the state wins (unlike others around the country, our attorney general actually defends state laws in court) then it’s up to the arts committee to work out for themselves if this thing has artistic merit, or if it’s just a laughable eyesore.

After that, I expect we’ll be off to court again.

Yeehaw!!

Grab your partners and promenade right.

Clayton Locket was a Murderer. I Am Not.

 

Oklahoma managed to execute a prisoner this week, but we did it in the most ungainly fashion possible.

Make no mistake about it, Mr Clayton Locket is dead, and the reason why is that he was executed on Tuesday night of this week by the people of the State of Oklahoma. Also and again, make no mistake about it, in the parlance of the death penalty debate, Mr Clayton Locket “deserved” to die.

He was a cold-blooded killer and a mad dog prisoner who evidently never showed a moment’s remorse in all the years since he shot 19-year-old Stephanie Neiman twice and then buried her alive.

I want to pause here and make what is, for me at least, the most important observation. Stephanie Neiman was a brave young girl who had just graduated from high school. Her murder left behind two devastated parents who will grieve all their lives. Stephanie Neiman deserves our sympathy; as for sympathy for Mr Locket, I’m fresh out.

This sounds for all the world like I’m leading up to a defense of the death penalty. I am not. I oppose the death penalty and I have the votes, going back through decades of legislative service, to prove it. I have never voted for the death penalty. I have always voted against it. Even deep in my anti-God period, I opposed the death penalty.

Why?

Back in my anti-God period, the reason was simple and direct. I come from a poor background. I have sat in courtrooms and listened as police officers perjured themselves to give testimony to convict someone. I have listened to testimony in which witnesses said under oath that law enforcement had instructed them to lie to help them convict a “bigger fish” or face criminal prosecution themselves.

I wasn’t motivated by a belief in a consistent respect for the sanctity of human life at that time. After all, I was doing everything I could to keep abortion “safe and legal.” What motivated me was the simple fact that I knew — not guessed, but knew — that our justice system is too rife with human weakness to be allowed to take a person’s life.

That was back then in my anti-God period. I still have not evolved to the point that I can honestly say I feel sorry for people who do heinous things to other people. I am not wracked with sympathy for Mr Locket because it took him just under an hour to die from the drugs that were administered to him Tuesday.

My sympathy is all with Stephanie Neiman and her parents. Can you imagine what it must have been like to be Stephanie Neiman, raped repeatedly, begging for her life, shot twice and then still alive while the dirt fell over her head?

How must it be for her parents to know that their beautiful little girl, the baby they brought home from the hospital, the little girl dancing under the Christmas tree, the young woman who had just graduated from high school, died alone and inhaling dirt?

No. I’m all out of sympathy for Mr Clayton Locket, the man who murdered Stephanie and then went on to threaten to kill prison guards and throw feces at people and who repeatedly made weapons out of objects in prison to use on other prisoners.

I oppose the death penalty for one simple reason. The Clayton Lockets of this world are murderers. I am not.

The press surrounding this botched execution has, predictably, run straight to purple. A guest on Rachel Maddow’s MSNBC show is reported to have likened Mr Locket’s execution to medieval torture. I can only assume that Miss Maddow and her guest don’t know very much about medieval torture. Likewise for all the other over-the-top nonsense I’ve been reading.

The death penalty is wrong because it’s unnecessary killing. We have what it takes to deep six these guys in our prison systems and leave them there until they die their natural deaths. I am not talking about, and I do not support, anything less than a total and absolute life sentence with no paroles, parole hearings, or compassionate truncations.

I don’t care if these murderers serve 60 long years and then get a terminal illness and petition to go home to die. There are some crimes that must mean that you die in prison. Heinous murders are such crimes.

We need a sane discussion of the death penalty in this country. The purpose of any law concerning legal punishments for crimes should always be to provide for the public good. Vengeance has no place in the law.

I do not doubt for a single moment that there are people who should never be allowed to walk free in our society. I do not limit that consideration to heinous murderers. I think violent or repeat rapists, gang rapists and child rapers should all be put in prison for life. The recidivism rate on violent sexual predators is simply too high to let these people out to prey again.

However, we do not have the right to kill people.

Let me say that again.

We do not have the right to kill people.

Human life belongs to God and we may not arbitrarily end it.

I believe that self-defense is always an exception to this, for the simple reason that every life is precious, including our own. I believe that I can use deadly force to defend my life or the lives of others. I extend that right of self-defense to nations, as well.

But other than acting in self defense, killing any human being is always wrong.

Governments are charged with providing for the safety of their citizens, which is a clear form of self-defense. We do not need the death penalty to provide for the public safety. We can lock these killers up and keep them locked up. We also do not have to let them give interviews, call their victims and all the other many things they indulge in while behind bars.

Mr Locket’s death was not medieval torture. That’s just bizarre hyperbole. If you’re looking for a better example of wanton disregard for life, and something that approaches torture, consider what Mr Locket did to Stephanie Neiman.

We need to create just penalties for the monsters among us that do not make murderers out of all the rest of us.

Why?

Because they are murderers.

We are not.

The Trail of Tears Remembered on its 175th Anniversary

What would happen today if an American president told the Supreme Court, “You’ve made your ruling. Now how are you going to enforce it?”

That’s exactly what President Andrew Jackson did when the Supreme Court ruled in favor of the Cherokee nation and against the president’s plan to seize the Cherokee’s land. Jackson went ahead with his plan. He sent General Winfield Scott and 7,000 soldiers to force the entire Cherokee Nation into stockades. White settlers then raided the Cherokees’ homes, stealing their belongings.

General Scott’s army forced the Cherokees, including elderly people, women and children, to walk nearly 2,000 miles across what was then largely unsettled territory to Oklahoma.

Starvation, dysentery, typhus, whooping cough and other completely preventable horrors killed thousands of Cherokees along the way. Cherokee people have not forgotten or forgiven this violation of their human and civil rights that they call the Trail of Tears. Among other things, they stage a play dramatizing the event in the Ampitheater at Tsa La Gi. The drama is performed every Thursday, Friday and Saturday through the end of August. For information or reservations, call (918) 456-6007 or (888) 999-6007.

In addition, Oklahoma’s State Senate is currently displaying a painting depicting the Trail of Tears in its conference room. The painting commemorates the 175th anniversary of the forced removal of the Cherokee Nation from their rightful property, the many deaths and terrible suffering of the Trail of Tears.

Wayne Cooper is the artist who created the painting. It was commissioned by Chief Bill John Baker and supported by Cherokee Nation businesses.

Million Woman March: Nigerian Women Pressure Government to Do More to Free Kidnapped Girls

 

What part does corruption play in Nigeria’s failure to stop Boko Haram? 

 

Women and men from all over Nigeria took to the streets of the Nigerian capitol, Abuja, Wednesday in what was dubbed “The Million Woman March.”

They marched through heavy rain to issue a call for the Nigerian government to do more to free 230 teen-aged girls who were kidnapped in a bloody attack on their high school on April 14. The kidnapping has been labeled the work of Boko Haram, an extremist Islamic group who has murdered people and burned down churches with what appears to be impunity for many years.

This latest kidnapping of so many young girls has outraged Nigerians and people from locations all over the world. I asked in an earlier post why the Nigerian government seems to be so helpless in the face of attacks from this terrorist group. I also asked — and am asking still — who is funding Boko Haram.

It appears that quite a few Nigerians have the same questions. Protest organizer Hadiza Bala Usman announced the protests will be on-going in both Abuja and Lagos until the girls are freed.

“We will also demand to see the president if we don’t get any commitment from government to rescue these girls,” she said. “The government has to understand that we are not going to allow this silence to continue.”

Meanwhile, the leader of Chibok’s elders forum, Potu Bitrus, says that he has learned that the girls were trafficked into neighboring Cameroon and Chad and sold as brides to insurgents for 2,000 naira ($12.)

I think this march paints a stark picture of a government that is almost certainly too corrupt to govern. The first order of business for any government is to maintain domestic tranquility. A lot of things go into that, but providing for the public safety is the basic component. Citizens must be able to rely without question on their government to swing into action when they are attacked, kidnapped, or otherwise physically harmed in criminal actions.

Can you imagine what would happen if a group started behaving like this here in America? I’m judging almost entirely by Oklahomans, but I rather imagine that this applies to the country as a whole. If our government didn’t take care of them, I think our private citizens would do it themselves.

The government of Nigeria needs to do whatever it takes to end Boko Haram. They specifically need to get these girls back. To say that this is a civil and human rights violation is weak language for it.

Public Catholic reader Ken first brought this story to my attention.

Sources can be found here, here, here and here.


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