Sunday, November 22, 2009

Impeach Who for What?

Driving through a nearby town, I passed a house where the owner frequently expresses his opinions on signs in his front yard. Today he had a sign that read "Impeach Obama". I'm not that knowledgeable about legal stuff, but I was pretty sure that one had to break a law before they could be impeached.

This reminds me a little of when Clinton was elected president. Conservative critics always insisted that they weren't conspiring against him, but they never explained why there were "Impeach Clinton" bumper-stickers everywhere even before Clinton had taken the oath of office. Had they had a premonition of future perjury?

I think some folks view presidential policy decisions that they disagree with as illegal acts, and right now some conservative pundits are doing their best to convince their fans that the presidential policies are disagreeable, even if they have to stretch the truth to the breaking point to accomplish it.

If more of the American people would (or is it could?) learn that being told what they want to believe isn't the same as getting the facts, then they might start focusing their outrage on reality, and actually accomplish something. Then the guy with signs in his front yard could go back to protesting the local egg farm.

Defending Freshwater Badly

Today's Mansfield (OH) News Journal contained an editorial accusing the Mount Vernon School Board of singling out John Freshwater for punishment just because he's a good Xian. The editorial, written by Marvin Gassman of nearby Fredericktown, is a collection of the standard evangelical rationalizations for trying to force their religion on public school students; Xians are the majority, their rights of freedom of speech and religion are being violated, the bad guys are trying to eliminate Christianity, blah blah blah. In other words, the fundies should have all the rights and everyone else can literally and figuratively go to hell.

More incongruous is the assertion that although he (Gassman) has been at the hearing every day, he says he's seen no provable evidence that Freshwater has done anything wrong. I suppose if one is predisposed to thinking that proselytising in public schools is doing things right, and that anyone accusing a "Good Christian" of wrong-doing must automatically be a lying bad person, then Gassman's view makes sense. It's almost as if the editorial was written by a fundy preacher, and, son of a gun, it turns out Marvin Gassman is the pastor of the Morrow Bible Church.

The most gratifying thing about Gassman's editorial is that, at this time, all the comments disagree with the article and support the teaching of science without religious views attached. Maybe people are beginning to catch on to the fact that the insertion of religion into science classes is detrimental, as is any teacher who insists on inserting his religion.

Monday, November 9, 2009

News Flash: Congressman Does His Job

All over the news this morning were stories about Representative Anh Cao, the lone Republican who voted for the Healthcare Bill in the House. His reason for voting in favor of the bill was that a large percentage of his constituency in New Orleans, LA are without health insurance and he felt this is what the voters wanted. Imagine that! It's become so rare that a Representative actually tries to represent what the voters in his congressional district want, that it's big news.

With all the political posturing, back-room strategising, kowtowing to special interests, and trying to embarrass the President, one Republican actually listened to the people who voted for him to represent them in Washington and voted accordingly. I don't actually know the motivations of the other reps. in their voting, but I do know that there has been damn little talk over the last few months about what the voters really want.

Any more that seems to be business as usual in Washington DC. During the campaign season the politicians all pay lip service to the needs of the voters, but once they're back in Congress all they care about is increasing their political power, raising more money, and trying to get reelected. They frequently have an open door to lobbyists or persons with a fist full of money, while voters from their district are lucky to get face time with one of their aides.

Maybe your rep. voted the way you wanted on healthcare, and if you are typical of most of the people in your area, that's great. Still, it's always good to remember that members of the House of Representatives are supposed to represent what their constituents want, not what their party leaders want, not what big corporate donors want, not even what they personally want. So, we all need to keep tally of the way our congress-persons vote and, when possible, note their motivations and if they don't seem to be doing the job we hired them to do, it might be a good idea to remind them that they are never more than two years from the next election are we're all paying close attention. If we all keep track, and use the power of the vote to keep these folks working for us, then a rep. voting for what the constituents want might be business as usual rather than front page news.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Celibate Marriage Experts?

According to an article in the "Faith and Values" section of the Columbus Dispatch, Bishop R. Daniel Conlon is advocating a renewed effort by Priests to support faith based marriage. To that end, hundreds of priest have gathered at a hotel in Columbus, OH this weekend to increase their education and enthusiasm for supporting the institution of marriage.

The Bishop felt compelled to do this because he sees more threats to traditional marriage than ever before, probably because when Xians feel threatened, they always seem to see more threats than ever before in spite of any evidence to the contrary. Although divorce and cohabitation are mentioned, I'm pretty sure it's gay marriage initiatives that are freaking him out. It's also clear that the Bishop perceives a "traditional" marriage as one Xian man + one Xian woman (preferably of the same denomination) wed in a Xian church by a priest (or a man of the cloth of of another title).

I have a few problems with this (as if you hadn't guessed). First, why would you take marriage advice from someone who's never been married? That's kind of like taking flying lessons from someone who's never been in a plane.

Second, traditional marriage is not unique to Christianity or even the Abrahamic religions. Marriages are found all over the world, including societies that have never heard of a bible. "We have to teach what we know to be God's truth about marriage, perhaps in a more forceful way than we have," Bishop Conlon said. That would be fine if he confined himself to his Catholic flock, but that's not what he said. The jurisdiction of bishops and priests is their cathedrals and churches, beyond that constituency people shouldn't have to be subjected to the mythology called "God's truth".

Third, sometimes divorce, cohabitation, and even same-sex marriage can be the right answer. Rigid dogma and the threats of social isolation and eternal damnation have trapped people in abusive relationships and forced people apart who should be together. If the clergy wants to insist that certain rules must be followed or the offending person must leave the church and if they wish to advise that person that they believe such-and-so will happen after they die, that's their prerogative. It's not appropriate to call their unprovable beliefs "truth", or to insist that a person doesn't have the free will to change to different beliefs, and it is never appropriate to insist that a general public, with guaranteed freedom of religion, should be subjected to their dogma codified into civil law.

So if all the Catholic clergy that visited Columbus want to go home and tell their congregations that that they should only marry if their pretty sure they can stay together "till death do us part", or if you want to send same-sex couples away to get married elsewhere, or if they want to tell persons that they cannot be a church member unless they follow certain rules, that's their job, and best of luck. However, when the clergyman steps out onto the public street, his authority ends and everyone should be free to believe what they want, and participate in marriage according to their own rules, as long as it doesn't break the civil laws.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Amelia; Casualty in War on Xmas

Amelia, OH has had a Christmas parade for the last several decades which, apparently, was sponsored by the Amelia Business Association, but this year the sponsor backed out because they couldn't get enough volunteers. The village council decided that was no problemo; the council would just sponsor the parade. The village solicitor, however, did see a problemo; using village money to sponsor a parade for a Xian holiday could make the village vulnerable to separation of church and state law suits. The village council said they'd solve that by calling it the Holiday Parade.

You might have thought that all the obstructions to the parade had been cleared. Enter the church people. If the parade wasn't going to be named after the birth of Christ, they didn't want to play, because, nothing makes people think about the Son of God like marching bands and floats. Unfortunately for parade fans, church parking lots were the staging areas at the start and end of the parade and those churches were saying; no Jesus, no parking lots.

As if that weren't enough heart burn for Amelia, Catholic League President, Bill Donohue saw an opportunity to escalate the animosity by declaring that this was part of "the War on Christmas" saying, “Make no mistake about it: The declared enemy of these cultural fascists is religious speech, and they will stop at nothing to censor it."

I don't want to suggest that Bill Donohue is an hysterical rabble-rouser who perceives anyone whose opinions differ from his narrow-minded views as a member of some great conspiracy to destroy the planet, because I'd be belaboring the obvious.
Also, I have never seen any evidence of any cultural fascists (look fascist up in the dictionary, Bill) whose declared enemy is religious speech, especially since in order to have a declared enemy, someone has to make a declaration (Anybody got a copy of that? Didn't think so).

What this hullabaloo is really all about is a village solicitor knew that there are laws that prevent a civil government from financing or advocating for a specific religion. It was a non-issue when the sponsors were private business persons, but a village council is subject to different rules. That the government of Amelia chose to abide by the laws should be applauded rather than vilified.

The churches that are angry about this don't want to admit that the laws exist and think that the opinions of church people should trump secular laws they don't like (because church people are always right and anyone who thinks differently is an evil anti-Christian, as well you know). Furthermore, the church people are not intimidated by the threat of law suits since the non-tax-paying churches aren't going to lose any money. The churches get a public venue to pontificate about their views and it's the taxpayers' money that disappears when the village is bankrupted.

This was a secular parade, not a religious procession and the outrage of the local churches is a ridiculous and egocentric overreaction, as is the so called War on Xmas. The truth is that the War on Xmas is really a war on all non-Xian beliefs. The goal is to support the Xian holiday while suppressing the acknowledgement of any other group's holiday that occurs around the same time.

Donohue noted that a "Holiday Parade" didn't point out which holiday was being celebrated which he sees as hypocritical since (in his tiny world) Xmas is the only holiday of relevance. The local church people may know how to google and therefore realize that Jewish, Islamic, Buddhist, and other religions and cultural groups (including the odious Wicca) have holidays in December. They probably fear that a generic holiday name might imply to some that tacit approval has been given to the tolerance of all those "false" beliefs. Perhaps the "Ignorant and Bigoted Fundamentalist Holiday of the Only True Belief Parade" would be acceptable to them, although the parade would undoubtedly have lots of scary clowns.