freedom

Piñatas


Ed. note: Please help – see the note below and pass this along so that we make the kind of difference that needs to be made. America thanks you.

Reading time – 41 seconds  .  .  .

There they stand, the hopeful – hopeless? – wielders of sticks, lurching and whacking at the piñatas of political issues, wishing that their mighty blows will crack open and let drop at their feet an action figure costume. They believe that costume will grant them unlimited power and control and that the Oval Office will magically be theirs.

Say hello to today’s pretenders to the throne in 2016. And pay special attention to their ultra-crafty remaking of themselves, frequently in perfect contradiction (“to say against”) of other intentionally misleading, ultra-crafty things they’ve said to some different audience. Perhaps they believe that recording devices have not yet been invented. More likely, though, they believe we are too ignorant, lazy or stupid to notice. But notice we will, as the fact checkers have their way and the action figure costumes fall apart, revealing the disingenuous self-promoter beneath who doesn’t want to serve, but only to denigrate, bully and line others’ pockets with cash at your expense.

The whacking at piñatas would be humorous and entertaining, were it not for the destruction it causes.

The key as you endure the inane political rhetoric of this hyper-extended (make that “never-ending”) election season is that nearly all of the blather is about the self-serving candidates, never about you nor about America except in some childish idealistic or apocalyptically frightening way. Our job is to find one who speaks to our circumstances and to the betterment of America. If you and I fail in this we will be kicking The Dream to the gutter for a sackful of nothing and relegating America to suffer a self-deluded figurehead and all the abandonment of the American people that implies.

Get up and get active.

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Ed. note: There is much in America that needs fixing and we are on a path to continually fail to make things better. It is my goal to make a difference – perhaps to be a catalyst for things to get better. That is the reason for these posts. To accomplish the goal requires reaching many thousands of people and a robust dialogue. Please help by offering your comments, as well as by passing this along and encouraging others to subscribe and do the same.  Thanks.  JA


Copyright 2019 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

Je Suis . . . Ironic


Charlie HebdoEd. note: Please help – see the note below and pass this along so that we make the kind of difference that needs to be made. America thanks you.

Reading time – 47 seconds  .  .  . 

The irreverent Charlie Hebdo satirists, both cartoonists and journalists, have, in the face of profound, bottomless grief led the way for the rest of the world in a breathtaking way. Their new magazine cover shows the Prophet Muhammad weeping as he holds a sign that reads, “Je Suis Charlie”. What makes the cover breathtaking is that above the Prophet they have written, “TOUT EST PARDONNE”. Roughly translated, they are telling their attackers, the murderers of their colleagues, the violent, religion despoiling Islamist terrorists, “We forgive you.”

Could you possibly do that were you in their place? Can you do it from your place now?

There is an odd twist to this, courtesy of Anonymous, the worldwide hacker group that has hacked into nearly everything, including the NSA. This band of iconoclasts, this buster of world order has now pledged to hunt down Islamist radicals. In a stunning video they tell the extremists, “We are tracking you down. We will find you and not leave you any rest.” They vow to shut down every violent extremist Twitter feed, propaganda video and more. They announce boldly, “We do not forgive. We do not forget. Expect us.”

Unlike Anonymous, Charlie Hebdo forgives. My guess, though, is that the staff members won’t forget, and that’s as it should be.

And here is the irony: How pleasingly odd it is that the members of this hacker organization Anonymous, who have compromised our National Security Agency, are now on our side in the hunt for Islamist terrorists. Their agenda is their own and this portion of their agenda is in pitch perfect concert with freedom loving people everywhere, even those running the NSA. Perhaps now “Nous Sommes Anonymous.”

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Ed. note: There is much in America that needs fixing and we are on a path to continually fail to make things better. It is my goal to make a difference – perhaps to be a catalyst for things to get better. That is the reason for these posts. To accomplish the goal requires reaching many thousands of people and a robust dialogue. Please help by offering your comments, as well as by passing this along and encouraging others to subscribe and do the same.  Thanks.  JA


Copyright 2019 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

Every Life is Precious


Reading time – 71 seconds  .  .  .

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal  .  .  .” My life is precious and if we’re all created equal, then all lives are precious. It’s a simple syllogism and we all believe it. Quod erat demonstrandum.

Really?The Nation Tweet

The city of New York officially observed several minutes of silence starting at 2:07PM on December 23, 2014 for Officers Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu, cops assassinated in Brooklyn, NY by a mentally ill man with a gun. They also dimmed the lights of Christmas trees in New York for five minutes starting at 9:00PM that night, this, too, in honor of those slain officers. Oddly, the city did not similarly honor Eric Garner, who was choked to death by a gang of New York City cops and whom the New York City paramedics didn’t so much as touch, much less try to resuscitate. Perhaps we have a sliding scale of preciousness.

Back in the days when Chevy Chase did the Weekend Update on Saturday Night Live!, one bit went roughly like this:

“This just in: A Japan Airlines 747 crashed on takeoff from Tokyo International Airport, killing all 379 passengers and crew. But it’s okay, because there were no Americans on board.”

It’s always a relief when it isn’t us, as when we find that the fire trucks are parked at someone else’s house or that the tsunami struck half-way around the world. While we care about the suffering of the relatives of the 747 crash victims and the people living where the fire trucks are parked and the survivors of the tsunami, the farther away from us geographically and relationally, the less invested we human critters tend to be – the less precious those lives seem to be to us. That’s why those television commercials imploring us to donate money to help malnourished, pathology stricken children are so graphic and have that wailing music playing in the background. It’s what it takes to get through to us.

So, to be accurate, we don’t care to the same extent about every life until we can at least relate in a personal way or imagine ourselves in similar circumstances. For any of us to be moved to action we have to feel it – the preciousness of life – maybe our own – and that presents us with a challenge that we must overcome if America is to solve its problems.

So many young people today are disinterested in current affairs and tune in only to Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert for their news, and then really only for the humor. A tiny fraction of them vote, even as many of our elected officials act for self-aggrandizement instead of for the benefit of those same disinterested young people. Their preciousness seems to be less important to elected officials than it should be and that puts our next generation at risk.

We’re not going to change human nature, so young people today who are disinterested in current affairs are going to stay that way unless something precious to them is at risk, like themselves. Likely it’s opaque to them how today’s affairs dramatically and sometimes diabolically limit their future lives. But they will run this place in just a few short years, so it falls to us to figure out how to get through to them so that they feel it enough to take action.

We must do that because every life is precious, including the lives of people who will inherit what we leave to them and who don’t yet feel the peril that’s right around the corner.

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Ed. note: There is much in America that needs fixing and we are on a path to continually fail to make things better. It is my goal to make a difference – perhaps to be a catalyst for things to get better. That is the reason for these posts. To accomplish the goal requires reaching many thousands of people and a robust dialogue. Please help by offering your comments, as well as by passing this along and encouraging others to subscribe and do the same.  Thanks.  JA


Copyright 2019 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

An Open Letter To . . .


Reading time – 32 seconds  .  .  .

.  .  .  our lip-flapping, self-serving senators and representatives

Caution: Contains snark. Sensitive readers should man up.

___________________________________________________

Let me say with all due respect and appropriate decorum that:

– Pretending that continuing to refuse to have relations with Cuba enhances American security is idiotic.

– Treating Cuba differently than we treat any other repressive regime has completely failed to influence Cuba to change any of its policies and hoping otherwise is folly. Get over it.

– Refusing to have diplomatic relations with any country (i.e. refusing to be in dialogue) ensures that nothing good will happen.

– Limiting Cuban cigar imports to what is smuggled into America and believing that will pummel the Castros into submission is brainless.

– Treating Cuba as though it is still a Soviet satellite state suggests you’ve had complete amnesia for the past 25 years.

– Continuing a policy that has so obviously and consistently failed will not cause things to get better. (Note to legislators: Slapping your forehead and exclaiming “Duh!” right now is appropriate.)

– Having a hissy fit over at last having a dialogue with Raul Castro is grandstanding, self-serving politics that abdicates your responsibilities to the American people.

Special note for Sen. Marco Rubio (R. – Moon): Your pretty face doesn’t imply any mental ability or even common sense. Grow up. Learn something before it’s too late.

End of open letter.

Action Alert to readers: When you hear anyone in Congress telling you that the sky is falling now that President Obama has had the courage to do what generations of presidents before him should have done, change the channel, turn the page or click the “Off” button immediately. Then pass this message along to those you love and respect as an act of compassion, because nobody should have to listen to that drivel.

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Ed. note: There is much in America that needs fixing and we are on a path to continually fail to make things better. It is my goal to make a difference – perhaps to be a catalyst for things to get better. That is the reason for these posts. To accomplish the goal requires reaching many thousands of people and a robust dialogue. Please help by offering your comments, as well as by passing this along and encouraging others to subscribe and do the same.  Thanks.  JA


Copyright 2019 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

Super Glue for Broken Justice


Reading time – 52 seconds  .  .  .

I haven’t a clue what percentage of our police officers nationwide are solid citizens whose intent matches what is written on the sides of their cruisers: “To Serve and Protect.” My guess is that the number is very high. For simplicity, let’s call them good cops.

There are other cops who are racist, hateful bullies. I don’t know how many of those we have, but they have a big footprint in poor and minority neighborhoods and they do a lot of harm relative to their numbers. Let’s call them bad cops.

Cops are free to think and feel whatever they want, just like the rest of us, and if some have a bad attitude toward those they are supposed to protect, they get to have that and, really, we can’t legislate away racism or hatred anyway. On the other hand, we can legislate behavior. The trick is to do it so that we actually affect behavior so that cops are fair to all. Sadly, that just isn’t happening now.

Cops – even the bad ones – are necessary partners with prosecutors because they depend upon one another for prosecutions of accused perps. One implication of that dependance is that the prosecutors don’t want to get on the wrong side of the cops, not even the bad ones, because they need the cops’ cooperation in future cases. That just might lead to lax prosecution of cops accused of wrongdoing. Indeed, do you suppose that had something to do with the wimpy prosecutions presented to the grand juries in the Michael Brown and the Eric Garner cases?

If we’re to stop bad cops from harming our people, if we are to limit their behavior to what is acceptable, we must ensure that they are held accountable for their wrongdoing just as you and I would be. For that to happen, prosecutors need to be free to fire their big guns at bad cops. And for that to happen, we must remove cases against cops from the local prosecutors who depend upon those cops. How we go about that is a worthy dialogue. At the end of that discussion, though, we have to arrive at a system where prosecutions aren’t tainted by conflict of interest and cops receive the same justice all the rest of us should receive.

Once the bad cop perps are locked up they can hate as much as they like. They can hold their racist attitudes and want to bully others, although once in prison outcomes of bullying may vary from confrontations with unarmed kids. The good news is that then the rest of us will be free from their hate and their bullying.

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Ed. note: There is much in America that needs fixing and we are on a path to continually fail to make things better. It is my goal to make a difference – perhaps to be a catalyst for things to get better. That is the reason for these posts. To accomplish the goal requires reaching many thousands of people and a robust dialogue. Please help by offering your comments, as well as by passing this along and encouraging others to subscribe and do the same.  Thanks.  JA


Copyright 2019 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

Ferguson Follow-Up 1


Reading time – 16 seconds  .  .  . 

Last Sunday I wrote about the dreadful job that was done by the attorney underlings of St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney Robert McCulloch, including their complete absence of any direction for the grand jury regarding criminal charges sought. That story got worse.

Take a look at this segment of The Rachel Maddow Show from December 2, 2014 entitled, Botched grand jury instructions call Ferguson ruling into question. This gives a clear picture of how tainted the county’s work was and provides a window into the grand jury’s baffling finding.

Which leaves me wondering about what happened in Staten Island, New York such that a majority of the 23 people seated as a grand jury couldn’t figure out that Eric Garner should not have been strangled to death by New York cops and that at least one of those cops should stand trial.

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Ed. note: There is much in America that needs fixing and we are on a path to continually fail to make things better. It is my goal to make a difference – perhaps to be a catalyst for things to get better. That is the reason for these posts. To accomplish the goal requires reaching many thousands of people and a robust dialogue. Please help by offering your comments, as well as by passing this along and encouraging others to subscribe and do the same.  Thanks.  JA


Copyright 2019 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

You Know This, But Still . . .


Reading time -41 seconds  .  .  .

Thomas Jefferson told us that,

An enlightened citizenry is indispensable for the proper functioning of a republic. Self-government is not possible unless the citizens are educated sufficiently to enable them to exercise oversight.”

That means that we must educate the next generation so they can do their job. It means that we must stay informed about what is going on so we can do our job. It means that it is our job to “exercise oversight,” to monitor and enforce accountability. Now is the right time to do that. Of course, “now” is always the right time for accountability, but my reference here is about this week.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014  is election day. If you have not already voted, show up on Tuesday. Polls are open roughly 6:00AM – 7:00PM in most states. It is time to hold accountable those who have or would represent us and govern us. And because our politics is so broken, because big money influence is so pervasive and corrosive, our job right now is to elect those who would reform our crazy system. Many have already committed to reform.

Vote for the reformers. Here’s a link to find some.

If no candidate in a race where you vote has already declared that s/he is committed to reform, vote for the person most likely to be a reformer.

Vote for the reformers.

Nothing ls likely to get appreciably better until we get election reform. Your part is to send off to Washington and your state capitol the folks who will make that happen. Then hold them accountable.

Did I mention something about voting on Tuesday? Here’s a caution: DO NOT go to the polls alone. Bring your neighbor who needs a ride or who hasn’t been actively interested. Pick up your crazy brother-in-law on the way. Make sure your significant other does the same thing.

A while back you either took a civics class or citizenship was taught in another class. You had to pass a Constitution test in order to graduate, so I know that you know that it is both your right and your duty to vote. Do it this Tuesday.

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Ed. note: There is much in America that needs fixing and we are on a path to continually fail to make things better. It is my goal to make a difference – perhaps to be a catalyst for things to get better. That is the reason for these posts. To accomplish the goal requires reaching many thousands of people and a robust dialogue. Please help by offering your comments, as well as by passing this along and encouraging others to subscribe and do the same.  Thanks.  JA


Copyright 2019 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

Confession


Reading time – 111 seconds  .  .  .  

I wasn’t a 60s radical. I wasn’t even politically conscious. In fact, I was essentially out to lunch regarding social and political issues. I missed the marches, the sit-ins, the banners, the demands for change, the chanting in front of the White House. Even Woodstock passed me by. “Clueless” was pretty much my M. O.

That produced unintended consequences, as choices always do. One of them was related to the Viet Nam War in ways that I could not have predicted.

President Lyndon Johnson had raised the deployment of American troops to that country to over half a million by the time I was a senior in college, with my 2S draft deferment on really short, shaky legs. I came home on winter break from college to have a most serious talk with my father. He was a WW II veteran and a hater of war, with a rock solid sense of responsibility of service to America. I inherited that sense of service from him and I knew I had a duty to serve, especially at a time of war, a time of national need.

On the other hand, that war was an abomination from the start. It was, in fact, being fought by the North Vietnamese first against the French and then against American troops by people trying to liberate their country from outside aggressors. That is to say, they wanted to be free and we were on the wrong side of that David and Goliath story, and my sense of morality and justice would not let me participate.

That produced a tug-of-war between duty to serve and duty to morality and it is what brought me to that discussion with my father. For the first time in my life I did not know right from wrong, so I asked him what was the right thing for me to do. In my mind’s eye I can still see him walking up to me and putting his hand on my shoulder and saying, “You’ll have to figure that out for yourself.”

That wasn’t the answer I wanted, yet it surely was the right answer and I thank him to this day for the wisdom he offered me with his words and for giving me the space and the imperative to grow up.

I did not serve due to a medical technicality, but the avoidance of service left a hollow place in me that should have been filled by service to America. That has stayed with me for decades and it is the unintended consequence of my choices.

Things have changed and I’ve grown up just a little more and have found a way to serve my country. It is through these blogs and the discussions they spawn. It is through my presentations of Money, Politics & Democracy: You Aren’t Getting What You Want* to groups around the country. Its purpose is to educate and motivate Americans to action in order to change what is happening, as big money and corporations having he same rights as people continue to muscle our country away from us.

Perhaps you remember the scene in Star Wars where Obi Wan and Luke are talking and a hologram of Princes Leia pops out of R2D2. She implores Obi Wan to help her home planet of Alderaan and she finishes by saying, “Help us, Obi Wan. You’re our only hope.”

Obi Wan then says to Luke, “We must go to Alderaan.” Luke protests, listing his reasons and excuses to avoid going, to which Obi Wan replies, “But, Luke, she needs our help.” That was all the reason Obi Wan needed.

America needs our help right how. She has enormous problems that grow greater each day and the dream of Madison and Jefferson, Lincoln and King and the millions of refugees from other countries – your ancestors – is in peril.

Perhaps you were and have been politically active. Perhaps you were disengaged, as I was. Regardless, the imperative of service remains and its call is in the air right now.

You are Obi Wan and America is Princess Leia: Help us Obi Wan. You’re our only hope.

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* Invite me to present to your group. I promise an hour and fifteen minutes that will educate, entertain and, if all goes well, motivate people to service. Besides, the program is a freebie. That’s my service to country, my give-back, my pay-it-forward to a country that has been so very good to me. Please help me to serve, Obi Wan.

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Ed. note: There is much in America that needs fixing and we are on a path to continually fail to make things better. It is my goal to make a difference – perhaps to be a catalyst for things to get better. That is the reason for these posts. To accomplish the goal requires reaching many thousands of people and a robust dialogue. Please help by offering your comments, as well as by passing this along and encouraging others to subscribe and do the same.  Thanks.  JA


Copyright 2019 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

Father Flannigan in Texas


Skip LeveThis is a guest essay from reader Frank Levy of Houston, TX. It was submitted as a comment to an earlier post, Father Flannigan, Your CEO and the Supreme Court, and was deemed too important to bury at the bottom of the Comments section. It is offered here for your consideration and comment.

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In Texas we are very accustomed to the “Father Flannigan phenomenon,” and much worse. Not only do we have the usual school day, pre-game, and government pre-meeting prayer, the state Republican Party primary ballot includes a statement that reads, “America is a Christian country, and Texas is a Christian state.” Voters get to agree or disagree. The “initiative” carries by over 95% every 4 years.

It is fundamentalist Christian beliefs like this that are part and parcel of the religious civil war going on across the country. The Hobby Lobby decision is but one of the skirmishes in this religious civil war.

The Hobby Lobby decision by the “Fab 5” – the 5 Catholic men on the Court – is deeply disingenuous and sharply at odds with American law and legal precedent, and imposes very real long-term negative impacts on American democracy and on Americans who believe in real freedom of religion.

On the subject of the disingenuous nature of the Hobby Lobby suit and decision – as Stephanie Mencimer noted in Mother Jones in March 2014, “a neglected aspect of the Hobby Lobby case is the fact that Hobby Lobby’s self-professed belief appeared out of nowhere just in time for them to file suit. The company admits in its complaint that until it considered filing the suit in 2012 its generous health insurance plan actually covered Plan B and Ella (though not IUDs). The burden of this coverage was apparently so insignificant that God and Hobby Lobby executives never noticed it until the mandate became a political issue.”

It should also be noted that Hobby Lobby owners held significant investments in the companies that manufactured the exact abortifacients and birth control products that were the basis of the law suit.

In short, Hobby Lobby’s “deeply held beliefs” claims are transparently bogus — as well as being scientifically invalid, since none of the methods involved are abortifacients, as Hobby Lobby claims.

In Hobby Lobby the Court handed corporations religious rights for the first time in history. As Norm Ornstein points out in the National Journal, “For the majority on the Roberts Court, through a series of rulings that favor corporations over labor or other interests, it is clear that corporations are king, superior to individual Americans — with all the special treatment in taxes and protection from legal liability that are unavailable to us individuals, and now all the extra benefits that come with individual citizenship.”

The Hobby Lobby decision also lends support to the Christian Right’s (they are neither) efforts in the new religious civil war to create a Christian theocracy in America, and to further their erroneous claims that their religious rights are being suppressed, or even outlawed.

Led by the dominion theology of the New Apostolic Reformation (NAR), those seeking the creation of America as an evangelical Christian nation seek to block any and all legislation that promotes real equality, as well as seeking to block legislation that opposes discrimination based on gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, or race, especially in the areas of voting rights, access to health care, birth control and abortion and marriage, among others. These self-proclaimed Christians also oppose social programs like food stamps, Medicaid, unemployment insurance, and Social Security, this based on their proclaimed religious beliefs.

These new religious warriors want an America built on their repressive and narrow understanding of Christian theology. As researcher Rachel Tabachnick explains: “Instead of escaping the Earth (in the Rapture) prior to the turmoil of the end times, they [the NAR] teach that believers will defeat evil by taking dominion, or control, over all sectors of society and government, resulting in mass conversions to their brand of charismatic evangelicalism and a Christian utopia or ‘Kingdom’ on Earth.”

Their favorite, and most powerful lie used to gather fellow warriors is their lament that their religious rights are being eliminated or oppressed. A. Jay Michaelson writes in, ”Redefining Religious Liberty: The Covert Campaign Against Civil Rights” published by Political Research Associates in March, 2013, “While the religious liberty debate is a growing front in the ongoing culture wars, it is actually an old argument re-purposed for a new context. In the postwar era, the Christian Right defended racial segregation, school prayer, public religious displays and other religious practices that infringed on the liberties of others by claiming that restrictions on such public acts infringed upon their religious liberty. Then as now, the Christian Right turned anti-discrimination arguments on their heads: instead of African Americans being discriminated against by segregated Christian universities, the universities were being discriminated against by not being allowed to exclude them; instead of public prayers oppressing religious minorities, Christians are being oppressed by not being able to offer them.

In the “religious liberty” framework, the Christian Right attacks access to contraception, access to abortion, same-sex marriage, and anti-discrimination laws—not on moral grounds (e.g., that contraception is morally wrong or that LGBTQ rights violate “family values”) but because they allegedly impinge upon the religious freedoms of others (e.g., by forcing employers to violate their religion by providing contraception coverage).

In fact, there is not a single “religious liberty” claim made by the Christian Right that does not involve abridging someone else’s rights.

When any religious group tries to impose its beliefs on others we ought to be afraid and strenuously oppose such efforts. We need to be extremely vigilant in opposing any effort by one group to impose its beliefs on anyone else, no matter how light or innocent that imposition might be claimed to be. If you don’t want your religious beliefs questioned, then don’t impose them on others. When push comes to shove, real religious freedom can be just as simple as that.

I wonder how the Court would have voted if the Hobby Lobby suit had been filed by a Muslim, or Jewish, or Buddhist, or Hindu owned business instead of the Christian owned Hobby Lobby.

Frank Levy, M.A., MFA. is Director of Outreach Resources, which provides consulting services to local and statewide disaster and public health preparedness and response agencies and to non-profit agencies engaged in improving the lives of the most vulnerable and at-risk residents. Frank currently lives in hiding from the thought police in Tom “the Exterminator” DeLay’s Congressional district outside Houston, TX.

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Ed. note: There is much in America that needs fixing and we are on a path to continually fail to make things better. It is my goal to make a difference – perhaps to be a catalyst for things to get better. That is the reason for these posts. To accomplish the goal requires reaching many thousands of people and a robust dialogue. Please help by offering your comments, as well as by passing this along and encouraging others to do the same.  Thanks.  JA


Copyright 2019 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

Father Flannigan, Your CEO and the Supreme Court


Prayer Meeting

Town Board meeting, Greece, NY, June, 2013. Photo, Bloomberg News

Reading time – 79 seconds

“And now Father Flannigan will lead us in an invocation that will be meaningful and appropriate for all of us.” With that the head coach of our public high school varsity football team opened the season kick-off meeting for parents and team members on that warm August evening in 1963. Father Flannigan stepped up to the microphone and in his deep baritone voice said, “We pray together  .  .  .” and he invoked and intoned for a couple of agonizingly long minutes, at last ending with, “This we pray in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost.”

My father and I looked at each other with a “Huh?” expression. Father Flannigan’s invocation was something other than appropriate for us. Indeed, it was inappropriate for any non-Christian and even some Christians. So much for “appropriate for all of us.”

The First Amendment to the Constitution tells us, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” Of course, our public high school was and is a government institution and Father Flannigan’s very specifically Christian Catholic words were part of an official school function. His prayer – indeed, any prayer –  was not appropriate for the occasion, as it clearly expressed religious favoritism, the very thing the Pilgrims left Europe to escape. That tacit favoritism is what “prohibits the free exercise thereof” of any religion other than the one mentioned and it also prevents the free exercise of no religion. And today’s Supreme Court, that interpreter of the Constitution and the intent of the Framers, can’t seem to figure that out.

They ruled in a 5-4 decision on May 5, 2014 that governmental meetings may include Christian prayer. The picture above shows members of the town board in Greece, NY bowing their heads in prayer at the start of their meeting in June, 2013. They were the plaintiffs in this lawsuit seeking effectively to establish a government sanctioned religion – Christianity – for their town. That would necessarily mean a concurrent prohibition of the free exercise of any other religion. In the past the Court has ruled that prayer in public schools isn’t kosher (had to throw that in), primarily because the school children are effectively captive and cannot escape the drubbing of another’s version of religion. And it is the “captive” part that, for this court, is the critical issue, rather than the “Congress shall make no law  .  .  .” part. Apparently, the Greece, NY town board members and other meeting attendees are not captive, which means that government sponsored Christianity – specifically Christianity – is okay, this according to 5 male, Roman Catholic members of this Supreme Court who ruled as such.

This is a companion piece to the fundamentalist surge that, for example, makes idiot Alabama Supreme Court Justice Roy Moore declare that the First Amendment only protects Christians.

So, go ahead, Father Flannigan, and offer prayers in church and in your Sunday School classes and in your parochial school. Those are expressly for that purpose and your prayers are appropriate there. But keep your benedictions out of our government, our public institutions and our laws. They aren’t appropriate there, regardless of the wrong-headed decisions of our inappropriate Supreme Court.

The next step toward theocracy just happened, as those same 5 all male, Republican, Roman Catholic old guys decided in the Hobby Lobby case that employers can cite their religion as sufficient reason for withholding insurance coverage for birth control from their employees. Surely the next step will be a Christian Science CEO claiming he doesn’t have to supply medical insurance for his employees at all and those same 5 Justices will go along with that First Amendment tarnishing, protection destroying foolishness, too.

There are quite a few million Americans – including many religious leaders –  who believe there really is supposed to be a separation of “church and state” and a freedom from anyone else’s religion. If only the Supreme Court could figure out this simple concept.

One last thing: As you can see, the righty majority five keep legislating from the bench, this time by warping the First Amendment. How come we’re not hearing a howl from conservatives about that?

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Ed. note: There is much in America that needs fixing and we are on a path to continually fail to make things better. It is my goal to make a difference – perhaps to be a catalyst for things to get better. That is the reason for these posts. To accomplish the goal requires reaching many thousands of people and a robust dialogue. Please help by offering your comments, as well as by passing this along and encouraging others to do the same.  Thanks.  JA


Copyright 2019 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

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