Friday, December 3, 2010

Another common criminal is labeled a terrorist

I don’t care why he did it. I don’t care about his religion. I don’t care that he was young, old, black or white. I don’t care about anything involved in his crime other than it didn’t work and that he wanted to do it.

Mohamed Mohamud, a Muslim, is charged with attempting to kill perhaps hundreds of people at a Christmas tree lighting ceremony in Portland, Oregon. It was prevented because a tip was given to the FBI many months ago about Mohamud’s statements he made about striking back at the great Satan. The FBI set up a sting operation, sold him fake bomb making material that Mohamud thought was the real stuff. When he dropped the car off, walked away and made the phone call that was to detonate the bomb, the FBI arrested him.

Done. A common criminal arrested before anyone could be hurt.

Another example, some may say, of why Islam is the religion of hate and violence. Another example of why we should not allow mosques to be built anywhere, especially near Ground Zero. This is proof that we are at “war” with Islam. Round them all up and be done with it.

If it is another example of Islam the crazy religion, why did the Imam from the community say that he did know the young man, but didn’t see any of the signs that you might expect from someone who is plotting such a thing? He said Mohamud attended the mosque rarely. If this is an example of a religion teaching hate, why did he acted alone on this action? If he worked with others they would have been picked up on the same day by the FBI. Officials, who worked with Mohamud for many months, said he had no connection with individuals or groups overseas.

He, like all the others, is not a terrorists. He is a common criminal who plotted murder. By calling him and charging him with terrorism, we feed his own justification for his actions and those of common criminals all over the world.

By labeling all the followers of a religion terrorists, we take our eyes off the real problem. Instead of watching for the real face of terror, the common criminal among us, we are diverted by the many good people that don’t want anything to do with all of this. Instead of looking for the face that will harm us, we are confused by the millions of innocent faces that would help us if we didn’t suspect them also.

Let’s not glorify Mohamud’s actions. He is just a common criminal.


Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness

In The Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson, uses the phrase, “Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”  According to Gary Wills, author of many books on America and some of its most famous people, Jefferson was not hiding anything nor meant to mislead anyone with the phrase. In all of Jefferson’s writings he chose his words very carefully to make sure he was saying just what he meant. Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness were the words he chose, and in that order, for what he wanted to express.

The order is important. It places life first, then liberty followed finally by the pursuit of happiness. It was clear that the most important goal of government, as he saw it, was to help protect life. Liberty and the pursuit of happiness are very important, but when it comes to the balance between all of them, he gave life the first position.

The Declaration of Independence declared the Colonies separation from the English government so that a new nation could formed. But, Jefferson and others, still felt a strong need for government. With a government they could enforce a common standard of behavior within and defend against invaders. This common goal was to be done in balance with between life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness as evidenced by the phrase.

After the misstep of the Articles of Confederation, the Constitution was created. In that document, the liberties that we enjoy in America were recognized by the newly formed government. A government formed to provide a safe environment to enjoy our liberties and to pursue our happiness.

Those liberties clearly take a second position to a safe environment. Jefferson and others did not intent government to value rights over harm, that would be chaos. This is true both from the order of his famous phrase, but also because of the very reason government exist. If, events or circumstances can be demonstrated to cause or have the possibility of harm, then what ever liberties we may have need to be limited to maintain order and safety. To amplify, government can take action to limit liberties, if, and only if, it clearly demonstrates that harm would result if the limitation were not enforced.

We have the right to free speech, except in a crowded theater when we yell fire. We have the right to own property but will lose the right to that property if we don’t pay our taxes. We have the right to bear arms but can’t use them to hunt in the city. Even the Constitution guarantees our right to Habeas Corpus unless “the public safety may require it” to be suspended.

Our liberties are important, but have no value if they can’t be enjoyed in a safe environment. Staying alive; life; is more important than all the liberties we have.


Monday, November 29, 2010

No more sermons at the soup kitchen

No more sermons at the soup kitchen.

Government must stay neutral when it comes to religion. It cannot support one religion over another nor can it even have the appearance of supporting one over another.

Yet, under President Bush, faith based organizations could deliver federal aid while preaching their form of religion. Churches and other religious organizations, under President Bush’s executive order, could deliver federal aid, such as the operation of a soup kitchen, while they were delivering a sermon.

That is changing. President Obama has amended the executive order issued by President Bush mandating the separation of the normal functions of a church and the delivery of federal aid.

Faith based organizations, no matter what calling, should not be able to deliver federal aid of any kind. This is a much too close relationship between God and Country. Whenever this happens, it is much too easy for anyone, especially those that are receiving the aid, to draw the conclusion that there is something special with this religion. Especially if the members of the church are preaching while having dinner.

President Obama’s amended of the order mandates the separation of the two activities, which is a start at getting local religious organizations out of federal aid delivery. The president’s order also goes a step farther. The amendment requires the government to “monitor and enforce standards regarding the relationship between religion and government in ways that avoid excessive entanglement between religious bodies and government entities.”

Don’t forget, in England during the pre American colonial days, religion and government went hand in hand. You were required to be a particular religion, depending on who was in power at the time. If you were protestant and the state religion was catholic, as it was under Queen Mary of Scots, you needed to change. Even tax dollars collected from a protestant would in part be delivered to the catholic church for support, but none to the protestant church. [ The Church of England, a legitimate religion by any standard, was separated from the Catholic Church by Henry the Eighth in an effort to support his government and provide legitimacy for his personal activities. It was, by some conclusions, not only a state religion, but one created for the state.]

In the Constitution, in a plan to make sure that state supported religion doesn’t happen in the new country, the signers wrote in the opening lines of the first amendment that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion.” They also made very clear in the document that no religious test would be provided to elected officials, providing even further evidence that they wanted to keep religion out of government functions.

By placing a seal of approval on certain religious organizations to dole out federal aid, it appears to support that religious organization. If that money was going to catholic organizations, Queen Mary would be very pleased. But, we in the United States should not be.