Saturday, December 11, 2010

It must be Christmas

It must be Christmas in America. The annual rite of paying for and setting up a Nativity scene by the government of a small town somewhere is being challenged. And, rightly so because government should not be involved in sponsoring the celebration of any religious holiday.

But that isn’t what this post is about… that will come in a later post.

This post is about not standing up for what you believe in.

In Brookville, Indiana, a Nativity scene has been purchased by tax payer dollars and is being displayed on town property. A letter was sent by the Freedom from Religion Foundation to the small town’s leaders asking that the crèche be removed. The foundation is based in Madison, Wisconsin. The organization found out about the crèche because someone in Brookville snitched. That has town leaders and supporters of the crèche all upset.

Hazel Graves, a resident of Brookville, says she is a Christian and believes in Jesus. Graves thinks the person who informed the Freedom from Religion Foundation needs to come forward. "There's somebody here in town, and they should step forward if they're so brave, and want to take down our Nativity scene," says Graves.

Agreed. The person who sent the notification to Freedom from Religion Foundation should come forward. This country was not founded on mysterious people making statements and not standing up for them. Wasn’t it John Hancock who is to have said, “I will sign my name big enough so the King doesn’t need his glasses to read it.” Sure enough, right there in the middle of the Declaration of Independence is his name as big and bold as anything. He agreed with the words in the document and was willing to sign his name to it.

But, it appears that the person or persons who didn’t reveal themselves is concerned about the backlash from the small town. If they own a business, some neighbors may not shop there anymore. If an employee, he or she may have a hard time finding a job. Neighbors may even picket the snitch’s home to express their outrage.

But, an issue that conservatives support, those who provide money to political action committees and other organizations need not reveal themselves. Most conservatives support the issue because then individuals and corporations can financially support hotly contested issues and not be concerned about the backlash from individuals that disagree with them.

In Washington state, conservatives argued remaining anonymous on political issues was a right. A petition was circulated and submitted that asked the state to submit a question on the ballot to disallow gays and lesbians the right to marry. Opposing groups in the state asked for copies of the petition so all could see who had signed it. Those that signed the petition and the organization that circulated it argued that people may be subjected to harassment if the opposition know who they were. Ultimately, the Supreme Court did rule that there is no expectation of privacy on a petition.

Hazel Graves stance on the issue and likely many others in town, is a little hypocritical. First, Graves and her fellow town folk, were hoping that no one would tell the world about their crèche. They wanted to keep that little secrete for themselves. But, Ms. Graves, if you are asking the person that snitched to come forward, “if they’re so brave” why are you hoping to hide behind anonymity. You should be brave enough yourself to let everyone know about the Nativity and challenge anyone to come forward to contest it so that the issue can be debated in public.

But there is even a wider reason why that stance is hypocritical. This reasoning does assume that a conservatives in the town of Brookville is the same as a conservatives anywhere in America. The residents of Brookville want to know who the snitch is that informed Freedom from Religion. But, on the other hand, conservatives support the Supreme Court decision that ruled that individuals and corporations have the right to remain anonymous when taking political positions, because they are also concerned about anger being taken out on them by those opposing.

John Hancock must be confused by all of this. He, perhaps having more to fear in the days before the Revolutionary War with England, was more than willing to stand on his convictions. His signature is the largest on the Declaration of Independence. The person who snitched on the town of Brookville needs to come forward (and be applauded). But, all individuals and corporations that support political issues in the community need to also come clean.

Our republic was founded on the idea that openly debating issues was the best way to run a community. Let’s return to that concept.


Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Courts should not do what congress should

Whenever the courts are asked to do what the congress and president should, it is a sloppy and irrational business. Of course, that is to suggest that the way they make laws and set policy is any better.

President Obama a month ago asked the Supreme Court to place a stay on a lower court ruling that ordered the military to stop enforcing the “Don’t Tell, Don’t Ask” policy on gays and lesbians in the services. He wanted time for congress and his office to come to terms with the certainty that the court would rule in favor of gays and lesbians. The court agreed, at least for a while, but now there is a deadline for action. If Senator John McCain gets his way, it will be back into the courts when the deadline passes.

Working its way through the court system are a few other issues that would not be there if congress was working properly. One of the biggest issues, yes bigger than “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”, is immigration. Decisions from various jurisdictions will leave a confusing and disruptive policy that will not work.

As an example, Arizona, wishing to solve a overstated problem there, is being challenge on a host of immigration laws in the courts. On Wednesday, the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments about the Legal Arizona Workers Act of 2007. It states that businesses that knowing employee undocumented workers could have their license revoked by the state. It is being called the business death penalty by opponents. The United States Chamber of Commerce and the Obama administration are challenging the law. They say that immigration is a federal issue, so that states should not be able to take action.

Businesses that hire undocumented workers is at the core of the issue. That is why Arizona enacted and is enforcing a law like the Legal Arizona Workers Act. If there are no jobs available for undocumented workers, they wouldn’t be arriving. In a post to this blog in April, End Immigration in Five Steps, one of the steps suggested was to enforce laws at the federal level that require employers to make sure every employee was properly documented. Plus, employers must learn to fear I.C.E. (Immigration and Custom Enforcement) by unannounced audits of businesses on a national and local level.

But the creation and enforcement of immigration laws must made at the federal level. Each court, like with any issue, will make decisions based on individual cases and circumstances. Overlapping and overreaching decisions will create a loose policy that will confuse employees and employers. This will waste resources in an attempt to meet various standards from all across the country.

The reason we have government is to enforce a consistent set of rules that we can all agree on. Congress needs to act on immigration reform and many other issues. Then, allocate money to enforce the laws. If not, individuals and businesses will be caught not knowing what to do.


Monday, December 6, 2010

Senator McCain is wrong on gays and lesbians in the military

Senator John McCain is wrong to oppose the repeal of the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy in the United States Military.

The policy is on the verge of being overturned by the courts. In a blog post previously, “The Military has done well with gays and lesbians”, the history of the issue was explored. It was a policy that came out of a legislative fight 17 years ago. The policy said that if the recruit doesn’t speak of his or her sexual orientation, the military won’t ask. But, someone who spoke up and was kicked out, took the issue to court. The courts agreed that the policy violated his rights and over turned it. The only reason it hasn’t been tossed aside right now is because the Supreme Court has allowed time for the legislative process to make a change.

The military doesn’t think that it is a problem they can’t handle. Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates and Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, delivered a report issued by the military on the repel of the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy. It reported that more than two thirds of the service members who answered surveys did not object to gays and lesbians serving openly in the military.

Senator McCain was not convinced. He said, “I remain concerned, as I have in the past, and as demonstrated in this study, that the closer we get to service members in combat, the more we encounter concerns about whether ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ should be repealed.” He has expressed in the past that he is concerned that the military forces will not be able to focus on the mission because the person next to them is gay.

Adm. Mullen said in response, “I’ve been serving with gays and lesbians my whole career,” he said. “I went to war with them aboard a destroyer off the coast of Vietnam. I knew they were there. They knew I knew it. We never missed a mission, never failed to deliver ordnance on target.”

The military over the last 17 years has done just fine. In all that time, and longer as evidence by Adm. Mullen’s remarks, the military has done what it has been asked to do and it can’t be document that there would be any harm from the repel of the policy.

Mr. McCain, you are outdated on this issue.