Friday, July 23, 2010

Senator Graham did the right thing

There doesn’t seem to be much that the Responsible Community and Senator Lindsay Graham from South Carolina have in common. But, just this week, Senator Graham voted to support the nomination of Elena Kagen to the Supreme Court of the United States. In a statement released later, the senator said that he has a constitutional obligation to honor President Obama’s choice, so long as she is qualified.

"I could give you 100 reasons on why I could vote 'no.' No one spent more time trying to beat President Obama than I did, except maybe Sen. McCain," Graham said. "But I understood we lost."

For as long as there is a Supreme Court, the country will debate what makes a good supreme court justice. But the fundamentals are simple, under our constitution the president nominates the candidate, the senate provides advise and consent if they know the law. The senator admitted in the statement that President Obama won fair and square and that he could find no fault in her knowledge of the law.

This is clearly a politician that is supporting appropriate policy that the Responsible Community wrote about in a previous blog post. (Voters should make choices based on policy not personalities or parties) Politicians and other public officials should be supported for the policies that they propose or support. Personalities and parties often fail or have it wrong. But, if the specific policy they support will do good, it doesn’t matter who proposes it. In this case, the Constitution is clear and Senator Graham did the right thing.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

It is time to rewrite the First Amendment

It is time to rewrite the First Amendment.

Sarah Palin, ex-governor of Alaska and former running mate to John McCain during the last presidential election, has entered the fight over the Mosque that is being built near Ground Zero in New York City. Palin, in an attempt to gain support from those that oppose the construction twitted that building the mosque was an “unnecessary provocation.”

Apparently, Sarah Palin doesn’t think that the founders got it right. So, based on what she and others have said, here is the rewrite to the First Amendment.

Here is the current amendment:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Here is the amendment to the amendment to be inserted just after “or prohibiting the free exercise thereof”:

Unless it is inconvenient for politicians and it is an unnecessary provocation to worship the way you want. We can then suspend the first part and throw out the entire idea of freedom of religion.

This would work well. As a politician you could condemn China for not allowing Christians to worship when and where they want but you could prevent Muslims here in this country from doing the same.

The Responsible Community agrees with the Federal Council of Churches of Christ with their position statement on religious issues. The position was adopted in conjunction with the Foreign Missions Conference of North America, who have a stake in assuring that religious houses can be established anywhere in the world. It reads:

“Religious Liberty shall be interpreted to include freedom to worship according to conscience and to bring up children in the faith of their parents; freedom for the individual to change his religion; freedom to preach, educate, publish and carry on missionary activities; and freedom to [organize] with others, and to acquire and hold property, for these purposes.” (1)

Michael Bloomberg, the mayor of New York, likes the First Amendment just the way it is. (and so does the Responsible Community.) He takes strong issue with Sarah Palin interfering with New York City policy. He wants the mosque to be built, perhaps no matter where the congregation want it built. He said so in a news conference after Palin had started twitting about the issue.

Mayor Bloomberg is doing everything he can to heal the wounds caused by the 9/11 tragedy. It doesn’t mean he is covering it all up and making nice. It means that he is fully aware that the tragedy was caused by people that rationalized their actions with their perverse understanding of a religion, not the other way around.

By keeping the unfocused anger alive as Sarah Palin seems to be suggesting, we risk furthering the violence. But by being rationally focused on the people that caused the tragedy instead of their religion, we can seek out specifically those that we need to and not bring more violence to innocent people all over the world.

That is where the healing begins.

(1) Religious institutions In 1944, a joint committee of the Federal Council of Churches of Christ in America and the Foreign Missions Conference of North America, formulated a “Statement on Religious Liberty” “Religious Liberty shall be interpreted to include freedom to worship according to conscience and to bring up children in the faith of their parents; freedom for the individual to change his religion; freedom to preach, educate, publish and carry on missionary activities; and freedom to organise with others, and to acquire and hold property, for these purposes.”


Monday, July 19, 2010

Hate and anger by the Tea Party Express we don't need

There is room under the big tent that we call democracy for all sides of the issue. Every challenge to any issue needs to have an airing.

But there is no room for hate and anger.

Over the weekend, Mark Williams leader of the Tea Party Express, posted a fictional letter from what he called “Colored People” during the presidency of Abraham Lincoln. The letter, which he said was satirical, stated that those that were going to be freed by Lincoln didn’t want to be. Why would they not want to be? Read for yourself:

"We Coloreds have taken a vote and decided that we don't cotton to that whole emancipation thing. Freedom means having to work for real, think for ourselves, and take consequences along with the rewards. That is just far too much to ask of us Colored People and we demand that it stop!"

The national Tea Party organization, ask the Tea Party Express to order Williams to retract the blog post. When the group didn’t and Williams refused to, the national organization expelled the Tea Party Express. This action by the national Tea Party Organization was the right thing to do. Since they did it immediately, it indicates that the party had the good sense that it was clearly wrong instead of waiting to see how all sides came out on the issue. (As a side bar on the issue, Mark Williams later did take down the post. If he was so certain of his ideas and so comfortable with the way he expressed them, why did he eventually pull down the post?)

The Tea Party Express is the organization that traveled around the country visiting town hall meetings of politicians that they thought were supporting Health Care Reform. The group’s members, supported by the organization, disrupted plenty of what would have been useful and healthy debates about the issue. Instead, the issues could not be thoroughly discussed because of the hateful attitude from many members of the Tea Party Express.

Open and healthy debate on all issues is important to a democracy. Yes, even the ideas that the Tea Party Express has should be heard. But, when hate and anger is used by the proponents of an idea, they became blind to legitimate responses to their ideas. They then drive their followers well beyond a respectful and meaningful dialogue to one that dominates the discussion and borders on totalitarianism.